The Goldilocks of bikes for young groms ready to get serious about hitting the trails. Not a XC bike, but not a gravity-focused bike either, the Cleary Scout is what we call a “downcountry bike”. Read the review below for more details!
Cleary Scout Overview
RATING: Highly Recommended
BEST FOR: Young riders looking for a great down country mountain bike for use on flowy trails and at bike parks.
SEAT HEIGHT: 28″ – 35.25″
WEIGHT: 28.5 lb.
GEARS: 10-speed/Shimano Deore
BRAKE: Hydraulic Disc
CASSETTE: Sunrace 11-42t
- Modern geometry
- Well thought out specs and high end components
- Superior traction on flowy trails
- Steel frame smooths out vibrations and helps kids fight fatigue longer
- Confidence inspiring
- Versatile – great on the trails and at the bike park
- Durable build
- Steel frame can be a bit heavy for long uphill climbs
Cleary Scout Review – Results of Our Test Rides
Kelly from Haven Outdoors authored and took the pictures for this review for Two Wheeling Tots. Kelly is an avid mountain biker and a father of four and certainly knows his way around bikes and kids.
You ever wonder what size of bike is right for your kid after they’ve grown out of their 24” ride, but the adult Small is still a bit too large? The Cleary Scout 26” is a great option. While it may not be the lightest bike in this category, it may just be the smoothest. It’s an excellent down-country bike that excels on smooth, flat, flowing trails, as well at the bike park.
If you’ve ridden a steel hardtail vs an aluminum, you’ll know that steel helps smooth out vibration and chatter. Cleary has opted for the Steel is Real 4130 Chromoly frame on the Scout. I feel that even though it may be a bit heavier, kids should be able to fight the effects of fatigue longer due to the smoothing effects of the steel frame. It’s also much lighter (and spec’d better) than kids mountain bikes you’ll find at the bike shop.
With your first look at the bike you get the feeling that Cleary has really thought this thing out. Geometry is fairly modern for a kid’s hardtail. We aren’t talking about “modern” as in the current slew of enduro sleds modern though. You won’t find 78-degree seat angles or 65-degree head angles here – that’s not what this bike is about.
This is a bike made for kids to get out and tackle flowy trails with confidence while being able to easily get up and get down, and more importantly, have fun! It’s easily one of our favorite mountain bikes for kids!
Head angle is 69 degrees. This enables the bike to climb without wandering, keeping the front tire glued to the ground and giving my son the ability to focus on pedaling and breathing instead of trying to keep the bike moving in a straight line. The Scout gives the rider the ability to just hop on and not have to think too much about making corrections or worry about what the bike is doing. It’s well behaved and does its best to get uphill without too much fuss.
Weight could take its toll on longer climbs but this bike was made to go downhill too. If you wanted to categorize this bike, I would put it in the down country category. So if you’re wanting your kid to set strava records on the uphill, maybe this isn’t your bike. But I wouldn’t say that climbing is the Scout’s weakness by any means. The geometry and gearing on the Scout made its way uphill just fine. Even on some longer climbs I never had to pull out the TowWhee strap.
Shifting is handled by Shimano Deore. Gear range was great with the 1 x 10 set up. I don’t think any bike needs a front derailleur anymore. Especially for kids. It just complicates the whole experience. The front has a 28t narrow wide chainring. We never dropped a chain during our test period.
The rear cassette has a nice spread spanning from 11t up to 42t. I ‘ve heard some say that the 165 mm cranks are too long for a bike this size, but I never experienced anything that would suggest needing the cranks to be any shorter.
Once pointed downhill, I feel like this bike really comes alive. This bike could really do well with a dropper post, and if I were to buy this bike that would be the first thing I’d put on. Through the rougher stuff and chatter, the Scout seemed to have traction for days and didn’t get bounced offline unless hitting baseball sized rocks or larger.
With 380 mm of reach, it gave my 10-year-old son who is 4’11” (27″ inseam) plenty of room to move around on the bike. He was able to stay centered over the bike through corners and when things got a bit steep. That said, if I were to buy this bike for him I would lengthen the stem about 10mm to provide him slightly more space.
Chainstays are short at 415 mm, keeping the bike playful but not so short that the bike is twitchy. At speed, the Scout stays on track and is pretty well planted. The bottom bracket sits low enough that it gives a nice “in-the-bike” feel rather than feeling like you’re high on top of the bike. This ultimately amounts to more confidence which equals more fun.
We spent some time at a local bike park on some beginner jump lines and a pump track as well. The Scout seemed to be right at home here just as it was out on the trails. The bike was easy to maneuver and pump and wasn’t afraid to get a little bit of air. In fact, I’m sure that as brave as your little one wants to be, the Scout will be able to take the punishment.
This really solidified the Scout’s bikes capabilities. It’s truly a great all-arounder and can do a bit of everything. If you’ll be sticking mainly to local bike parks or trails, and not true mountain biking, be sure to check out the very similar but rigid Cleary Meerkat.
For mellow, smooth rolling trails, the Vee Tire Co Crown Gem 26” x 2.25” tubeless ready tires are fast rolling and have some pretty good side knobs for some pretty aggressive cornering. For those looking beyond smooth trails, the Scout could handle more aggressive trails with a more aggressive tire. The Scout can fit up to 2.7’s which could add a bit of confidence for the little ones. Maxxis makes a 24″ x 2.4 Minion DHF now which would turn the Scout into a much more aggressive bike.
The front end stayed planted thanks to the 100 mm of squish from the Suntour XCR LO 26 air fork. You have the option to lock it out, just don’t lock it out and forget to open it up on the down. I used to do this on my own bike all the time. I started just leaving it open on the climbs and life has been much better ever since. I guess it’s nice to know you can lock out the fork if needed, but it isn’t necessary.
Handlebars are nice and wide at 680 mm, giving a good riding position and quick steering inputs.
The bike stops well with Tektro HD-291 hydraulic disc brakes, and the junior-sized levers are a nice touch. The reach is adjustable with a small Allen key. We ended up bringing the levers in a few mm from how we received the bike which was all the way out.
Some might say kids don’t need hydraulic brakes, but I would argue they’re the best thing kids could have on a mountain bike. Long descents without disc brakes can make little hands and fingers tire pretty fast. These make light work for little one’s digits. These brakes had a lot of stopping power and did their job squeak-free.
If you’re looking for a bike that’s built to last and will help your kid progress and have a good time on the trails, the Cleary Scout is a solid choice. It falls into the middle of the spectrum of riding and is designed for and excels on smoother, flatter flow trails. It’s not an XC bike, and it’s not a gravity focused bike either. But it’s good to get a “bit of everything” bike to get outside and have a good time on.
For those looking for a more aggressive ride, the Prevelo Zulu is a great choice. If you’re looking for a less aggressive bike, check out all our favorite bikes for 8 to 11 year olds.