The ultimate rig for eager young riders, the Prevelo Zulu One is the best 14 inch true mountain bike we’ve ever encountered. From performance to comfort and technical components, the Zulu One does it all – from shredding single track to cruising paved paths.
The Zulu checks off all the boxes for a 14” bike that is ready to rip – disc brakes, beefy tires, and a modern mountain bike geometry with a long wheelbase for more stability. From components to performance, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the Zulu One in this review. We’ll also compare it to other 14″ mountain bikes to see how it stacks up to the competition.
Prevelo Zulu One Overview
BEST FOR: Young riders ready to graduate from a balance bike straight to single-track all-terrain madness
SEAT HEIGHT: 16.5″ – 18.5″
WEIGHT: 16.2 lb. (with pedals)
BRAKES: Radius Hydraulic Disc
FRAME: Aluminum Alloy
TIRE SIZE: 14″
TIRES: Innova MTB 14 x 2.1 – Presta valve
- Lower rise handlebars for easy shifting of weight
- Responsive front and back hydraulic disc brakes(rear disc brakes require purchase of $20 rear disc brake kit)
- Top quality components
- Extremely low weight for spec’d out bike
- Soft, comfortable grips for little hands
- On the heavier side for a 14″ bike
- Minimal room for growth (standard issue with all 14″ bikes)
Prevelo Zulu One Review – A True Mini-Mountain Bike
We put the Zulu One to the test with my 3-year-old ripper on everything from single track to technical features at our local bike park. After months of testing, I can honestly say the Zulu is a true confidence builder.
Considering we got the Zulu One within a month of him learning how to pedal a bike, it was amazing to see him quickly progress from carefully focusing on every pedal stroke to aggressively taking on pump tracks and true single track.
While the Zulu certainly doesn’t come cheap, its quality parts and components quickly pay dividends in smiles, first pumps, and confidence. Considering it’s a pretty short window in which preschoolers can ride 14″ bikes (kids outgrow all 14″ bikes very quickly), rest assured you won’t go wrong with the Zulu!
What size child fits on the Zulu One?
My little test rider is currently 3 years old. He’s been ripping on a balance bike since he was 18 months old. He was very comfortable and confident on his balance bike and has been asking for a pedal bike, so we decided to take the plunge. It’s been amazing to see his confidence grow on this bike!
The Prevelo Zulu One has a listed minimum saddle height of 16” and a maximum saddle height of 18.1”, but our measurements came in at 16.5″ to 18.5″.
With a 16.75” inseam (measured without shoes on), my little rider rode the Prevelo with the saddle at the 16.5″ minimum, and it was a great fit. He was just able to put his entire foot on the ground.
While he technically could ride with it higher (so he could only touch with his tiptoes), he was much more comfortable being able to touch the ground. With 2″ of additional seat post available, the Zulu still provides plenty of room for growth.
Prevelo Zulu Geometry
The Prevelo Zulu One has a more progressive feel to the geometry – it doesn’t have a totally upright position, but rather a more aggressive riding position. The low rise handlebars help keep the arms nice and low, which is especially beneficial in helping little groms begin to learn the feel of leaning into turns.
A longer 688mm wheelbase and slacker 66º head tube angle makes this bike ready for some fun downhill trails. The slacker head tube keeps the front wheel planted and allows it to easily track through rough terrain.
The crank arms on the Zulu One bike are slightly longer than some other bikes on the market and it can make the cockpit feel a little cramped as your child’s knee may come up a little higher than normal.
This can especially be difficult when trying to gain speed going up a hill. It sort of comes with the territory on these little-wheeled bikes. You need the seat low enough so the child can comfortably touch the ground, but it makes their knees come up a little higher on the pedal stroke. As our little guy progresses, raising the seat will help his pedal stroke become more efficient.
Although powering up climbs certainly should not be expected at this age (be sure to invest in a TowWhee! tow rope), the Zulu’s 74º seat tube angle does help to keep little riders planted above the crank arms for efficient pedaling.
This bike comes in right at 16 pounds. The Zulu is certainly slightly heavier than a “neighborhood” bike like the Prevelo Alpha One and woom 2, but that comes with the territory considering its beefier, trail-worthy components.
Compared to other trail-worthy 14″ bikes, the Zulu is lighter than the Commencal Ramones 14″, but heavier than the Spawn Yoji. The weight savings on the Yoji, however, appears to be partially due to the lack of disc brakes as well as thinner tires (1.9″ vs. 2.1″).
For our 37 lb. 3-year-old, the weight of the Zulu One certainly showed when heading uphill. But to be fair, around the neighborhood he also isn’t great at pedaling uphill on the 12.3 lb. woom 2.
Prevelo Zulu Components
Without suspension, gears, or dropper posts to worry about, what makes a kids’ bike a mountain bike? While geometry absolutely plays a role, the brakes, tires and drivetrain are really what round out the package.
I love kids’ bikes with big, beefy tires. If you have ridden mountain bikes then you’ll know how important tires are for stability and grip on the trails. The Zulu One comes with 14 x 2.1” size tires with plenty of knobs for grip.
To put that in perspective, my mountain bike has tires that are only 0.5″ wider! The combination of width and knobs allow for a more comfortable ride as well as more stability going down trails.
Tire pressure on these smaller size wheels can be difficult to know where to put exactly. The bike doesn’t come tubeless ready (remember it’s just a 14″ bike!), so you’re working with tubes and trying to figure out that perfect spot.
Luckily, little riders don’t weigh too much so finding a good spot for PSI isn’t too hard. Using the handy “orange squish” feel has served us well. (The proper PSI in tires should feel soft, like squishing an orange when properly inflated for trails).
Having disc brakes on a 14” pedal bike is a game changer if you want to teach mountain biking at a young age, but they also come with some disadvantages. We love disc brakes as they allow kids to begin to learn how to feather their brakes from day one, so when they move up in bike sizes they have it totally down, which can help them progress even more. On the flip side, their strong stopping power can be problematic if not used properly!
Small wheeled bikes that come with disc brakes need a lot of teaching. This is not a feature you want to overlook. If your child grabbed a handful of the front brake while going down a dirt trail, it could cause a nasty crash.
I highly recommend going over this many times with your little one before going on an actual trail. We even put blue masking tape on the right brake lever to indicate which lever our rider should be using most. Even though our little guy had disc brakes on his Commencal Ramones balance bike (disc brake kit sold separately) and was accustom to them, we still took extra time to make sure he understood how and when to use the brakes on the Zulu.
Also keep in mind that hydraulic disc brakes aren’t necessary for most tiny groms (they don’t weigh enough or travel fast enough to need hydraulic disc brakes). Yes, they are great once your little one gets the hang of them, but all things equal, we wouldn’t buy a 14″ MTB just for hydraulic dics brakes. Quality mechanical disc brakes, or even high-end caliper brakes, almost always provide plenty of braking power for little ones.
As required by the CPSC, the Prevelo Zulu One comes with a coaster brake (back pedal brake) in the rear. Having a back pedal brake can cause difficulty in learning how to pedal a bike. Since kids accidentally pedal backwards often (especially when riding up a hill), coaster brakes can cause kids to brake unexpectedly, which often leads to a crash. Even when they don’t crash, they still lose all their momentum, which makes starting back up again almost impossible.
If I could recommend one thing you absolutely have to have on a kids bike, it’s a freewheel rear hub (which eliminates the coaster brake). This is a no-brainer add on that will save you many tears from you and your child. To make the swap seamless, Prevelo does have a rear disc brake kit add-on option available directly on the Zulu One page.
Getting the perfect gear on a single-speed bike is pretty tricky. Considering kids small enough to fit on a 14″ can vary widely in muscle tone as well as riding environments, picking one gear that will suit everyone is a difficult task.
We found the 3.7 gain ratio (25T chainring, 14T freewheel), to be a good sweet spot. Offering enough power to allow our baby shredder to comfortably cruise around on flat terrain, yet high enough to give him some tooth when pointed downhill, all in all the gearing was great. Heading uphill, the gear wasn’t quite low enough, but being three, he doesn’t have the physical or mental stamina to really climb anyways. TowWhee tow rope to the rescue!
As a comparison to other brands, the Spawn Yoji 14 has the same 3.7 gain ratio while the Commencal Ramones 14 is slightly lower at 3.1. So if you really want to focus on hills, the Commencal might be a better option, just remember that at a lower gain ratio, your little one is more likely to want to go faster than the bike can when on flatter terrain.
Grips and Pedals
Grips are something that may be overlooked when checking out bikes, but they are actually quite important. Grips on kids’ bikes must be able to withstand a beating. The extra cushion on the end of the grips will save the bars and grips from getting torn to shreds. Details like this make this bike that much better!
The pedals the Zulu One comes with are pretty basic, but kid shredders on a 14″ (or even 16″) bike don’t really need platforms with spikes or anything like that. With all of the riding we’ve been doing, the pedals haven’t caused an issue. You can also customize the color of pedals you would like at checkout.
Prevelo Zulu One vs. the Other Brands
There aren’t a lot of true 14″ mountain bikes on the market, but when compared to a few others, the Zulu’s appeal is quickly apparent. Compared to the Spawn Yoji 14″ (link to our review) as well as the Commencal Ramones 14 (we haven’t tested this one yet), the Zulu has the slackest head tube angle as well as hydraulic disc brakes.
Whether learning to roll through rock gardens or power up and over baby rollers, the Zulu’s low and long (slack HTA + long wheelbase) combo is the best-equipped to help budding riders on the downhill.
|Prevelo Zulu One||Spawn Yoji 14″||Commencal Ramones 14|
|Seat Height||16.5″ – 18.5″||14.5″ – 18″||(for a child measuring between 95cm and 110cm)|
|Weight||16.2 lb.||~13 lb.||16.75 lb.|
|Tires||Innova MTB 14 × 2.1||14 x 1.90 Spawn Cycles Loam Star||Vee Crown Gem 14 x 2.25|
|Front Brakes||Radius hydraulic with 140mm rotor||Tektro mini v-brake||Tektro Mechanical Disc 160mm rotor|
|Coaster Rear Brake||Standard||No||Standard|
|Rear Brake Disc Kit||Radius hydraulic with 140mm rotor||Tektro mini v-brake||Tektro Mechanical Disc 160mm rotor|
|Head Tube Angle||66º||72º||70º|
|Seat Tube Angle||74º||71º||73º|
|Wheelbase||688 mm||607 mm||620 mm|
Prevelo Zulu One Bottom Line
If you really want to keep your child progressing in mountain biking I would highly recommend the Prevelo Zulu One. Not only can they cruise around the neighborhood, but they have the option to comfortably learn how to mountain bike on single track trails. The quality of the product is incredible and will easily last you many years so each child can have a turn on it. Compared to other high end kids 14” pedal bikes, the Prevelo Zulu One is our choice for budding kid shredders!