Prevelo Zulu Three 20″
Lightweight with trigger shifters, hydraulic disc brakes, and a low cage derailleur, it's perfect for young mountain bikers.
BEST FOR: Young groms ready to hit the big-boy trails. Not too aggressive, not too laid back, the Zulu is the perfect bike for intermediate to advanced riders.
SEAT HEIGHT: 22.8" – 28.5"
WEIGHT: ~23 lb.
22.8" – 28.5"
|Geared Bike Type||
Dual Hand (No Coaster)
1.88 – 6.16
|Hand Brake Type||
|Bottom Bracket Height||
Pros & Cons
- As a smaller 20” bike, it makes the transition from a 16” easier
- Low center of gravity gives kids confidence because they feel like they’re “in” the bike, rather than on top of it
- Wide handlebars for great stability and steering control
- Head angle slack enough to feel confident going down but steep enough for the front end of the bike to stay down and glued to the trail while climbing
- Air fork adjustable suspension
- Hydraulic brakes with tons of stopping power and good modulation
- Smooth and crisp Shimano SLX rapid fire shifter
Kelly from Haven Outdoors authored 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.
There’s a saying that goes, “If you get your kids addicted to bikes they won’t have enough money for drugs when they are older.” If you want to help feed their addiction, you better start them off with a good bike. I’d say the Prevelo Zulu Three is the gateway drug of mountain bikes. Put your little one on this bike and watch for that look on their face. You know, the one that says, “Mom! Dad! Watch this!” The look of pure joy, happiness, stoke, excitement, and wonder.
It’s that same look that kids have on Christmas morning when they walk out to the living room and see that Santa has been to their house. It’s magical. That’s the look my 6-year-old had when he threw his leg over the Zulu Three and started pedaling around the neighborhood. It was the first time he had ridden a bike with a suspension fork and gears. He finally felt like one of his older brothers and dad!
For 2019, Prevelo went ahead and updated his already beloved Zulu Three and we had a chance to test out the new model (launching October 2018). The 2019 Zulu Three has grown up a bit and moved toward a more modern approach in geometry. It’s also put on some muscle as it has gained in length, strength, and incorporated a beefier parts list, all while losing couple pounds overall. The test rig we had was an early production model, so we don’t have the final components list available just yet, but the geometry, drivetrain, and brakes on the model we tested were consistent with the final production run. Close up pics of components will also be included once the Zulu’s have officially landed.
Stock Pic of 2019 Zulu Three
Most images in this review are of my seven-year-old on the 2019 Zulu Three, but for a size reference, a couple of him on the 2018 Zulu as the six-year-old are used. His experience of transitioning to a 20″ from a 16″ is also still included.
Size and Performance
Transitioning from a 16″ to a 20″
The main thing I was a bit worried about was having my son go from his 16″ Commencal Ramones bike up to the bigger 20″ Zulu Three. Although he’s almost too big for the 16-inch bike, he’s comfortable with it and knows how to ride it pretty well. He’s been riding dirt trails and pump tracks and gets around great on it.
His older brother has a 20″ Commencal Ramones that is fully rigid with no gears that he’s tried a couple times and it still seems to sit a bit high for him and he’s a bit wary about riding it. Cornering is a bit awkward and he doesn’t have the confidence to pick up much speed on it.
As soon as he hopped on the Zulu Three, my son was pedaling around with confidence. He was riding it like he was still on his 16″ bike. With a seat height range of 22.8″ to 28″, it was a perfect fit for his 20″ inseam (he’s 48″ tall and in size 6 clothes). He was going fast and turning looked effortless. Within a couple minutes, he was jumping off the curb and trying to “pop a wheelie.”
Six-Year-Old on Prevelo Zulu Three
I attributed the confidence and that at-home-feeling he had to the low stand over and bottom bracket of the Zulu Three. It really helps kids feel like they are “in” the bike vs. riding on top of the bike. Think of it like having to sit up on a chair while floating downstream in a kayak or even just sitting on top of the kayak, versus actually sitting down inside of it. When your legs and hips are down inside the kayak and only your upper body is up above it you are more stable, have more control, and you are a lot more confident. Especially when the water gets rough. It’s the same story with bikes. In fact, for this very reason, Prevelo’s mountain-specific Zulu line is specifically built with a lower center-of-gravity than their everyday and light trail riding Alpha line.
Frame & Geometry (Updated for 2019)
Reach is long to allow your grom plenty of room to move around when standing on the bike. This also gives them room to grow so they can get a good 2-3 years out of it. The longer wheelbase and low bottom bracket are extremely confidence inspiring. On one of our rides, my kid said, “Dad! I can’t believe how fast I am going, but it doesn’t feel like I’m out of control!” He continues to get faster and faster each time we go out.
Another factor that helps out in the control department is the well-put-together cockpit. The bars for 2019 are wider giving them a more purposeful stance. This puts the rider into a more “ready” position giving quicker steering and a more connected feel to the trail.
Head angle is now slacker. Seat angle is steeper. Wheelbase and front center is longer. Bottom bracket stays low and Q-factor is still narrow for those little legs. All of this is giving the bikes a more aggressive approach and a balanced approach to riding. Kids will be even more ready than ever to hit the dirt with mom and dad and tackle the trails with a bigger dose of confidence than before. The Zulus were never the wimpy kid on the playground by any means, but just looking at the new models and you know they mean serious
2019 Zulu Three in Action
On the trail, riding with my two boys ages 10 and 7 riding the Zulu Three and Four I could instantly see the differences in the new bikes. Beginning our ride with a lengthy climb the steeper seat angle was putting the kids into a better seated pedaling position and the climbs seemed to just disappear behind them with every pedal stroke. If you have been keeping up with mountain bike geometry you will know that most modern enduro rigs are adopting the steeper seat angle especially as bikes get slacker up front. This keeps the rider over the bottom bracket and more of their weight forward.
Once we pointed downhill and got up to speed the benefits of the slacker head angle and longer wheelbase could be seen in big improvements in stability. Both kids were sending familiar trails with a lot more speed than normal. Through rocky, bumpy sections the boys were able to hold a line and plow straight through. On their older 2018 Zulu’s, they would have gotten bounced through those sections. The growth in wheelbase has not impacted the bike’s abilities in maneuverability due to the chain stays being shortened. This has kept the playful snappy attitude the bikes were born with. The longer front center these bikes have allowed kids to stay more centered on the bike as well as giving more room for error in where their weight is over the bike. The head angle is slack but not so slack that the bikes are hard to control on the mellower terrain. The geometry works super well on the downhill whether riding mellow single track or sending steeper, more technical lines.
The Zulu’s shed off a couple pounds from the previous model, but its final weight is not yet available. In addition to getting lighter, the new 2019 bikes are also stronger as they feature multi-butted tubing.
Thank the fine people at Prevelo for specing this bike out with parts that work too! They provided a real air fork that you can adjust with the same pump mom and dad use for their forks. Kids come in all sizes and shapes, which means they also vary in weight. Having a fork that works for a 100 lb. kid won’t even move for a kid that weighs 40 lbs. Being able to adjust this makes the difference in having a suspension that works vs a rigid fork that just looks like you have suspension.
2019 Zulu Three
Then there are the brakes. For kids to be confident going fast on their bikes, they need to be able to stop. Prevelo kitted the Zulu out with legit hydraulic brakes that stop on a dime and even have enough modulation to them to not send your youngster over the bars or straight into a skid when they start slowing down. 160 mm rotors provide plenty of surface area to slow things down quickly.
Also important to note about these brakes is the short reach. Kids have small hands and they need to be able to reach the brake levers without taking their hands off the grips. My son is able to keep his hands on the grips while using only 1-2 fingers to easily pull the levers in with. For 2019, the levers also feel even more kid-friendly and offer more stopping power with less effort on the lever.
Zulu’s Promax Hydraulic Brakes with 160mm Rotor (front and back – 2018 model)
To aid in the climbing department, the 2019 Zulu’s have been updated with a wider range of gears to its smooth-shifting one by ten drivetrain. The Shimano SLX rapid fire shifters work great. The Shimano ZEE rear derailleur has a clutch to keep the chain tension over bumpy terrain and through shifts. It also has a short cage to provide plenty of clearance. The rear cassette has a range of 11-42t giving plenty of range, while the front sprocket is a 30t narrow wide with an allow chain guard. This was a welcome change all in favor of making climbing easier for kids. I don’t know many kids that enjoy a brutal climb.
Cranks & Tires
The crankset was well thought out with a 140 mm crank length. Prevelo kept the Q-factor narrow as well for the smaller riders in mind.
The Zulu Three was also given a much more off-road worthy set of tires this time around. (Detailed specs to come) Perhaps a bit heavier and slower rolling, they made up for that with gobs of traction. Rocks, roots and loose dirt that would knock them off track before were met with confidence and speed. Plus, my kids said, “they look way cooler dad!”
There are not a lot of other kids bike out there right now that have been thought out this well. If you are looking for a trail bike that can handle climbing and descending on mellow rides as well as some serious single track that will test the skills of any kid, the Zulu line-up has you covered.