Lightweight, with trigger shifters, hydraulic disc brakes, and a low cage derailleur, the Prevelo Zulu Three is perfect for young
Prevelo Zulu Three Review
SEAT HEIGHT: 22.8″ – 28.5″
WEIGHT: 23 lb.
BRAKES: Tektro Hydraulic Disc
- 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
Prevelo Zulu Three Review – Results of our Test Rides
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.
Always upping their game, the 2020 Prevelo Zulu has some worthy upgrades. While we have yet to test out the new 2020 Zulu or Zulu HEIR, we heartily approve of the updates. Don’t get me wrong – there is no way I’m getting our well-loved 2019 Zulu out of the grips of my child, but we can certainly appreciate the updates.
Updates for all Zulu Models
- New Color! The Zulu now only comes in “Gloss Gobbledegook Grey” (shown right)
- Larger diameter seat tube with dropper post routing
- Straight top tube (for decreased standover height)
- Shorter chainstays
Updates for Zulu HEIR Models (Prevelo’s more advanced Zulu model with upgraded fork and components)
- New Color! The Zulu HEIR now only comes in “Matte Radical Red” (shown left)
- Tubeless-ready tires and rims
- Upgraded drive train
Full Zulu Review
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!
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 standover 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
Let’s start out with the frame and geometry of the Zulu. 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 892mm 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 are wide at 600mm, providing a more purposeful stance. The wider stance places the rider in a more “ready” position, allowing for quicker steering and a more connected feel to the trail.
Riding on the trail with my two boys ages 7 and 10 (riding the Zulu Three and Four), the Zulu’s geometry really shined. On lengthy climbs, the steeper 74° seat angle placed the kids into a better seated pedaling position. If you have been keeping up with mountain-bike geometry, you will know that most modern enduro rigs are adopting steeper seat angles, especially as bikes get slacker upfront. This combination keeps the rider over the bottom bracket and more of their weight forward. All in all, the geometry of the Zulu provides a more aggressive, yet well-balanced approach to riding.
The 67° 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 a mellow single track or steeper, more technical lines.
Zulu Three in Action
Once we pointed downhill and got up to speed, the benefits of the Zulu’s slacker head angle and longer wheelbase translated to big improvements in stability. Both kids were descending 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.
To keep things snappy and playful, the Zulu’s longer wheelbase is paired well with short chainstays (even shorter on the 202o update). This helps with getting the front tire off the ground to get up and over obstacles a lot easier. Shorter chainstays also allow the bike to come alive a bit more and kids to get through corners a lot faster and easier.
With the 2020 updates, the Zulu also features a lower standover height than previous years. The lower the standover, the better for the kids. This enables kids to maneuver the bike under them on the downhill better and be able to get on and off easier. It also increases their confidence level that much more.
Build with multi-butted tubing, the Zulu is svelt, yet rugged as the Zulu Four weighs in at about 23 lb. with pedals. Weight is another big factor when it comes to the success of climbing, especially for kids.
Thank the fine people at Prevelo for specing this bike out with quality components! The Suntour XCRM 2O” air fork is lockable, has 80mm of travel, and adjusts 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.
Zulu Three (2019 model shown)
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 Tektro hydraulic brakes that stop on a dime and even have enough modulation so they don’t send your youngster over the bars or straight into a skid when they start slowing down. 160mm rotors in the front and 140mm in the back 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. The levers also feel even more kid-friendly and offer more stopping power with less effort on the lever as compared to an earlier version of the Zulu he tested a couple years back.
To aid in the climbing department, the Zulu’s feature a wider range of gears on a smooth-shifting one by ten drivetrain. The Shimano Deore Rapdifire shifters work great, but for those heavy hitters, the upgraded HEIR models has Shimano SLX Rapidfire Plus. The Shimano Zee Shadow RD+ 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.
Dropper Post Ready
With a larger diameter seat tube and routing, the Zulus are now able to accommodate a dropper seat post. I personally am super happy about this. Dropper posts are life-changing for mountain biking! For kids, I think even more so. Now kids don’t have to have their seat height at a happy medium.
Kids’ seats usually have to be just high enough to pedal but low enough to be able to stand up and move the bike around underneath them on a downhill. With a dropper post, they can be efficient on the climbs and get that seat out of the way on the downs. Being able to drop the seat all the way down also makes getting on and off the bike so much easier. Once on, they can then quickly pop the seat up and start pedaling away.
Cranks & Tires
The crankset was well thought out with a 120 mm crank length. Prevelo kept the Q-factor narrow as well with the smaller riders in mind. Taking the extra step, the specialty HEIR crank is a direct mount and cold-forged for increased strength.
The Zulu Four features an off-road-worthy set of Kenda Small Block 8 20 x 2.1 tires. While they are perhaps a bit heavier and slower rolling, they made up for that with gobs of traction. Rocks, roots and loose dirt were no match for the Small Block 8’s as they were met with confidence and speed. Plus, my kids said, “They look way cool, 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.