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If there’s one thing that I recommend to all biking families, it’s to go as light as possible with your kid’s bikes. Little kid’s bikes are generally super heavy, often heavier than their adult counterparts. It’s not uncommon for a kid’s bike to weigh 40 pounds for a kid who only weighs 35 pounds to begin with. When you get little kids on heavy bikes, you’ll essentially get movement in slow motion. Lightweight bikes change all of that, and Prevelo are some of our favorite lightweight mountain bikes for kids.
Lightweight Mountain Bikes for Kids
We discovered ultralight mountain bikes a few years ago when our teenagers got serious about mountain bike racing. Our oldest got a great deal on a used lightweight mountain bike and instantly his speed and endurance skyrocketed. It was incredible to see the difference that shaving 7 pounds off his bike weight could do.
As our family got more and more serious about mountain biking together, we started to look for lightweight mountain bikes for our younger kids. We are out on the trails several times a week and while our younger kids could ride just fine, they were overall, pretty slow and it made it difficult to do much riding together as a family unless our oldest kids were going their absolute slowest.
The truth is, that there aren’t a lot of lightweight mountain bikes out there for kids. But most of the truly lightweight mountain bikes that are available for kids are AMAZING!
Testing The Prevelo Zulu 5
Prevelo was one of the first brands of lighter mountain bikes for kids that we tested out and we were so impressed. They had just come out with a lightweight mountain bike with 26” tires so we were thrilled to try it out. Kids from about ages 10-13 can have a tough time finding a good bike since there’s a gap in the 26” bikemarket since most adult bikes now come with 27.5” or 29” tires. Previously our son was riding an older xs womens bike since it was the best fit that we could find without spending $2000. The problem with kids riding adult bikes is that the geometry is just not quite right for kids, so while it looks like a good size at a quick glance, they’re actually harder to ride. The result is that kids get tired and uncomfortable more easily since they have to spend their strength and energy to compensate for a bike that wasn’t designed to fit them in the first place.
When our son transitioned to the Prevelo Zulu 5, he was halfway through a summer mountain bike class. He was so eager to get out on the trails that he took his bike out with his class the day that he got the bike. The improvement in his skills was FAST! After his first practice on his Prevelo, his coach commented on how much stronger his skills all around. I knew that he hadn’t suddenly gotten stronger in the last 2 days, but that his bike weight and geometry made a difference. As the weeks went on, we saw other improvements as well. Not only could he climb more easily, but his endurance went up (thank you kid specific cranks and drivetrain), his confidence on the downhill increased and he progressed several levels. Believe me when I say that the change in his riding was shocking. His previous bike was about 3 pounds heavier than his Prevelo Zulu 5, so these few pounds saved do make a difference for him.
And the difference was not just in the weight. When a few things became easier for him, suddenly his confidence skyrocketed. He was riding trails that he would previously walk big portions of, and he was just having a lot more fun overall. Such an incredible change!
While the Prevelo Zulu bikes are lightweight, they’re not in the ultralight category, so kids will still have to work to earn their turns. However, this bike seems to fly on the downhill, which is exactly what it’s designed for!
Initial Impressions of the Prevelo Zulu 5 Kids Mountain Bike
When we opened up the bike box, I was surprised at how much of the bike was assembled. All we had to install was the handlebar, seatpost, pedals, and one wheel. This makes it easy for parents who aren’t completely bike-savvy to get kids rolling as soon as possible. We mistakenly assumed that everything would be good to go, but now know that we still should have done a once-over on everything on the bike since the seat wasn’t attached tight and actually fell off on my son’s first ride. While this was a little bit of a surprise, you can easily avoid the same problem by just doing a quick check of all the connections and bolts before you hit the trail.
Overall, I’d say that the bike is set up for an average rider. We did a few small adjustments to brake and shifter positions (super easy with an Allen wrench) to customize it to fit how my son rides. Overall, we love that it’s easy to get started on and easy to make adjustments!
Stand Out Features of the Prevelo Zulu 5
- The geometry has kids low, making them feel more stable on the bike. We always say that race cars turn better than semis and the geometry gets our kids weight lower so they can really stay balanced and get the most out of their turns.
- Internally routed cables. While internally routed cables are not essential, they are a nice addition. Our kids ride their bikes HARD and fewer exposed cables means less wear and tear on their bikes. We got this bike with full intentions of passing it on to 2 younger brothers, so longevity matters!
- Kid-specific cranks actually make it easier to pedal the bike. We love that Prevelo has different crank sizes for different bikes so I know that these cranks are optimized to help make pedaling EASIER! Such a major difference from a small adult bike!
- 1×10 drivetrain. Lots of older model 26” bikes have a 3×8 drivetrain, which just overcomplicates things for kids. The 1×10 means that kids just need to focus on getting into an easier or a harder gear and that’s it. The gearing range from 11-48T means that kids will have the gearing they need to climb even super steep climbs without a problem.
- Tubeless ready tires and rims. If your kids are getting serious about mountain biking, one of the best upgrades you can get is to go tubeless. This was the first upgrade we did and does wonders for helping to minimize flats. Prevelo has a tubeless kit that you can purchase for your bike for just $20 to make things easier!
- LIGHTWEIGHT! Weight makes such a difference for kids, especially as they start tackling more difficult and technical terrain. A lighter bike is more maneuverable, nimble, and flows better over technical terrain. While it won’t magically make your child a better rider, giving them a lighter bike means that they don’t have to work as hard to move the bike around, so they can spend more energy figuring out how to ride the terrain well.
Custom Options for Prevelo Zulu 5 Kids Lightweight Bike
Prevelo has lots of different upgrades that are available to help make the Zulu bikes a little bit more customizable. Some of those are a dropper post (it’s set up for that to be internally routed), upgraded front fork, lights, and then fun things like custom colored grips, a bell, and even name lettering on your bike.
Looking for more bike reviews? Check out these next.
- Best Lightweight Mountain Bikes for Kids
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- Trailcraft Blue Ski 20′ Bike Review
- Best Lightweight Bikes For Kids
- Guardian Bikes Review – Airos 20″
- Best Kids Moutain Bikes Hardtail and Front Suspension
- Balance Bikes vs Training Wheels for Kids
- Best Balance Bikes for Older Kids
Overall Thoughts on the Prevelo Zulu 5 Lightweight Mountain Bike
If you’re looking to get a quality bike at a good price, the Prevelo Zulu 5 is a great option. We love that it’s got great components, is designed so that it’s easier for kids to ride, and that it’s good a good price-to-value ratio. Compared to many other bike brands 26” bikes, it’s significantly lighter making it so much easier for younger riders to tackle technical terrain. It’s a solid bike for a kid who’s just starting to tackle more difficult terrain and could be a great bike to start some trail bike racing on.