Tester: Eric McKeegan/Oona McKeegan
Kids today. Back when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, kids’ bikes had 20 inch wheels, steel frames and no gears. Also, no helmets. But things change, and in this case, for the better.
This is a full-fledged, 24 inch-wheeled, adventure-ready fat bike for kids and short-statured adults, not a bike-shaped-object with fat tires. That means an aluminum alloy frame and fork, rack and fender mounts, Avid BB5 disc brakes, and 26×4 tires on 80 mm rims.
There are some other less noticeable features as well. The fork has triple-bolt mounts for water or cargo cages. The bars are 600 mm wide, and the cranks are 165 mm. For riders under five feet, the 165 mm cranks will probably be too long, but the square-taper interface makes it much easier to source shorter cranks.
The 1×10 drivetrain uses SRAM X5, including a trigger shifter. The 11-36 10-speed cassette seemed to be plenty of gears for my 12-year-old, and the trigger shifter is a welcome change from twist shifters, which never seem to work well for tired and tiny hands. The saddle is also a much more comfortable model than most, and is the only one my daughter hasn’t complained about on any ride over an hour.
The tires are Chao Yang. Yeah, I’d never heard of them either, but they are 120 tpi tires with a great, all-conditions tread pattern. They’ve held up well, and I see little reason to replace them until they wear out. Fortunately, some bigger brands (Trek, Specialized) are also making 24 inch fat bikes, so replacement tires and rims aren’t a problem.
There are a few downsides to all this rough-and-ready fatness. The wide rear hub means a wide q-factor, which combined with the weight of the bike meant my skinny kid would fatigue quickly. But she loved the attention a bike like this garners.
Sometimes that is the just type of thing that gets kids to ride more often. Things like a cool bike. And this bike is undeniably cool. Cool enough that it had me thinking of setting it up for bikepacking trips, something it would handle very well.
While there are 26 inch fat bikes that are designed to fit smaller riders, many smaller adults will find the 24 inch wheels provide lower standover, a lower headtube, a shorter top tube and no toe overlap with the front wheel. For rides around the neighborhood these things can be ignored, but the longer the ride, the more important they become.
Which brings me to the crux of this biscuit. If you need the flotation of fat tires for things like sand and snow, this is a truly well-thought and and well-built bicycle. The fat tires are probably overkill for most kids, but just like an adult who owns an SUV just to drive to the mall and work, sometimes we all want the ability to escape, even if we never do.
Sizes: One size (XS)
Weight: 21.5 lbs.
More info: http://www.framedbikes.com/wolftrax-alloy-compact-1×10-24x-40/
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