Bike & Gear
First things first, to ride with DEVO, your child will need a mountain bike. Not all bikes are made the same. Some are meant to be ridden on the road, others on trails. And even those that are meant for the trails are not all made the same. Bikes from reputable brands like Trek, Specialized, Giant, and others are not the same as those bought at Costco or Walmart. While cheap prices may be tempting, the old adage “you get what you pay for” rings very true in this sport. Just check out this video…
Unfortunately, mountain biking is not an inexpensive sport. However, unlike other sports, bikes can be passed down from sibling to sibling. Also, good bikes retain their value pretty well even over several years. Still, the upfront investment can be more than other sports. This page will provide a little bit of guidance on what kind of mountain bike is appropriate for your child.
Disc brakes are still fairly new to bikes. As a matter of fact, most road bikes today don’t use disc brakes yet. However, you can find them on most mountain bikes today. Even the ones sold at Walmart!
Mountain bikes are meant to be ridden in all types of terrain including mud and water. The brakes that came before disc brakes, caliper or cantilever brakes, worked by applying pressure to the wheel which sits closer to the ground. On muddy rides, mud can often get on the brake pads reducing the effectiveness of the brakes. Hence, making it very dangerous for the rider and those around.
Disc brakes have a lot more stopping power and are a lot more reliable. So, here’s our recommendation:
DO: Get a mountain bike with disc brakes. Preferably the hydraulic variety. While non-hydraulic brakes work well too, hydraulic brakes are much more powerful and easier for smaller hands to actuate.
DO NOT: Get a bike without disc brakes! We’ve had a lot of kids who’ve ridden older mountain bikes handed down to them from their parents. While that’s super cool, just make sure that you’re handing down a bike that’s safe. Our lowest standard of safety for bikes these days all have disc brakes.
Quick Release or Thru Axles
Out on the trails, it’s inevitable that one of us will get a flat tire during the season. Last season, I helped three kids fix their flat tire. Because flat tires are so common with bikes, most bike manufacturers today make it easy for tires to be fixed out on the trail with minimal tools. One way they do this is by making it easy for the rider to remove their wheels. In order to fix a tire, you have to first remove the wheel. Older or cheaper bikes don’t allow you to remove the wheel without a wrench.
A quick release or, even better, a thru axle is a rod that goes through a wheel’s hub to secure the wheel onto the bike. The nice thing about a quick release or thru axle is that it’s easy to remove without any tools — making it fast and easy to remove a wheel so you can patch up the tire or tube. So, here’s our recommendation:
DO: Get a bike with thru axle (preferred) or quick release wheels.
DO NOT: Get a bike that has wheels that are bolted on with a typical nut. This will just make it impossible for your child to get their tire fixed during a ride (because none of our coaches or ride leaders carry wrenches on rides)
Currently, there are primarily two wheel sizes for mountain bikes:
27.5” (or sometimes called 650b)
There are also smaller wheels for the smaller riders — usually 24”. However, most of our middle schoolers are big enough to be able to ride a 27.5” or 29” wheel sized bike.
DO: Get a bike with 27.5” or 29” wheels. The previous standard was 26”. That’s fine too, but they’re hard to find new.
DO NOT: If your child is at least 5’ tall, they should be able to fit on a bike with 27.5” to 29” wheels. Don’t get a 24” wheel sized bike if your child is 5’+ tall. It’ll be way too small for them.
Okay. Enough with this tech-babble, what bike should I get for my kid?
I’m glad you asked.
First, find your local bike shop, LBS. If you live in the Oakland area, here are some recommendations:
Visit one or all of those shops with your kid. Get your kid sized for a bike and tell the person at the shop helping you that they’ll be riding with Oakland DEVO — they know who we are. They’ll make the perfect recommendation for your kid and get them on the most appropriate bike for our style of riding.
The best part about our local bike shops is that they support our club. If you do end up purchasing a bike from one of the retailers above, mention that your child rides with Oakland DEVO (a NICA sponsored club) and you’ll get a nice 25% discount.
As for specific bikes to take a look at… well there are a lot. However, because the middle school years are a prime period for your child's physical growth, it’s probably best not to get the absolute best bike for them, because it’s likely that they’ll outgrow it by high school.
We recommend looking for a “hard tail” mountain bike. A hard tail has front suspension but none on the back. Most of the trails we ride won’t require a “full suspension” bike. Some of the coaches have them because they’re old and need that extra cushion, but the kids don’t.
Here are just a few brands and models of bikes to look at:
There are so many bikes out there. But if you just want a punch list of features, here they are:
Trail or Cross Country hard tail mountain bike
27.5” or 29” wheels
Thru axle or quick release wheels
Tubeless ready tires and wheels* — tubeless tires are less likely to go completely flat since they have a liquid sealant that seals small holes.
1x drivetrain* — simplifies the bike gearing so that there’s only one shifter. Making the bike easier to operate and lighter too.
* Optional but highly recommended
Most bike shops will let you “demo” a bike. Ask if you can do that. Some will charge you, but usually you can apply the fee toward the purchase. Riding bikes around the parking lot is fine, but if you can, try to demo it on the trails. We’ve had kids bring demo bikes to our rides.
How much should I expect to spend on a new bike?
A great bike that fits the criteria above will cost anywhere from $600 - $1000. We know that that sounds like a lot. But as mentioned before, these bikes will hold their value and can be passed down to a sibling, relative, or friend. Plus, these bikes can be ridden outside of DEVO — to school, for fun, commutes, etc.
If you do find this cost prohibitive, PLEASE PLEASE talk to us before you decide this is not the sport for your kid. We can find a way to make it work. In the past, we’ve maintained a small fleet of loaner bikes donated to us and have loaned those out to kids in the club. While we’d like to get out of the business of maintaining and storing these bikes, we understand there’s a need. We’re also working out a partnership with Trek in order to get bikes at cost. So, if you find that DEVO is going to put a financial burden for your family, please contact us first so we can help.
Let’s make it simple. Here’s what else your child will need:
A helmet. Hopefully, a recent one. Helmets expire. There should be a date inside the helmet. If it’s older than 2 years, consider getting a new one. Kids without helmets can not ride with us.
Full finger gloves. Full finger gloves are a must. Accidents happen and the first thing that usually makes contact with the ground, a rock, or a tree are hands. When they’re not protected, they’re usually scuffed up pretty badly. So, cover those digits.
Padded bike shorts. Our rides on Sundays will last 3-4 hours. Imagine sitting on your bum pedaling that long without padded shorts. Not having padded shorts is one way to make sure your kid doesn’t like ridding bikes. So, protect those precious bums.
Breathable shirt and lightweight cycling jacket. Working out in cotton clothes will cause your kid to overheat. Look into non-cotton or a cotton blend shirt (short and long sleeve) that they’ll be comfortable in. Nothing fancy. Target and Old Navy sells good quality workout shirts.
A simple bike multi-tool. Not required, but later in the season, we’ll be teaching the kids how to maintain their own bike. Including how to patch or change the tube in the tire if they get a flat, and other simple bike maintenance tasks.
A spare tube. Our coaches typically carry spare tubes or patch kits with them, but teaching your kid to carry their own is a good thing. Besides, it would really suck if they had to walk their bike back a few miles because they didn’t bring a spare tube.
Hydration pack or water bottle. We’ll get into this more on the Ride Nutrition page, but a CamelBak or the like is a good investment.
A lot of these items can be purchased on Amazon for much cheaper than you’ll get them in a retail store. For example, I’ve purchased full finger mountain biking gloves from Amazon for my kids for less than $10. One thing you won’t want to skimp on is a helmet. Concussions are very real. Get a decent helmet. Expect to spend $40+ for a good helmet. Another good online retailer to look at is Jenson USA.