Saying that every bike should be purpose built sounds a bit cliché. While one may think so, it actually depends on what stands behind it. This particular idea turned out important while designing kid’s bikes. The rule being followed in this branch of the industry is – the bike – and it’s wheel size grow with the kid. While this is generally a good idea, as usual the devil is in the details.
For the bike design process we involved son of NS CEO (Szymon), a 9-year old Maks, we bought him a few 20” bikes from the market leaders and used them as a benchmark for the new NS Bikes model. We watched closely how the kid is using the bike, his stance, what components get the most beating, and what really counts in these little machines.
One of the key things we noticed during the process of developing the kids bike range was most young riders were using bikes with too small wheels. Or - to be more precise – the wheels too small for the rider, not for the bike construction. The geometry of the bikes was “forcing” the bike designers to spec the small wheels, which was not necessarily the best solution for the kid bikers. And we all know the benefits of big wheels, don’t we? More stability on downhill sections, more grip, ease of rolling through roots and rocks etc.
There’s one “little” thing – the geometry of the kids bikes with relatively “bigger” wheels needs to be designed in a different way. The BB and cockpit must be as low as possible. Otherwise the kids will end up being too far from the ground, with their leg's dangling in the air at every stop, and a high front end will make it hard to climb. So, that’s what we did in our kids bike range – we went loooow.
We’ve started out with our first kids fully the Nerd Jr. introduced last year. The Nerd Jr. is a kids mountain bike with 120mm travel front and rear air shocks, 24” wheels with the option to upgrade to 26” as the rider grow. To save all the bike’s geometry has to offer after the swap, there’s an additional set of offset shock bushings, which drops the BB down, keeping superb handling quality. Read more about the Nerd Jr concept here.
A good picture of the difference between our bikes and the rest of the market is the comparison of the wheel size our main tester (Maks) was riding vs the bikes his peers were using. When he was on 24”, other kids his age were on 20". When he switched to 26" our friends would be wondering, if that's not too much, because their kids were on 24”. That was not the case, though. This change took the ride to another level. It was especially clear on jumps and fast downhill sections. But remember – the geometry stayed “the same”, keeping the rider and the center of gravity closer to the ground.
But the time flies and kids grow from 26” wheels too and we needed to cover the gap between the Nerd JR and the “grown up” bikes. It was only natural to go for 650b / 27.5” wheels. Here comes The Nerd Mini.
This bike fits in between the small sizes of the Nerd Lite and the Nerd Jr. It's an ideal all-rounder for older kids that want to develop their skills in every direction. Just like it's bigger brother, the Nerd Mini has modern aggressive geometry which gives confidence on jumps and descents and does not limit the bike on trails that require climbing. The 130mm front and 120mm rear suspension travel is a perfect combination for young rippers – gives more than enough support on drops and jumps, but at the same time keeps the bike responsive and vivid. The Nerd Mini also comes with a dropper post, a feature that obviously helps the rider massively on steep sections. We found that kid’s learned to take advantage of this on the first time out. Brakes come in “grown up” rotor setup – 180mm in the front and 160mm in the back. Some may say it’s too much for so lightweight users, but the truth is that with bigger rotor gives more power - something that owners of small hands will appreciate.So, what rider height/age is the Nerd Mini for? Our two main test riders were Antek (13) who is around 152cm high and is somewhere in the middle of the sizing range of the Nerd Mini and Maks (9) who at 145cm is definitely at the bottom of the range but nevertheless his riding progressed very quickly after switching from the Nerd Jr. on 26" wheels. So the range is quite wide.
Our suggestion for parents choosing an NS kid's bike would be as follows:
NS NERD MINI specification:
Frame: NS Nerd Mini w/ 120mm travel, AL6061-T6, custom formed and butted tubes
Sizes: one size
Rear shock: Manitou Radium Expert 190x40
Fork: Manitou Machete Comp, 130mm travel, 15x110mm Boost, 1.5 tapered steerer tube
Stem: NS Tone 35, 45mm
Handlebar:NS Bar 35, 720mm, 20mm rise
Grips: NS Hold Fast supersoft
Saddle: Octane One Rocker2
Front brake: Sram Level, 180mm
Rear brake: Sram Level, 160mm
Levers: Sram Level
Rims: Octane One Solar Lite 27.5”, 32h, tubeless ready
Hubs: NS 15 Boost 15x110 disc (sealed bearings) / NS Cassette 148x12mm Boost (sealed bearings)
Tires front / rear: Maxxis Ardent 27.5x2.25
Crankset:Truvativ SX Eagle PS 155mm 32t
Rerailleur: Sram NX Eagle, long cage, 12spd
Shifters: Sram SX Eagle, 12spd
Cassette: Sram PG-1210,12spd 11-50t
Weight (kg): 13,5
* M size, tubeless setup