Bike Check: Dustin Malley's Aggressive-Geometry Suspension Bikes for Kids - Sea Otter 2019

Apr 13, 2019
by Richard Cunningham  
River Bell, 9 from Cottonwood heights and Sophie Gregory, 8 from Riverton, Utah, pose with their custom-made dual-suspension rigs.

There are a number of downsized dual-suspension bikes on the market, but arguably, only a handful are serious contenders for talented youths with progressive skills. Dustin Malley's day job is at Go-Ride Bicycles in Salt Lake City, Utah, and at home, he builds one-off chromoly frames with custom shock rates, geometry, stand-over heights, and reaches that match young riders between eight and 12 years old. Nine-year-old River Bell and eight-year-old Sophie Gregory were racing their Malley bikes at Sea Otter, where they paused just long enough for a quick bike check.


River Bell's bike looks like a contemporary DH/enduro racer in profile until you realize that it has 24-inch wheels. Head tube angle is near 66 degrees. Wheel travel is near 125mm on both ends.

Slender tubes, the diameter of your little finger, form the swingarm. The linkage-driven single-pivot suspension has a slight falling rate to ensure lightweight riders achieve maximum wheel travel.

River is on the Hayes JUNIT program with downsized ProTaper handlebars and monogrammed Dominion A-2 brakes. He prefers the adult lever blade, though.
Malley built River's frame to fit a 26-inch-wheel Manitou Mattock fork, which created a taller stack height. Future builds will take advantage of the shorter stack of the JUNIT Machete fork, which is dedicated to 24-inch wheels.

Sophie Gregory's chassis cuts a more contemporary profile and even has a dropper post. The suspension is all Fox, also with a cut-down 26-inch-wheel fork. Wheel travel is reported to be near 120mm. She's rocking Spank wheels and Maxxis DHF and DHR tires.

Also a single-pivot suspension, Sophie's linkage is designed to cancel out the air-springs end-stroke spike. Pink-anodized Hope brakes and Snail rotors were Malley's idea.

Malley's utilitarian use of TIG welded Chromoly tubes and off-the-shelf hardware suggest his creations would be overweight, but they felt surprisingly light compared to most youth-sized dual suspension bikes at the show.

SRAM NX 11-speed transmission. I admire Malley's simple solution for the rear dropouts.






82 Comments

  • + 47
 Now these are exciting bikes. Just like two decades ago, we're finally seeing products that enable people (kids this time) to do something that was unheard of before. Looking forwards to what this allows them to do!
  • + 2
 Yeah, I heard Rampage is inviting some kids in 2019.
  • + 1
 @Riverbellbmx
  • + 1
 Instagram: riverbellbmx
  • + 36
 Finally, proper bikes for aspiring young dentists!
  • + 6
 Im ready for the dentist joke to die. Anyone with me? Its a mountain bike, even the most expensive kit is attainable with some motivated saving if thats how you really want to spend your money.
  • + 4
 @lognar: Before I started working motivated saving allowed my to buy entry level HT. Can't imagine how I would be ever to a buy with specs like this!
  • + 3
 @szec: well, within reason, obviously the dentist comment is aimed at people who work full time. Pretty hard to save $5-7k if you don't have an income.
  • + 15
 Probs to the parents...better than buying LV bags and Moncler jackets for their little kids.
  • + 8
 To me These bikes are exactly lv and moncler for Kids. Come on. Let the kids shred on some old bikes until they are old enough for the real stuff.
  • + 6
 @xice: even though if I had kids I would definitely get them something sweet from a self-serving perspective, I tend to agree that they should just be riding bmx or a beater MTB in the beginning....

Develops character and some skills along the way.

I started out on a full sus when I was 19 and I’m jealous of friends of mine who started earlier on bmx etc
  • + 11
 @xice: Why? Expensive clothing doesnt have a real purpose- These bikes have.

If I had kids and the money they would get this.
  • + 7
 @nvranka: pffft, 19? You kids got things easy. I got my first full suspension bike at 32.
  • + 2
 @Dethphist: lol true, well all my friends were on fullies so f*ck it, I didn’t know any better.

One thing is for sure, I’d be a much better park jumper had I split my funds between a hard tail MTB and a bmx. Oh well, I’m just happy I found the sport.
  • + 2
 So these kids also rip at the our local BMX track as well. The bikes pictured in the article are just their DH/Enduro setups. @xice:
  • + 1
 @NotNamed: expensive clothing and expensive bikes both have a show off factor. There's no need to get kids hooked to the wrong values THAT early. Just get them a bike (or a jacket) and they'll be happy. Not something the parents need to go fishing for compliments.

None the less. The builder put some effort into building those rigs.
Plus I can understand every mtb dad who wants to share his passion with his kids. But sometimes... Just wait until 26 inch wheels fit and dont put them on wobbly bling rigs
  • + 1
 @xice: Where can I get an LV bike bag?
  • + 1
 @xice: There's a big difference between getting your kid a decent-spec'd bmx or hardtail and something like a junior-sized carbon DH bike.

So, while you are right I'd say they're a slightly "better" version of ridiculousness (at least they're still fully functional bikes and we're not talking about Prada hydration packs or something)
  • + 7
 About time these bikes got in the spotlight! Dustin is an insanely talented builder and these little grom-rigs are the real deal. they feel plush, are super light, and look amazing for one-off designs. Somebody ought to fund Dustin to build a fleet of these for the up-and-coming rippers out there.
  • + 6
 I find it ironic that people are talking shit on the cost of a kids bike when the Mtb scene is full of people that are willing to take a $3-4k hit every single year for the newest and best bike. That same person could literally just get a bike every other year and put the 3k towards upgrading their kids bike every other year. Probably wouldn't even be taking that big of a hit selling the used kids bike to someone else.
  • + 4
 Nice little bikes. Can only imagine what the future generation of grooms will get up to with machines like these.Those inkage bolts extending past the nuts is a bit rough though. Shave those leg rippers until flush hardware happens
  • + 2
 I know Dustin and he puts a lot of time, love and attention into these bikes. He puts a lot of thought into the practical aspects (suspension design and other factors just for kids) of these bikes and makes the frames, literally, in a garage in his spare time when he's not working full time as a mechanic.
I don't think he does it for much, or any, profit.
I was around when he was building Sophie's bike and he even made sure it had enough pink in the parts kit so she'd be happy with her "girls" bike. Dustin is also a local DH Pro (3rd in Pro at Bootleg Canyon behind some guy named Gwin) and rips. He goes out and rides with the kids too.
Dustin is a really great guy and is doing a ton to bring the next gen of rippers.
  • + 0
 and River Bell is a ripper. He can use all of that bike. You don't wanna ride with this kid!
  • + 2
 It’s better to be getting them outside and stoked on riding than stuck at PlayStation all day. If you got money you wouldn’t be complaining - if you don’t go get job that pays better. There are plenty of second hand bikes that can meet any ones budget - it’s up to you how you spend your money and the kids hobbies you support.
  • + 1
 What is with the haters? BMX and MTB are literally the cheapest sports my kids did/do. They have both stopped BMX but I wouldn't have a problem grabbing new bikes if they wanted to get back into it. Non cycling sports currently cost about $75/week and I am likely missing something. My daughter is on my wifes 26" which is really nice, and the only reason I didn't put my son on the 24" Commencal is because he is still a little short for one and got a Norco instead. I cannot wait for them to ride well enough to need better kit, because I will be out there having fun with them.
  • + 1
 So true re. the cost of sports. Surfing is cheapest option for us - footie and other team sports add up pretty quickly in fees etc despite needing minimal equipment. And I’d rather be riding with the kids than standing around on the sidelines of some field for hours. (We’ve escaped cricket so far).
  • + 1
 Some vids of these two so we can shut up the haters?

Seriously, some kids do deserve stuff like this. I didn't, but I can think of a few childhood friends who would not be in rehab now if their parents gave them this much attention.
  • + 1
 Can’t really understand why people are criticizing the dad’a decision of putting his kids on those bikes. He built those bikes god damnit!. It sounds like the perfect way to blend all your hobbies into one. Are you a natural tinkerer? Do you like welding and building stuff? Are you a bike nerd? Do you enjoy riding with your kids?. It seems like the dad would answer “yes” to all of them....
  • + 2
 How much are they and how light are they? They look really big. Tall front ends and long chainstays. Very cool but akin or early versions of Lil Shredders (also built in a garage lol)
  • + 3
 I want a 27.5 version of River Bells bike with 8" of travel. Reminds me of the mid 2000s Turner DHR but with round tubing instead of square.
  • + 1
 Such good looking bikes, from memory they did go to round tubing around the mid 2000s?
  • + 1
 @zyoungson: Yep, in 2007 they looked like a better looking Giant Faith.
  • + 0
 Cool, but who's gonna drop that kind of coin on a bike for a kid who's going to grow beyond the bike's size capabilities in a few years? Better to get something like a Cleary and not break the bank when you need to get a new one.
  • + 2
 Actually I don’t think that’s the main aspect here.

But even if it was, high quality kid’s stuff usually has an impressive resale value...
  • + 1
 That’s the beauty of having younger siblings!
  • + 2
 Would have liked those great bikes better if have had made back end shorter, but still looks like really nice bikes!
  • + 1
 Cool, but dang that looks like a really long bike for those kids. Seems like that would be even harder to learn on a really long bike?
  • + 3
 Stack is massive too.
  • + 0
 My kids been on a bike since he was one. Never had training wheels. I always got him the best bike I could.
He now rides a Pivot Mach 4 I built up with old and worthless 26" stuff.
I wouldve bought him one of these tho.
  • + 3
 River's bike is 170mm travel!!!!
  • + 3
 And a 64deg head angle
  • + 1
 Hmmm... Do I put the money in little Johnny's college fund or buy him a big ticket bike he'll out grow in 4 months and resell on PB at half the price? Decisions, decisions.
  • + 0
 What if you have college fully funded before Jr. even arrives? OK to get one then?
  • + 1
 You are seriously under estimating the value of kids bikes on the used market, just went through looking for and xs dual suspension for my oldest, wound up with a hard tail because there are almost no options, and when they come up it’s a mad rush to buy anything reasonably priced
  • + 1
 @mixmastamikal: Personal finance is 80% behavior. If you're charging up your CC to buy your kids +$2K MTBs I'm going to strongly doubt you're disciplined enough to "have college fully funded before Jr. even arrives"!
  • + 1
 @Tkavan01: so true!
  • + 2
 10 year olds have faces. They need protecting. Seems like a sensible solution.
  • + 3
 Best thing I've seen on here for ages.
  • + 3
 LINKAGE PLATES!
  • - 1
 These are sick, but isnt it better to learn to ride on a hardtail? that way you skills are dialled before moving to a full suss. At least that was the idea when I was growing up riding.
  • + 1
 Interesting everyone makes the assumption these kids have no skills because if the rig pictured. Contrary to that though both these groms ride all our local dirt jump sites and race BMX. Probably have as many bike skills as folks two to three times older than them.
  • + 1
 When I was 8, I got a bmx for $50 from a garage sale...These are some lucky kids!
  • + 2
 River....such a Utah name.
  • + 1
 Thanks for the report. Follow Sophie on the IG and been wondering what the bike is. Utah grom scene is going off!
  • + 1
 So bloody cool! Wish I'd had something like this growing up...
  • + 1
 This is one of the coolest bike checks!
  • + 1
 Look em up on Instagram
@Riverbellbmx
@that.sophie.girl
  • + 1
 Get this man a tubing bender!
  • + 1
 rivers rig is sick get him some meds
  • + 1
 excellent tech article! thanx RC
  • + 1
 Oh man, pretty cool! Thanks RC!
  • + 1
 Very cool!!
  • + 1
 norco b-line??
  • + 1
 Looks like a V10
  • + 1
 Turner bikes at soc?
  • + 0
 No bottle mounts, boo
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