The recent press release
for Spawn Cycles' latest high performance kids bikes sent me on a little trip down memory lane, and I found myself daydreaming about my first 'real' mountain bike, the one I purchased with a wad of hard-earned paper route money back in 1996. I'd been riding bikes since I was a little kid, but up until that day they'd all been hand-me-downs from relatives, clapped-out BMX bikes or mountain bike shaped objects that weren't really meant for rolling down anything rowdier than a dirt road. That Diamondback, complete with anodized blue cantilever brakes, a rudimentary suspension fork, and toe clips was the bike that soon sent me into a full blown cycling addiction – it only took a few rides in the woods behind my house before I was devouring every mountain bike magazine I could find, and endlessly pestering the mechanics at the local bike shop.
Nowadays there are an increasing number of high performance options when it comes to kids bikes, with companies like Spawn, Lil Shredder, and others making pint-sized full suspension models designed for the next generation of rippers to progress on. Today's youth have better bikes (and trails) than ever before, which makes it that much easier for them to become proficient mountain bikers well before they even enter high school. All it takes is a visit to the Whistler Bike Park to see just how deep the talent pool really is; I would have been hard pressed to make it down A-Line in one piece when I was 12-years-old, and now there are 10-year-olds comfortably throwing backflips and no-foot cans in the middle of their runs.
Sure, kids these days may never experience the character building that happens when your handlebars bend after hitting a rickety kicker over a garbage can, and some of them might not get to experience the challenge of making it through a rock garden on a fully rigid bike, but I doubt any of them would really see that as missing out. It's like when your grandpa launches into the story about how he used to walk eight miles to school each day, uphill, in the snow – it's a tale from the past, and one that not too many people want to relive, the same way there aren't many mountain bikers who would willingly trade their disc brakes for cantilever brakes.
There's nothing wrong with someone learning to ride aboard a full suspension bike, the same way there isn't anything wrong with learning aboard a hardtail. The basic skills are the same, and if you can ride one it won't take long to figure out how to ride the other – after all, it's just riding a bike. Do you remember your first mountain bike? Cast your vote in the poll below.