So word on the street in my neighborhood is that my kids burn through bikes faster than the Brady Bunch burns through laundry detergent. What only a few are aware of is, that they are simply testing fat and plus bikes for the Bike Black Ribbon Test Pilot – Youth Division. Lately they have been having a blast ripping around on Specialized’s Riprock, which is a kids plus bike. They were lucky enough to be able to test out the top of the line Expert 24 (MSRP $1000) but it also needs to be mentioned that there are others models available. There are two other price points for the 24in version, a 20in disc, 20in coaster as well as two 16in models. All the nitty gritty you need to know is available with the hyperlinks a few lines up. And just in case you’re new to the site (welcome!), be sure to check out the product preview here. But on to review right? Right.
Probably the most notable aspect of the Riprock Expert 24 are the tires (maybe that’s obvious). Labeled as a 24 x 2.8 in tire, Specialized’s Big Rollers measured out to be more like 24 x 2.65 in. We all know how the variability of actual tire sizes compares to what they are labeled based on rim width and this holds true in this case as well. But, it’s really NBD because despite the .15 in difference in width, the near 2″ increase in diameter was what sets this bike apart from your kid’s bike. Here in the land of the hand (northwest lower Michigan), we have just a wee bit of sand on our trails. During our testing sessions (otherwise known as “rides”) I always followed whichever kid was riding the Riprock. I really wanted to see how a kids plus bike handled in the softer, sandier parts of the trail compared to my own 29in plus bike.
Every kid should be on a plus bike if their trails have similar characteristics. The bike worked as well as mine does. It was neat to watch both the girls have the confidence to ride through any sketch that they happened to encounter. The extra tread also provided ample traction in the climbing department. They could easily stand up and not have to be concerned with slippage. Subscribing to adult tire pressure theory with a little softer front than rear, we ran 8.5 psi in the front and 9.5 psi in the rear which allowed to front to float rather than cut pizza and the rear to propel. It’s been said many times before, but plus bikes are confidence inspiring and that’s what I observed in my daughters with the Specialized Riprock Expert 24
Another important feature that makes a kids bike more approachable are adjustable brake levers. And Specialized has made sure to include Shimano Deore hydraulic disc brakes with easy to adjust brake levers. Hydraulic disc brakes on a kids bike? Pimp my ride!
About the drivetrain; the 11-36 cassette is very appropriate but the 10 year old (a bit stronger and aggressive rider than her 12 y/o sister) would have benefited from a 30T chainring over the stock 32T. She would sprint into a short punchy climb, click through the gears, stand up to finish it but fall just a skösh short of cleaning it. With that 30T, she could have dominated these types of situations. I doubt that any kid would need a bigger gear than 30-11 but it’s a nice option to have the ability to change the front chain-ring to fit each situation. We would definitely take advantage of a 30-36 over a 32-36 (if this were not a test demo).
Imagine being a 10 or 12 year old and swinging a leg over a bike (I need to mention that there is plenty of standover height which is important on a kids bike) loaded with a Shimano Deore XT, yes, XT derailleur and not a 7, not an 8, not a 9 but a 10 speed cassette. Add to that an air sprung fork with 70mm of travel and lock out…neither of my kids were fully aware of what they riding. And this is part of my point. Let’s face it, kids bikes are usually are not spec’d with quality components which most of us know, have a tremendous affect on quality of ride. Specialized has put together one of the highest quality production kids bike I’ve ever seen and provided an opportunity to make beginner trail riding, a positive experience. Plus bikes for kids make so much sense, so if we want to get more kids on trails AND have them experience the enjoyment of mountain biking, this kind of quality bike spec could be the ticket. Of course, quality bicycle componentry comes with a higher price, but it very well, just might be worth it.
So the bottom line is that I was super impressed with what Specialized has put together with this Riprock Expert 24 plus bike. With highlights of 24 x 2.8 in (more like 2.65) tires, air sprung fork with lockout, XT rear derailleur, 10 speed cassette, hydraulic disc brakes, easy to adjust brake levers, ample standover height and a couple good looking color options, I can’t recommend this bike enough. Let’s give the kids a chance to discover the recent love of plus bikes and the rides they inspire.