There are some things that can really make it difficult to ride mountain bikes when you're little. Riding downhill doesn't necessarily solve those problems or make it any easier. In this post, we'll take a look at a couple of challenges we found good solutions for:
- The crank arm length is too long (for their little legs) and as a result the rider bounces up and down while pedaling.
- The handlebar is too high (above their center of mass) and the rider can't shift weight to the front wheel when needed.
There are solutions, and good ideas are most likely going to be found via your own research like reading this blog. So unless you're already a Canfield Brothers fan and know where this story goes - keep on reading! This post may help point you towards a couple interesting options.
Solving these problems is challenging. There are limited options for some types components, and the many variables in frame and fork specifications make determining compatibility quite an effort. The market for niche components is relatively small (no pun intended), and the big names out there (i.e. SRAM, Shimano, etc.) just aren't interested in producing small quantities of anything. In comes Canfield Brothers with the solutions you need. Let me quickly state a couple things: 1) I'm not sponsored by them and 2) I am not a dealer. That's not what I'm after. I'm just trying to get the word out that there are components that put the finishing touches on a kid's downhill bike and can elevate their riding.
First, let's talk about the cranks arms. Most DH bikes come standard with 165mm cranks, and for the most part all riders regardless of their height use that length. This probably works for the majority of riders in the 'normal' height range of 5'6" to 6'0". On the high end of that spectrum, taller riders don't go for longer cranks because the 165mm length is about as long as you can go and still have enough clearance while pedaling a low, slack DH bike. The problem is that this is too long for the little riders on DH bikes. For any of you that have spent time following a little shredder down a mountain you'll know it takes an exaggerated amount of body movement for them to get the cranks spinning. That's a problem.
As a bike 'builder' for youth downhill racers, I've been as thorough as possible in the search for all the right components for a smaller rider. But it wasn't until 2014 that I could find a cransket with arms shorter than 165mm - this is when Canfield Brothers put their AM/DH Crankset on the market. I put the 155m cranks on an XS Demo for a rider that was 4'8" and it accomplished a couple things.
- The rider pedal with substantially less 'po-go' sticking around
- The rider could pedal more in rock gardens with the additional clearance.
Both of these improvements are very important for smaller, lighter riders that don't have the weight to overcome mistakes they make - especially in the rocks.
The next component I'll discuss is the Canfield Brothers direct mount stem with a 50mm reach, and -20mm (drop). This stem weighs in around 160 grams and fits the Boxxer bolt pattern. The bad news first: I'm not sure if you can get them anymore, you'll have to call. The good news: these stems may be out of 'style' lately as full-sized riders seem to be jacking their bars up as high as ever with stems instead of old school riser bars. So with a bit of luck you may be able to find one on the used market. Give the guys at Canfield Brothers a call and beg them for a rerun on the stems, or try the usual places a try (Pinkbike, Ebay, etc.) and see what you can find. This stem does exactly what a rider that is 4'6" to 5"4" needs. It is solid as a rock and very nicely made. This one pictured below was on a bike for 3 years.
I hope this helps you get your little shredder's ride tuned just right! Take care - in upcoming posts we'll talk about brakes and keep things real for the little guys.