Norco Charger 2.1 Kids MTB: Tested
Bikes are booming – and not only for adults, but for children as well. It is the ideal time for young’uns to gain confidence and improve riding skills. Nothing makes doing that easier than a bike specifically designed for smaller folks, and that comes fully featured, with suitable frame geometry plus all the components – gears and trigger shifter, proper brakes (no back-pedal brakes here!) and decent front suspension – that they need to hit the trails.
The sooner your young shredder is comfortable with these components, the sooner they gain confidence. To this end, a Norco Charger 2.1 lobbed in front of last year’s Christmas tree at our place, ready for our six-year-old son to rail some trails.
The Norco Charger 2.1 offers a 20-inch wheel size and is aimed at children from six to nine years of age. It is relatively light in weight thanks to its alloy frame, while offering ‘full-size bike’ features, such as a low standover (so they can get their leg over the frame to sit on the seat without feeling they will over-balance) and short chainstays, for manoeuvrability. It can’t be emphasised enough the easier your child finds handling/steering their bike, the more they’ll ride.
A big plus are the proper trigger shifters for the 8-speed Shimano Altus drivetrain. Along with this are equally impressive Tektro hydraulic disc brakes (160mm rotors) and the SR Suntour XCM Air front fork, with 80mm of travel. These are all features still not common on 20-inch bikes, but are very welcome. The bike rolls on aluminium wheels, with Maxxis Maxxdaddy tyres.
In the field
We are lucky enough to live next to one of Sydney’s most popular MTB trails that also includes fire-trails linking off it. This offers plenty of riding skills progression. Our son has taken to the bike very well; the fact it is not too heavy – and the brakes are light and easy for him to use – has instilled plenty of confidence when it comes to tackling more challenging trails. The ease-of-use (and efficiency) of the Shimano trigger-shift and drivetrain has helped him get his head around how gears work and the fact that front fork is so effective at reducing bumps has been, to him, a wonder (his previous bike had a rigid front fork). The fork, combined with a short stem and wide handlebars, has provided confidence to lift up/over gutters, as well as try small jumps.
The bike has been treated as any child’s bike is: put away dirty more often than not, and already subject to one small crash (bike and rider unscathed), plus it has been ridden quite often in muddy, wet conditions. The overall robustness has stood out throughout, with additional things, such as an internal-sealed headset and sealed bearing bottom bracket helping keep grit, mud and muck out.
The final word on the Norco Charger 2.1
The Norco Charger 2.1 has been a huge hit. The compact frame, brakes and gearing designed specifically for small hands and legs, and things like the front fork and (again) those disc brakes, all make for a bike that has increased our young rider’s confidence immensely. The asking price is definitely up there for a ‘kids’ bike’ that will be ridden for around three years, but it is worth noting how much confidence a well-designed bike can give a budding young rider (for more on how to learn to mountain bike, see here). Plus, the spec list – hydraulic disc brakes, full Shimano drivetrain and shifters, and that supportive front fork – are a big step above ‘standard fare’ on other 20-inch bikes. Those higher-end components should see the Charger 2.1 remain in very good condition, ensuring a still-decent price when the time comes to sell it second-hand to another up-and-coming young shredder.
RRP: $899 See Norco for more info on the Charger and the brand’s other kids/youth bikes.