The bike that turned my little rider into a ripper
It’s hard to spend big on kids’ stuff. Whatever you buy is destined to be a short-term investment, given how fast children grow. And they clearly don’t need expensive toys to have a great time: My seven-year-old can turn a discarded cardboard box into a week-long engineering project. But watching her on Prevelo’s Zulu Three, which will be available this summer, has convinced me that when it comes to kids’ bikes, you get what you pay for—and even at $899, this rig is totally worth the extra coin.
Most kid’s bikes, even ones from reputable adult brands, cost hundreds less than this one. Most also use low-quality components, and cheaper, heavier materials. But a 50-pound child simply can’t pedal a 30-pound bike very far, or up hills. It’s akin to asking an average-sized adult to ride a 100-pound rig—and if that were our norm, cycling would be doomed to extinction.
Prevelo, a two-year-old, California-based company that only makes kids’ bikes, obsesses over every child-centric detail. From the moment my kid hopped on the Zulu Three, she became a dramatically better rider. I was stunned.
With her first few passes in the driveway, it was obvious that she was cornering better on this bike. She looked balanced, stable, razor-sharp. Then we headed to some nearby singletrack, where the bike’s benefits became even more pronounced: She railed loose berms and charged over eight-inch rocks with newfound confidence. It was as if she’d accumulated a year’s worth of practice overnight.
The Zulu Three’s 20-inch wheels come with 2.1-inch Kenda tires that are wider than your typical pavement cruiser and deliver much better traction on deep, dusty corners where skinnier tires wash out. The Shimano Zee short-cage derailleur offers more ground clearance than most so it doesn’t bash into rocks and roots as derailleurs on kids’ bikes tend to do. Hydraulic disc brakes let her scrub speed or stop with less effort, in shorter distances—and my daughter definitely appreciates the improved control. Plus, the front fork is a real, adjustable air fork that soaks up hits without the harsh, bucking-bronco rebound you get from the coil forks on cheaper bikes.
Even with these features, the Zulu Three weighs just 23 pounds—a fair payload for the six- to nine-year-olds it’s built for. That, plus the 11-34 gearing over 10 speeds, has dramatically improved my daughter’s uphill range. Suddenly, she’s able to log real climbs, and longer mileages over rolling terrain, with a fraction of the fatigue she used to feel. She’s got enough muscle left to tackle rocky, rooty uphills. She surprises herself with what she’s accomplishing, and I love watching her elation when she conquers an obstacle that would’ve thwarted her on her old setup.
Kids who rarely pedal beyond their paved driveways probably don’t need this bike. But groms who hop curbs, skid around vacant lots, and pedal up and down technical singletrack will find their wings with the Zulu Three—and that’s a hard purchase to skimp on.