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par Ed Brazier avril 26, 2024 6 lire la lecture

It's a lockdown project that went wrong. Or right? It definitely went too far... But at least Sami gets a sick bike.

Roll back to 2020, and we're in the weird world of the Covid lockdown. It seems like ancient history now, but for me the memories of that time are still vivid. The whole bike industry was a very strange place to be. And for much of the time, we were at a loose end - either because people were not buying enough bikes, or people were buying too many bikes. Or both. Remember us selling out of Fades in 2 minutes every month? Yeah, that. 

Anyway, during that time my daughter was about to graduate from her first pedal bike and I had some time on my hands. I thought I might see if I could put together a little custom bike for her, because she was so stoked on the whole Airdrop thing. And what's the point in having your own bike company if you can't muck about with silly ideas? So I had a word with our main factory and they were also at a loose end, and as they're lovely people they were up for it. Perhaps too up for it, as I was to discover...


Airdrop Sami kids full suspension bike


Somehow, this happened. All I wanted was a nice little hardtail with 20" wheels. Preferably one that I could build with good but inexpensive parts. And under normal circumstances, that's probably what would have happened. But 2020 wasn't normal circumstances. I think we might have got a bit carried away with it. Normally it takes months or even years to design a bike, prototype, test, test, test, and working with factories always takes longer than you want it to. But with this, it was the opposite. They were egging me on. So what started out as a simple idea snowballed way out of control.

I haven't shared this until now. At the time we were struggling as a business, and lots of other people were, so I didn't want to be showing off. I had guilt about how much time, effort and money I'd put into it. I mean, I accidentally produced a very high-end, singlespeed, full-suspension mountain bike for my 6 year old child. At the time there weren't many options out there, and I figured people would want me to make more for their kids... so I kept it on the quiet. 

Now that Maya is moving onto her next bike (which I'm not going to tell you about), and her little brother Sami is getting this one. My guilt has dissipated somewhat so I figure what the hell... might aswell share it.


Airdrop Sami kids full suspension bike


It's a single-speed. I wanted to keep things simple and an easy way to do that is to avoid all the clearance issues around drivetrain standards. This was possibly a mistake and in hindsight, the bike would have been more practical with gears; a 1x7 or 1x8 setup would have made it easier to ride up hills and over longer distances. But we went singlespeed and that did make things easier.

Recognise the dropouts and the chain tensioners from the Fade? A lot of the parts of the frame are salvaged or repurposed from other things. Hence the cable-guides on the driveside seatstay that have no purpose :-)

Anyway the singlespeed thing meant we could go for a concentric BB pivot which then also meant that kinematics wouldn't need to be a major headache - remember this is meant to be a bike for kids! 


Rockshox Monarch R on Sami's Bike


There's a small linkage driving a 165x38mm Rockshox Monarch R. It's a pretty basic shock but it was the smallest and cheapest unit I could lay my hands on. And it's worked pretty well. 


Hope Kids Cranks


The cranks were a major headache. I wanted something in the 130-140mm range but there were very few options, and nothing in stock. The companies that make kids bikes buy very cheap OEM cranks from China; there's basically no aftermarket for nice mtb cranks for kids. And in lockdown nobody had anything. So after a lot of puzzling I reached out to Hope who were kind enough to make me a set of their kids cranks. Which meant a Hope BB and chainring. I was too committed at this point to back out, but this is the point when I realised my daughter was very likely to end up with a nicer bike than me.


Singlespeed Setup


There wasn't really a playbook for the ratio so I went with 28t up front a 16t on the back. With 20" wheels that's actually worked out quite well. I used to take out a Kids Ride Shotgun towrope just in case the kids needed help on the hills, but we very rarely use it. 

The Sun Ringlé Duroc wheels (more on that later) came with both XD and HG freehub bodies so for the singlespeed conversion I went with a Gusset Double-Six which has been flawless.

There was a major issue with the rear axle though. The hub was made to be run with a 12x142mm bolt-through axle as you would on an older non-boost mtb. But in my haste I'd made a frame with horizontal dropouts, like you'd have on a DJ bike. This is why we normally think things through properly when we design them... The solution was to make a custom rear axle and nut using a step-down 12-10mm floating axle from Reverse Components. 


Sun Ringle Duroc 20" Wheels


Speaking of wheels, Sun Ringlé really came through with the Duroc 30 wheelset. I wasn't aware of this before, but between Sun, Answer and Manitou (all the same company these days), they do a range of "J-Unit" products specifically for kids bikes. They're literally the same thing as they make for adults, but downsized. 

So the wheels have 30mm (internal) rims which I'm running tubeless, on Sun SRC hubs built with Wheelsmith spokes. I think they're the same as their Enduro wheelset! I went with Maxxis Maxx Daddy 20x2.0" tyres which are BMX dirt tyres really, but they're a good compromise between grip and rolling resistance. The tubeless setup worked a treat.


Manitou J-Unit 20 Kids Forks


The forks are J-Unit Comp 20 which are like a mini version of the Machete enduro fork. They're travel adjustable (I've got them at 120mm), came with both silver and black decals, and a bolt-in plastic mudguard. Awesome. 


Answer Protaper J-Unit Kids Bars


The J-Unit range also includes these nifty bars, which have a 31.8mm clamp but taper right down. The dedicated grips run on a long plastic sleeve which is a conventional diameter so you can fit regular brakes and shifters, but it allows for a super thin grip, which is deal for small hands. You can tell that unlike me, they really thought this through. The bars are a bit flat for my aesthetic tastes but they work great. I've got them cut to 640mm.

Braking duties are taken care of by SRAM Level TL brake which is an XC/Trail type hydraulic disc brake with two-pot callipers. The lever's a nice shape for two-finger braking and the lever throw is adjustable, so we've been able to get them set up really well. 180mm rotors front and rear. Probably way too much power but we've only have one OTB incident so that's not too bad.


Gusset Pivotal Saddle & Seatpost


For the saddle I went with a Gusset DJ pivotal. At the time this was the option on the Fade DJ bike, and I felt that the shorter shape and decent padding would be a good substitute for a genuine kids saddle. It doesn't particularly need to be pivotal, but as a bonus the Gusset pivotal seatpost comes in a 350mm length (I never figured out why) so it's ideal for  growing kids. 


Airdrop Kids Full Suspesion MTB


There you have it. Not the bike I set out to make but way better than I expected. And a good learning experience too. I think I'd do a few things differently if we were to do it as a commercial project - it would have gears for a start - but before you ask... it's not likely to happen. At the time there were very few - maybe zero - options like this out on the market. Since then a few brands have stepped in with some good products. 

I didn't know if there would be a market for 'proper' mountain bikes for young kids. After all, they're basically as expensive to build as adult bikes, just with shorter tubes. All the cutting, mitreing, welding, CNC, finishing and hardware is the same. If we were to sell a bike like this, it would have to cost north of £2000. And even then we'd have to avoid going quite so wild on certain parts like the cranks. 

Anyhow that's all academic.This wasn't meant to be a discussion around the economics of producing high-end, low volume mountain bikes for kids. I just wanted to share the bike because it's cool and I thought other people might appreciate it. Sami certainly does. He says he's the only kid in the world with an Airdrop bike, and when he grows up he's going to set up a company called Kid-drop.

What have I created?!? 



Ed Brazier
Ed Brazier

Ed is the owner of Airdrop Bikes. A former web and graphic designer, he sacked off his job one day and decided to start up a bike brand.

2 Réponses


juin 12, 2024

Such a cool build!


juin 12, 2024

Amazing, what a project. Kids have infinite resources to throw at a bike and will often ride to the level of bike they are given with the right environment. Go to any pump track and see what some of the regulars are pulling off. Anyhoo, sod the money, you did a lovely thing for your bairns. I remember my first bike lovingly and it was a POS, but it was given with love. They’ll lovingly remember this bike but also remember the care you took to make it so wonderful.

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