Giant has upped the stakes by making a good-quality, well specced kids' bike that's lighter than its competitors and very competitively priced.
Simple to use
Should hold its value
None, according to our six-year-old tester: "I like everything"
Up until relatively recently ‘trickle-down’ technology dried up long before it reached children’s bikes. It was British brand Islabikes that pioneered the good-quality, kids’ bike that didn’t weigh a ton, didn’t have superhero or Disney princess decals and crucially had child-specific, modern components.
Now global brands like Giant have directed its designers towards creating a rival children’s range in what is a huge and lucrative industry.
Giant’s new ARX line of three bikes with 16in, 20in and 24in wheels is made from the same Aluxx aluminium as the adult bikes and shares their paint schemes too, with a choice of five colours on offer. Since he shares his name with 'the Cannibal' our tester, Edward, was particularly pleased with the Molteni orange version.
It’s refreshing to see Giant focusing on light weight rather than getting bogged down with suspension forks and disc brakes: it claims the ARX is the lightest bike in its category and although our test ARX 20 weighed 7.8kg, which sounds heavy, it shades the 8kg of the equivalent-sized Islabikes Beinn 20 as well as being £90 cheaper.
The still relatively high weight is due to the toughness and durability that needs to be built into kids’ bikes: they’re generally all-rounders that need all-surface capability and must be sturdy enough to withstand any amount of rough handling – as the bash guard fitted to protect the rear derailleur suggests.
Moving up from a 6kg singlespeed Islabikes Cnoc with 16in wheels Edward, six, did comment that the Giant ARX 20 felt “heavy”, but at 1m 24cm he is at the bottom of the size range at which the ARX 20 is aimed in terms of height and strength. At the upper end of the scale, judging by the length of seatpost still inside the frame it would fit a child of nine or 10. It’s a standard 27.2in seatpost so could be replaced with a longer one if you really wanted to get maximum use out of the bike.
The ARX 20 comes with 3.5cm of spacers under the stem for plenty of bar height adjustment and a longer stem could also be fitted for growing children if necessary.
The gearing of the Giant ARX 20 is well judged: a ‘one-by’ single chainring set-up makes shifting nice and simple, and Edward found the Shimano M310 Rapidfire mountain bike-style trigger shifter intuitive to operate, with the little window ('optical gear display’) indicating clearly which of the eight gears has been selected.
For most kids including him, by far the trickier concept to grasp is that the bike will only change gear when it’s being pedalled.
The 32-tooth chainring paired with a 12-32 cassette gives a good spread of gears. A 1:1 bottom gear is enough to ward off steep-hill-induced meltdowns while if your child is spinning out in the 53in top gear you probably ought to consider shouting “brake!”
The Tektro brake levers are reach-adjustable, though we didn’t need to bring them in, especially as the V-brakes have a light action and plenty of stopping power so that even if the child can’t quite grab the proverbial fistful, just fingertips will bring them safely to a stop.
At 885mm the wheelbase is long for stable handling and with its 69° head tube able the Giant ARX 20 is also designed to steer predictably.
For cycling parents looking for a ‘proper’ bike for their future Tour de France champion the Giant ARX 20 ticks all the boxes and is competitively priced too. Quality kids’ bikes, as Islabikes demonstrates, hold their value well so if you can get your child into the habit of propping it not dropping it you ought to get a good chunk of cash back when it’s time for them to move up to 24in wheels.
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Simon Smythe is Cycling Weekly's senior tech writer and has been in various roles at CW since 2003. His first job was as a sub editor on the magazine following an MA in online journalism (yes, it was just after the dot-com bubble burst).
In his cycling career Simon has mostly focused on time trialling with a national medal, a few open wins and his club's 30-mile record in his palmares. These days he spends a bit more time testing road bikes, or on a tandem doing the school run with his younger son.
What's in the stable? There's a Colnago Master Olympic, a Hotta TT700, an ex-Castorama lo-pro that was ridden in the 1993 Tour de France, a Pinarello Montello, an Independent Fabrication Club Racer, a Shorter fixed winter bike and a renovated Roberts with a modern Campag groupset.
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