Kids’ bikes have always been heavy. If you calculate the same bike-to-rider ratio and multiply against adults, we’d all be on 200-pound bikes. Or something like that. A few companies made lighter-weight options, others fortunately took notice and followed suit, but it still begged the question: Little Johnny and Little Susie grow like weeds, how can their bikes to keep up?

In 2016, Rocky Mountain announced a revised Reaper line of kids’ bikes. Each bike could be purchased with either 24-inch or 26-inch wheels and different build kits. The frame was compatible with either wheel size, so the bike could grow as its rider grew. Simply buy a new set of wheels and make the swap, no need to buy a whole new bike. Reapers were well spec’d for young riders, with similar components to entry-level adult bikes.

Two years later, the Reaper line gets a major facelift and the welcomed addition of a 27.5-inch wheeled bigger brother. The new lineup will consist of three models, accepting four different wheel sizes between two frames. This may seem a little confusing at first, but Rocky Mountain has reasons for this numbers game.

Dane Jewett in Whistler, British Columbia. The Reaper 27.5 is a kids’ bike designed to perform at a high level. Photo: Margus Riga

The three options are simple: Reaper 24, Reaper 26 and Reaper 27.5. But then things get a little more complicated. Reaper 24 and 26 variants share the same frame so either wheel size fits, but the models come with different length forks: 120 millimeters or 130 millimeters, respectively. You could buy a Reaper 24, use it for a year or two, then buy a new set of 26-inch wheels when the smaller wheels become, well, too small. Or, you could pick up a Reaper 26 if you want the 130 millimeters of squish, then put on a set of smaller wheels until your kid fits the larger hoops. Also of note is that the Reaper 24 and 26 use 135 millimeter hub spacing, which should make finding wheels much easier, and cheaper.

However, once the 26-inch wheels are outgrown, a completely new bike must be purchased--the Reaper 27.5, which is still a kids’ bike, but with slightly different design goals. The Reaper 27.5 is built to give kids a high-performance bike that actually fits them, but with up-to-date wheel-and-frame standards to accommodate high-end components. It’s claimed to be capable of days in the Whistler Bike Park or even for racing.  And, it will fit 26+ wheels, which begs the question: Was that the intent of 26+ all along--the children’s plus size? We jest. Or do we?

Yes, the new Reaper can do this. Photo: Margus Riga

All Reapers also feature Rocky Mountain’s RIDE-9 chip system, allowing children to become choosey. In the case of the Reaper, this would especially be useful in moving from 24-inch to 26-inch wheels. The RIDE-9 system can be adjusted to mitigate geometric changes that happen with the wheel swap--the ‘slack’ setting on the Reaper 24 is nearly identical to the ‘steep’ setting on the Reaper 26. In addition, with the Reaper 27.5, geometry may be changed from a more downhill-oriented setup to one reportedly suited to XC or all-day adventures.

The all-new aluminum Reaper frames will feature Rocky Mountain’s Smoothlink suspension system, opting bearings over bushings throughout, including the lower shock eyelet. The main pivot widens for additional stiffness as each bike is 1x specific, and the suspension kinematics carry a higher anti-squat ratio for better pedaling performance along with size-specific shock tunes. The entire line sports routing for internal droppers, though only the Reaper 27.5 arrives with one.

Rocky Mountain’s RIDE-9 chip system adjusts geometry, but can also soften the blow between wheel size swaps.

Reaper 24 | 27.7 pounds | $1,950

Small wheels, but big performance.

The beginning of the end, the Reaper 24 is an entry in the world of mountain biking. Rocky Mountain aims to strike a balance between performance and cost, spec’ing components intended to hold up to the abuse only a kid can dish out, but without breaking the bank. While the price is a bit more than traditional kids’ bikes, it’s designed to be actually be ridden as a mountain bike--plus, the frame and most of the components can be kept when the wheel size is outgrown and the bike is converted to 26 inch.

The Reaper 24 comes with a 120-millimeter travel Suntour Epixon LO DS fork, and the 130 millimeters of rear travel are handled by a Rockshox Monarch R. The 24-inch WTB SX17 rims roll on Shimano hubs and Schwalbe Blackjack 24×2.1-inch tires. A 1×10 Shimano Deore level drivetrain (with a 11-42 tooth cassette and 28-tooth chainring) gets the bike moving, and a set of Shimano M365 brakes slow things down on 160-millimeter rotors.

Reaper 26 | 28 pounds | $2,350

Want the Reaper 24, but don’t like the color? Pick up the 26-inch version and a set of 24-inch wheels.

Changing from last year, the 2019 Reaper 26 will come stock with a 130-millimeter fork, up from 120 millimeters. The increase in travel is surely a nod toward the increasing number of young rippers out there--combined with the RIDE-9 chip, the numbers look to be huck-friendly. These aren’t just kid bikes to ride around the block.

A Rockshox Sektor RL pairs with Rockshox Monarch R rear shock. The same wheels are used as the Reaper 24, albeit a different Shimano MT400 front hub to accommodate the 15 millimeters through axle on the Sektor RL. Sturdy and burly Maxxis Minion DHF 26×2.35 tires come stock, as does a Shimano Deore 1×10 drivetrain with an 11-42 tooth cassette and 30 tooth chainring. Shimano M365 brakes and 160-millimeter rotors will keep speeds in check.

Reaper 27.5| 30.1 pounds | $2,850

The Reaper 27.5-built to handle the serious terrain. It shares the same geometry as the extra-small size of the Thunderbolt Alloy 30  (they’re actually the same frame) as well as nearly the same price tag. However, the Reaper 27.5 comes with a dropper post whereas the Thunderbolt does not.

The Reaper 27.5 is intended for kids ready for A-Line but who can’t yet fit a small adult bike. On the showroom floor, it might be mistaken for Rocky Mountain’s Thunderbolt or Pipeline as it has a very similar paint job and nearly the same components as the Alloy 30 level builds in the aforementioned adult bikes.

Suspension duties are handles by RockShox with a Sektor RL and a Deluxe RT. The drivetrain is upgraded to Shimano SLX 1×11 (11-46 tooth cassette and 30 tooth chainring), and the brakes are upgraded to the Shimano’s MT500 with 180-millimeter rotors. The Reaper 27.5 also has boost spacing for added stiffness and clearance for running 26+ wheels and tires if wanted. Coming stock are Maxxis Minion DHR 27.5×2.3 tires. The build is rounded out with an X-Fusion Manic dropper.

For more information about the new 2019 lineup, head into your local Rocky Mountain dealer, or head to their website here.