At the 2017 Sea Otter Classic, we saw more kids' bike companies than ever. One of the new entries was Prevelo Bikes, a young bike company founded by Jacob Rheuban that specifically focuses on producing bikes for children, many of which look to be great first cyclocross bikes for the little ones. Prevelo's website describes a philosophy based on providing a comfortable ride that inspires confidence in young riders and using quality materials and components to construct sturdy bikes.
"Our mission is simple, make bikes for kids that are as confidence-inspiring and fun to ride as possible," the company states. "Our bikes feature exceptionally low minimum seat heights and low bottom brackets. This geometry places the rider close to the ground."
Just like Islabikes, Cleary Bikes and Woom Bikes, Prevelo’s bikes start with a pedal-less balance bike and then move into 14″ and 16″ offerings as part of the Alpha series. The 20″ and 24″ bikes come in the more basic Alpha series and the higher-end Zulu series.
The $499 20″ Alpha Three we look at here is an off-road worthy option for young riders, but the Zulu Three and Four offer a more complete off-road package with fatter tires, disc brakes, and a front fork.
Prevelo Alpha Three - The Frame
Prevelo’s approach to manufacturing bikes is attempting to rethink how children's bikes are designed. According to a blog post by a Prevelo engineer, the engineering goal was to avoid “tippy-toe” geometry and get young riders closer to the ground where they feel more in control of the bike.
Probably the most noticeable feature of the Prevelo geometry is sloping top tube that provides an ample amount of standover clearance at the pedals. Coupled with the low minimum seat height and easily-adjustable seat clamp, the features are designed to ensure easy dismounts for young riders and to extend the usability of the bike as they grow.
Prevelo also prides itself on using shorter crank arms, and they are indeed shorter than the other 20″ bikes Cyclocross Magazine has reviewed. The crank arms on the Alpha Three are 110mm, which is just 4mm shorter than those on the Islabikes Beinn 20 and the Frog Bikes 55. The shorter crank arms are appropriately sized and encourage young riders to pedal with a higher cadence and save their young knees. It's worth noting that the Prevelo Alpha Three actually has a slightly higher bottom bracket than the Islabikes Beinn, but the sloping top tube offsets its taller stance.
Prevelo Alpha Three - The Build
The frame and rigid fork of the Alpha Three are built from 6061 aircraft grade aluminum alloy, and other parts are aluminum as well. One feature we liked about the design of the frame is the internally-routed cable housing to minimize the amount of cable housing that can get stuck or in the way of young riders.
The drivetrain on the Alpha Three consists of 8-speed Shimano Altus components, similar to the Frog Bikes 55 build. The front chain ring has 32 teeth and it includes a retro dual chain guard to increase safety and decrease pants stains. The rear cassette is wide, with an 11-34 setup. The 32T, 11-34 combination should give young riders enough gearing to begin practicing their climbing on steep-ish hills.
The Shimano Acera Rapidfire shifter is located on the right-hand side of the 550mm wide mountain-bike style handlebars. The wide riser bars and the Kenda Small Block Eight 1.5″ tires make the Alpha Three off-road ready while still being suitable for riding on the road or bike path, and are substantially narrower than the 700+mm bars found on many modern adult mountain bikes. However, old-school mountain bikers who remember the days of chopping an inch off 560mm bars may think the Prevelo setup sure seems wide for a little one with narrow shoulders.
The 20″ wheels have aluminum rims and are equipped with Schrader tubes. The 28 spokes are likely a bit excessive for young riders and could provide an opportunity to eliminate some weight. For comparison, the Islabikes Beinn 20 we recently reviewed uses a 20-spoke design.
Brakes on the Alpha Three are Tektro v-brakes, which should help provide riders with enough stopping power to ensure safety and not create too many headaches for parents when they need to adjust them. The brake levers are reach adjustable to ensure kids are able to comfortably grab the brakes when they are ripping off-road trails on the Alpha Three.
We weighed the Alpha Three 20″ model at 19.1 pounds, which is 1.4 pounds heavier than the Islabikes Beinn 20 and basically the same as the Frog Bikes 55, which we weighed at 19.3 pounds, and is slightly larger. The handlebars on the Alpha Three felt especially heavy, and given the exaggerated benefits of gram saving for small riders, replacing them with something lighter is an option worth exploring.
Prevelo Alpha Three - First Impressions
The Prevelo Alpha Three comes mostly assembled, which we found to be appealing. We were able to get the bike assembled relatively quickly, but it took about an hour to get the finer parts dialed in. Brake pads, hub cones and the rear derailleur's B screw were a few of the things that took a bit more adjustment time and weren't quite ready to go. For example, while we really like the 34-tooth cog on the rear cassette, it did take some extra tinkering to push in the B screw to get the rear derailleur to shift onto the largest cog smoothly.
As they say, first impressions can last a lifetime, so it is important that kids feel comfortable when first riding a bike. The extra standover clearance from the sloped top tube and the lower ride provided by the 110mm crank arms help provide an extra level of comfort for young cyclists-in-training.
One of the biggest things we noticed about the Alpha Three is there appear to be opportunities to save a little weight by redesigning a few parts. The handlebars likely could be lighter, and with 28 spokes, the wheels may be a bit overdesigned.
And we’ve mentioned this before about other bikes, but we have some nitpicks. We would prefer to see Presta valves on the tires to eliminate pump switches, and we do not like to see external cam quick releases on children’s bikes (or bikes in general) because of the dangers of misaligned concave washers.
Overall, the build works well—the shifting is intuitive and reliable, and the braking sufficiently powerful. The value seems on par with competitor's bikes. It's $50 cheaper than an Islabikes Beinn, but also 1.4 pounds heavier. If you care about weight, could you shedd 1.4 pounds for $50 in upgrades? That's probably quite tough to do. But if 19 pounds seems plenty light for your kid, the Prevelo Alpha Three is waiting and ready to provide a few years of fun.
See the full photo gallery below the specs.
Prevelo Alpha Three - Key Specs
Frame: 6061 heat treated aluminum alloy
Fork: Aluminum alloy blades with chromoly steerer tube - 35mm rake
Crankset: Prevelo anodized alloy 3-piece square taper with 110mm crank
Brake levers: Tektro aluminum alloy
Brakes: Aluminum Tektro v-brakes
Shifter: Shimano Acera Rapidfire Plus
Rear derailleur: 8-speed Shimano Altus with Smart cage
Front derailleur: n/a
Cassette: 11-34, 8-speed
Chainring: 32T with double chain guard
Pedals: Composite flat pedals
Saddle: Prevelo big kid saddle
Stem: Aluminum 60mm extension
Bars: Prevelo aluminum big bore - 580mm width x 40mm rise
Wheels: Aluminum with grinded sidewalls
Tires: Kenda Small Block Eight, 20" x 1.5"
More Info: prevelobikes.com
Parents looking for a more advanced but heavier offroad setup can look to the 20″ and 24″ Zulu series options, both of which retail for $899. The Zulu series includes hydraulic disc brakes, a Spinner/SunTour front air fork, and wider 2.1″ Kenda tires.
Stay tuned for impressions of how the Alpha Three performs in a full review.