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CONQUEST 24 — Darn near the real thing

Cyclocross riders in the Pacific Northwest have seen these Conquest 24s by the scores. Here in Colorado, the local race association, the American Cycling Association, has a kids program that includes access to a Conquest 24.

Redline recommends this bike for kids 9 to 13. In our experience, hand size is more of a limiting factor than leg length. A few 8-year-olds were able to hop on the Conquest 24 no problem, but the Shimano STI levers pose a challenge on the upshifts. The test bike came with a right Shimano 2300 lever, which has a thumb shifter similar to Campagnolo’s design for moving down the cassette. Kids can shift this easily from the hoods. The upshift, however, still requires a relatively big lateral push on the brake lever. For this, 9 seems about the youngest age for which this is feasible.

Kona used to make a 24-inch ’cross bike, too. Our web editor Steve still has one that his daughter outgrew (Editor’s note: That bike has moved on to Tom’s stable. And so it goes … ). One cool feature on this bike is the reach adjust screw on the STI levers. This feature isn’t available on the Conquest 24; however you can use a Shimano shim to bring the lever closer to the bar.

The gearing is more than adequate for a kids bike, with 48/34 rings and a 13-26 cassette. If I bought a Conquest 24, I’d probably replace the 48-tooth ring with a chain guard and run it as a single ring.

The Tektro Mini V-brakes are great, as are the Tektro bar-top levers with reach adjust. At the risk of beating the subject into the ground, reach adjust is vital, especially when you’re starting your kid out on the younger side of a bike’s age range.

The Conquest 24 weighs 21 pounds and retails for $649.