Review: Culprit Junior Two – Premium 650C Youth Road Bike
Culprit’s Junior series road bikes come in two sizes, a 20″ wheeled version and the 650C version tested by my son, Harrison. From the spec to the frame, they’re aimed at the performance crowd – as in, parents who are into cycling and understand why better parts make for a better experience.
Other than wheel and frame size, the two models are very similar: 7005 alloy tubing with aero shaping, Token wheels, Shimano 105 derailleurs/cassette/chain, TRP brakes and Microshift levers/shifters. They both use the same aero-shaped carbon seatpost with dual offset clamp positions. Cockpit is a Culprit branded alloy bar and stem and slim, traditional looking performance saddle, not some puffy perch like on most kid’s mountain bikes.
Where they differ is with crank length and forks. Both use custom CNC’d three-piece cranksets, with 140mm and 152mm arm lengths depending on model. Gearing is also adapted to the intended ages and their strength, with a 40/32 on the Junior One and 46/36 on the Junior Two. The smaller bike uses a 7005 alloy fork, but the larger Junior Two upgrades to a carbon fork with alloy steerer.
Solid spec for a kid’s bike, and when they’re all put together and you get your kid out on the road with you, that’s when it gets special…
DETAILS & WEIGHT
Up front, it looks every bit the high end racing bike. An integrated, hidden headset and smooth welds combine with internal cable routing and aero downtube, seat tube and chainstays to give it a very sleek look.
The handbuilt Token wheels finish off the aero benefits with 30mm deep (front) and 40mm deep (rear) rims and bladed spokes. They’re wrapped in Kenda Koncept Lite 650x23c tires.
The steerer comes plenty long, letting you set the height to match your child’s growth. Handlebar drop is reasonably short, and I measured bar width at 35.5cm center to center. I left the stem at the top of the steerer to keep Harrison in a more upright riding position – here’s why:
Microshift levers were spec’d because they’re a bit smaller than Shimano’s levers, better fitting smaller hands. Brake lever reach is fairly close to the bars, but he’s right between sizes on the frame’s recommended aging system (Culprit also provides minimum stand over heights on their website). When we first rode the bikes at DealerCamp last summer, the Junior One was borderline too small and would have almost immediately been outgrown. The Junior Two was borderline too big, but with an age rating of 10-13 years old, I knew he’d grow into it.
As such, his hands aren’t quite big enough to brake from the hoods, so he rides in the drops. Thus, I kept the handlebars as high as possible. As he grows, we’ll adjust accordingly.
The seatpost is a long, aero-shaped carbon fiber post with an alloy top that provides two positions.
Shift cable routing exits just in front of the bottom bracket shell. An external bearing BB means easy replacement with a higher end unit if necessary. The Junior Two’s cranks use 110BCD chainrings, so even those can be easily replaced. Note how smooth the welds are, too…very pretty.
With a Shimano 105 setup and CNC’d chainrings, it’s spec’d better than many adult bikes costing hundreds more. And, actually, it’s built strong enough to be ridden by very short adults, too, so it’s unlikely a 65-80lb kid’s going to tear it up too bad. Unless they start jumping things.
Other little details include downtube water bottle cage mount, alloy cage pedals, Token headset and chromoly railed saddle. Actual weight for the complete bike is 18.72lbs (8.49kg).
A PARENT’S REVIEW WITHOUT HAVING RIDDEN THE BIKE
On the last day of DealerCamp 2013, Harrison (then 8-1/2 years old) found the Culprit around lunch time. As the exhibitors were boxing things up at the end of the day, he was still out riding. There was no way we were leaving Park City without that bike. So, Josh (Colp, founder of Culprit) and I made a deal, the bike was bought and a review promised.
As a cyclist who happens to be a parent (or vice versa – priorities, right?), seeing my son excited about riding and wanting to go fast warms the heart. And as an aficionado of fine bikes and parts -not to mention finally learning the value of buying the good stuff once instead of the crappy stuff many times over- the Culprit has proven to be a good choice. Not only is the parts spec impressive for a kid’s bike, but the frame is solid and will deliver years of use thanks to smart layout and design.
While MicroShift wouldn’t be my choice for my own bikes, it makes sense here and it works perfectly fine. As does everything else on the bike. Honestly, I haven’t spent more than 20 minutes tuning the bike or inflating tires in the 10 months we’ve had it.
The Junior Two retails for $1,100, which is about $300 to $400 more than other bike-shop-quality kids road bikes we’ve seen lately. For that, I’d say you get better wheels, an aero frame and solid spec. You also get the peace of mind knowing that your kid won’t outgrow it in two years, and that it’s durable enough to outlast their entry into the tweens.
HARRISON’S (UNEDITED) REVIEW
Hi, my name is Harrison I am 9 and I’m going to tell you about my Culprit-junior two. It can go really fast down hill. I like to go on short rides with my dad threw the neighborhood. Also I sometimes ride with friends around the neighborhood. One of my favorite places to go is to spring garden bakery a cafe not to far away from our house. The only thing I don’t really like about it is that I wish you could lower the seat a little more. When I hit rough spots it handles pretty well like its not to bumpy and it’s not hard to steer or any thing. It’s my first road bike and so far for my first road bike it’s my favorite, so buy your kid a Culprit-junior two!