We recently took delivery of a few relaunched Cleary Meerkat. After building them up I took the opportunity to take them for a long spin to see if they are worth the price tag. Here are my initial impressions and what I think of this sub $600 24" kid's bike.
Cleary Meerkat Details that Matter
- Retail $594
- 28 pounds
- Steel frame with a suspension corrected fork
- Relaunched with a 5-speed internally geared hub (more on that shortly)
- Hydraulic disc brakes
- 1.95" tires that would work on the road or for the child wanting to try out dirt. We wouldn't recommend this tire long term for mountain biking but will be fine for trying it out.
- Read full spec here
Our Initial Impressions
What makes this bike different and is it worth $594? That's really what we are here to talk about.
1. Internally Geared Hub
The Cleary Meerkat was initially launched in 2016 with an external rear derailleur. This is like most bikes you see - the gears are on the outside of the wheel with a large derailleur hanging down.
Fast forward and Cleary relaunched the Meerkat 24" as a 5-speed internally geared and a 20" Owl with 3-speeds internally geared. This matters because gears are hard for kids (and parents). Kids have trouble mastering a ton of gears in the back, remembering they have to be pedaling while shifting if using a derailleur system, AND a derailleur gets bent very easily if the bike is knocked over, dropped or maybe crashed on the right-hand side. You can eliminate most of those concerns by removing the derailleur and having an internally geared hub (the gears inside of the rear hub)!
The rear hub is made Sturmey Archer, a company that has been doing internally geared hubs for over 100 years! We found the shifter was easy for small hands to use, and a reliable gear difference of 25% between each gear. You can also change out the 19t cog on this between a 16 to a 22t. Depending on what type of riding your child is doing, we can change out the cog to make the whole system easier or harder for them. Our only initial complaint of this system is that the engagement on the hub when you pedal isn't as quick as you would find in a standard freehub system but this isn't something most people or kids would ever notice.
2. Hydraulic Brakes
What a cool feature for a sub $600 bike to have reliable and easy to maintain hydraulic brakes. The hose routing to the rear could use some work but nothing zip-ties can't fix!
3. Rack and Fender Mounts
We have become pretty good at cutting down fenders or using p-clamps on 20 and 24-inch bikes to get fenders and racks to work on this size of a bike. The Meerkat comes with braze on mounts. We have tried a variety of rear racks without any luck getting it to fit on this but we will keep hunting.
Who Is This Bike For?
This is a thoughtfully built bike and we have honestly been impressed building this and the Cleary Owl 20" 3-speed up. We love how low maintenance this bike is either for that budding mountain biking child or for around the neighborhood and city. You lube the chain and pump up the tires. No derailleurs to break, gears to adjust, or really even brakes thanks to a decent hydraulic setup. If we can nail down the rear rack and fenders than this would be an amazing commuter bike as well for the kid that is riding to school or maybe sports practices.
From our test riding and build of the bike, it is a top quality bike that eliminates a lot of the headaches for children and the adults taking care of their bikes. The bike is on the heavier side at 28 lbs but it is built to be abused and passed down to the next kid. Depending on your child the additional few pounds of a steel frame and internally geared drivetrain is worth it for riding quality and versatility. The lack of a derailleur to bend when the bike is dropped or not having to figure out how pedaling while shifting may make the bike perfect for your child.
Quick Update 6 Months Later
This is one of my most popular 24" bikes other than the price point Cannondale Quick 24. Why? There isn't anything to go wrong. If you have multiple kids to pass this bike down to OR have a kid that is really getting into all sorts of riding and not just on the street then this bike may pay for the price difference pretty quickly.
You can check out our entire collection of Cleary bikes that we stock here.