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Merida Matts J+ in 20" and 24"

Merida Matts J+ in 20" and 24"

07.07.20 13:47 5.504Text: NoPain/Luke BiketalkerPhotos: Erwin HaidenWide tires, rigid fork, disc brakes and bright colors: Merida's new Matts J+ mountain bikes for children are a real blast.
Plus: Buyer's guide to children's bicycles07.07.20 13:47 5.504

Merida Matts J+ in 20" and 24"

07.07.20 13:47 5.504 NoPain/Luke Biketalker Erwin Haiden Dieser Beitrag ist auch in Deutsch verfügbarWide tires, rigid fork, disc brakes and bright colors: Merida's new Matts J+ mountain bikes for children are a real blast.
Plus: Buyer's guide to children's bicycles07.07.20 13:47 5503

Metallic crunching and grinding delicately accompanied by the muffled sound of a bicycle bell that started resonating when it hit the asphalt. A quick glance over the shoulder confirms what the meanwhile trained ear had heard. Secretly, quietly and bravely, our slightly battered cycling newcomer struggles with the weight of the bike that lies half buried underneath him on the ground. "My fingers slipped off the brake again", she angrily explains her predicament.

Children's bikes are not just shrunken adult bikes - at least they shouldn't be. Just adding a bit of color and infantile decoration does not make a good children's bike, especially not when it is much too heavy all in all. Because our offspring do not only need a total weight adapted to their own weight, small frame sizes and wheels, but also child-specific components such as cranks, saddle and above all brake levers, the bikes must therefore be developed considering special aspects. Especially when it is likely that the kids will go off-road every now and then.

To defy the fierce competition from TV, smartphone and internet, a children's bike must be fun right from the start. It must arouse an interest in cycling, an interest in the outdoors, an interest in nature and adventure. Merida, too, has recognized the incipient upheaval in the sector and added two new “mini mountain bikes” to their range: Merida Matts J20+ and Matts J24+ in 20 and 24 inches respectively. And yes, of course a slight splash of color on top is ok.

  • Merida Matts 20+Model year 2020/21Merida Matts 20+Model year 2020/21
    Merida Matts 20+
    Model year 2020/21
    Merida Matts 20+
    Model year 2020/21
  • Merida Matts 24+Model year 2020/21Merida Matts 24+Model year 2020/21
    Merida Matts 24+
    Model year 2020/21
    Merida Matts 24+
    Model year 2020/21
Merida Matts J20+

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Merida Matts J24+

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Met Yo-Yo Kinderhelm

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Merida Matts J20+ & Merida Matts J24+

Far too often Merida's actual competence in frame building is kept silent about. But since 1972 the Taiwanese have left their mark on more icons than the buyers of various luxury brands might expect. They have been working with aluminum frames since 1985, but also have enormous know-how when it comes to carbon. Considering this, it would have been a surprise if the partly German development team didn't also have some ideas up their sleeves for "their" ideal children's bike. The result? Wide tires for lots of traction and damping, a rigid fork for low weight and smart details that are designed to make the first pedal rotations on the bike a piece of cake.

Merida has made a name for themselves beyond the bicycle industry with the processing of various aluminum alloys. Consequently, the material also became the basis for the new Matts J+ children's bikes series. Frames and forks made of lightweight 6061 aluminum form the core of the Matts J20+ and Matts J24+. In order to keep both costs and weight within reasonable limits, the tube diameters were reduced and mostly round tube shapes were used. But the greater weight potential was to be found in the parts.

  • #1 Wide plus-size tires (2.4 inch) for maximum comfort#1 Wide plus-size tires (2.4 inch) for maximum comfort
    #1 Wide plus-size tires (2.4 inch) for maximum comfort
    #1 Wide plus-size tires (2.4 inch) for maximum comfort
  • #2 Rigid aluminum forks for weight reduction#2 Rigid aluminum forks for weight reduction
    #2 Rigid aluminum forks for weight reduction
    #2 Rigid aluminum forks for weight reduction
  • #3 Top finished frames made from lightweight 6061 aluminum#3 Top finished frames made from lightweight 6061 aluminum
    #3 Top finished frames made from lightweight 6061 aluminum
    #3 Top finished frames made from lightweight 6061 aluminum
  • #4 Very solid, but light components and parts#4 Very solid, but light components and parts
    #4 Very solid, but light components and parts
    #4 Very solid, but light components and parts

Geometries

Merida Matts J20+ Merida Matts J24+
Size recommendation (cm) 115 to 140 cm (approx. 3.8 to 4.5 ft) 130 to 150 cm (approx. 4.3 to 4.9 ft)
Frame size (cm) 24 28
Tire sizes (Zoll) 20" 24"
Seat tube (mm) 240 275
Top tube (mm) 445 500
Chain stay length (mm) 360 410
Head tube angle 68° 68°
Seat tube angle 72° 72°
Bottom bracket drop (mm) 20 30
Head tube (mm) 120 120
Fork length (mm) 340 415
Reach (mm) 304,5 334,5
Stack (mm) 432,5 509
Crank length (mm) 127 140
Wheel base (mm) 871,5 985,5

Geometry was adapted for riding off playground and road, allowing for off-road excursions. Above all, the low standover height due to the steeply sloping top tube and the low bottom bracket provide a great deal of safety in every riding situation. This means that the offspring can dismount safely and with firm ground contact at all times and are more in control during the ride due to the low center of gravity. They sit in the bike, not on it, so to speak.

Merida recommends Matts J20+ for a body height range of about 115 to 140 cm (approx. 3.8 to 4.5 ft) and Matts J24+ for a body height of 130 to 150 cm (approx. 4.3 to 4.9 ft). According to Merida's size recommendation, 26" wheels can be considered from a height of about 140 cm (4.5 ft), depending on the desired application and individual morphology.

Merida Matts J20+

Frame Matts J20+, 6061 alloy; 135x9/100x9 mm; BSA BB Fork Matts J20+, alloy
Color Glossy Light Blue (Blue/white) Headset FSA TH888
Crankset Merida Expert JR, 28 Zähne, 127 mm Pedals Marwi SP-202
Handlebar Merida Expert JR; 580 mm, 20 mm rise Grips Merida Expert JR
Rear derailleur Shimano RD-M310 Shifter Altus 7 speed
Stem Merida Expert CC; alloy, 31.8, 60 mm, +/-5° Spacer 10mm*2+5MM*2
Brakes Tektro HD-M275 (PM front, IS rear) Discs Tektro 160/140 mm
Seat post Merida CC; 27,2 mm, 15 mm setback Saddle Merida Comp JR
Cassette Shimano MF-TZ500, 14-34, 7 speed Chain KMC Z7
Wheels Merida JR 20+, Joytech D041DSE and Joytech D242TSE hubs, steel spokes Tires CST Jet C1820, 2.4 x 20"
Seat clamp Merida Comp QR Side stand Center type alloy
Weight* 9,56 kg Price (RRP) 459 Euro (Austria)

* Weighed, without pedals, with cat eyes

Merida Matts J24+

Frame Matts J24+, 6061 alloy; 135x9/100x9 mm; BSA BB Fork Matts J24+, alloy
Color Glossy Sparkling Yellow (Black) Headset VP Z104AE
Crankset Merida Expert JR, 28 Zähne, 140 mm Pedals Marwi SP-202
Handlebar Merida Expert JR; 620 mm, 20 mm Rise Grips Merida Expert JR
Rear derailleur Shimano RD-M310 Shifter Altus 8 speed
Stem Merida Expert CC; alloy, 31.8, 60 mm, +/-5° Spacer 10mm*2+5MM*2
Brakes Tektro HD-M275 (PM front, IS rear) Discs Tektro 160/140 mm
Seat post Merida CC; 27,2 mm, 15 mm setback Saddle Merida Expert JR, CroMo rails
Cassette Sunrace CSM668, 11-34, 8 speed Chain KMC M700
Wheels Merida JR 24+, Joytech D041DSE and Joytech D142TSE hubs, steel spokes Tires CST Jet C1820, 2.4 x 24"
Seat clamp Merida Comp QR Side stand Center type alloy
Weight* 10,41 kg (10,57 kg manufacturer information) Price (RRP) 499 Euro (Austria)

* Weighed, without pedals, with cat eyes

Specs and components

Instead of heavy mini suspension forks, which, due to the low riders’ weight, usually have the reputation of responding insensitively (especially at realistic prices), Matts J+ features a rigid aluminum fork, which saves some of the often unnecessary weight. On the other hand, riding comfort, damping and control are provided with voluminous 2.4" mountain bike tires. Thanks to a correspondingly low air pressure, these plus-size tires work wonders and provide maximum safety when it comes to any type of obstacle, tram tracks, high curbs or the first root passage.

In order to do justice to the leverage and strength of small children's hands, it was above all necessary to adapt the brakes. Merida uses Tektro hydraulic disc brakes on the new Matts J20+ and Matts J24+. This allows the levers to be placed close to the handlebars and thanks to Reach Adjust they can be adjusted individually. In addition, the lever ratio allows a better dosage than comparable mechanical solutions. The Taiwanese even considered the brake discs (160 mm front, 140 mm rear) and used models with rounded edges to reduce the risk of injury.

  • #5 Bright colors with an extra thick clear coat#5 Bright colors with an extra thick clear coat
    #5 Bright colors with an extra thick clear coat
    #5 Bright colors with an extra thick clear coat
  • #6 Discs (160 mm front, 140 mm rear) with rounded edges to reduce the risk of injury#6 Discs (160 mm front, 140 mm rear) with rounded edges to reduce the risk of injury
    #6 Discs (160 mm front, 140 mm rear) with rounded edges to reduce the risk of injury
    #6 Discs (160 mm front, 140 mm rear) with rounded edges to reduce the risk of injury

Everything else was also designed with the little riders in mind. Merida's own Matts JR handlebars are not only light, their shape also got adapted to the children's biomechanics. The Matts JR saddle was not simply shrunk; it was optimized in weight and the padding and foam strength were meticulously worked on. After all, a child's saddle has to carry considerably less weight than its adult counterpart - accordingly, the foam had to be different in order to keep the child's bottom free of pressure points. With only one chainring and thus only one way to sort the gears, the sometimes complex subject of shifting becomes easier and concentration as well as eyes are kept on the road. Instead of grip shift, which is often difficult to operate with small hands while riding, Matts J+ bikes are specced with a 7- or 8-speed Shimano Altus with classic trigger shifters.

  • #7 Merida’s own child-friendly and lightweight aluminum handlebars #7 Merida’s own child-friendly and lightweight aluminum handlebars
    #7 Merida’s own child-friendly and lightweight aluminum handlebars
    #7 Merida’s own child-friendly and lightweight aluminum handlebars
  • #8 Children’s saddles optimized in padding and foam strength#8 Children’s saddles optimized in padding and foam strength
    #8 Children’s saddles optimized in padding and foam strength
    #8 Children’s saddles optimized in padding and foam strength
  • #9 Intuitive Shimano trigger shifters with 7 or 8 gears#9 Intuitive Shimano trigger shifters with 7 or 8 gears
    #9 Intuitive Shimano trigger shifters with 7 or 8 gears
    #9 Intuitive Shimano trigger shifters with 7 or 8 gears
  • #10 Kick stand and pedals are included#10 Kick stand and pedals are included
    #10 Kick stand and pedals are included
    #10 Kick stand and pedals are included

Wide guide rings on both sides of the chainring keep pants clean and the chain on track. They also reduce the risk of getting hurt on the chainring teeth. Short crank arms (127/140 mm length) finally accommodate the short legs of the pilots. A rotatable stem with +/-5° as well as various spacers allow the bikes to "grow" with the rider. Despite their mountain bike looks the smaller Matts J20+ with 20" tires as well as Matts J24+ with 24" tires are designed for mounting kick stand, pannier rack and mud guards. This way the bike can also be made fit for the daily way to school. On board ex works as well: The possibility of ergonomically mounting a bottle holder - on the top tube for better accessibility on J20+, the classic way on the down tube on J24+.

Prices & Weights

Matts J20+ weighs 9.56 kg (21 lbs) and has an RRP of 459 Euros. For the 10.57 kg (weighed: 10.4 kg/22.9 lbs) bike Matts J24+ Merida in Austria recommends a retail price of 499 Euros.

Anyone who is about to start complaining about the weight, be advised to compare apples with apples before doing so. Voluminous tires, robust parts and paint (both J+ come with an extra thick clear coat - after all the bikes will quite often be found lying on the ground) as well as disc brakes simply add a little extra weight to the system. Compared with manufacturers who offer a similar genuine mountain bike concept, these bikes rank in the lower weight range at comparable prices. Only when you are willing to invest well over 500 Euros, the bikes become noticeably lighter.

Buyer’s guide for children's bikes: sizes, parts, do's & don'ts

From DIY stores to sports shops and the internet, the range of children's bikes available is enormous. Although wheel sizes of 16, 20 and 24 inches provide rough orientation, the individual models differ quite a lot nevertheless in terms of geometry and specs, which makes the final decision difficult. We have summarized the most important aspects for purchasing a children's bike. After all, with a little background knowledge you can find an ideal base for the little explorers even on a small budget. Because after balance bike and the first "real" 16-inch bike, your offspring will inevitably sooner or later call for more gears and a larger travel radius.

The right size

Of course, the best way to determine the correct size is a test ride. But dealers do not always have all bikes in stock. Age and height of the child as well as the bike's wheel size are only rough indicators. Therefore, the inner leg length of the child may rather be used to determine the correct size. It shows whether the child will reach the ground with his or her feet with the saddle mounted at a reasonable height. Beginners and very small children should firmly reach the ground with both feet, later it is sufficient if at least one ball of the foot safely touches the ground. If the child's measurements are between 20 and 24 inches at the time of purchase, it is important to take a close look at the bike. For modern mountain bikes with flat steering angles, large standover height and deep bottom brackets, you may well choose the larger size - as long as the child reaches the ground with his or her feet. In this case, the child sits in the bike, not on it and may just as well benefit from the larger wheels. However, bigger does not mean "too big".

Weight

In addition to the appropriate size, the weight is of particular importance. The following comparison makes clear what might easily be overlooked: especially with very young children, a body weight of 20 to 25 kg (44-55 lbs) is very likely put on a bike weighing 10 kg (22 lbs). That would be similar to an adult with a body weight of 75 kg (165 lbs) riding a 35 kg (77 lbs) bike. In this respect, every kilo lost is a big gain when it comes to small bikes - when climbing on it, when stopping, when riding. And if the offspring can carry their bike up and down the stairs themselves, this will also be a relief for the parents. Depending on the intended use, a 20-inch children's bike should weigh between 8 and 9 kg (17 and 20 lbs), and a 24-inch bike should not be much heavier than 10 kg (22 lbs) either. The more the intended application shifts towards off-road riding, the more the bike will weight, of course. Voluminous tires and disc brakes increase the weight, narrow road tires and V-brakes reduce it.

Brakes

Unlike adult bikes, V-brakes are still quite common on children's bikes. They are light, usually easy to maintain and to dose. Especially in the mountain bike sector, however, disc brakes are increasingly conquering the market. Hydraulic disc brakes are superior to their mechanical counterparts because they are ideal for small children's hands thanks to low operating forces. Above all, however, you should pay attention to the brake levers when buying a children's bike. They should be close enough to the handlebars, be adjustable so the child can reach them easily and work very smoothly, as children's fingers are shorter and weaker than those of an adult. Both V-brakes and disc brakes are - combined with the right levers - ideal for the first off-road trips. What is to be avoided in any case, however, are outdated coaster brakes.

Crank length and Q Factor

As children have shorter legs, they need different cranks than adults. The correct crank length for children should amount to about 10% of their body height. If the cranks are (clearly) too long, this can cause pain in the long run. If the cranks are too short, however, this can easily be compensated for by increasing the cadence. The Q Factor should also be as narrow as possible to bring the child's ankle, knee and hip into a favorable position. Single ring cranksets are a good approach, but some manufacturers even offer special children's cranks with an even further reduced Q Factor. As suitable bearing shells are necessary to use them, which means additional costs, they are rarely used.

Grip shift or trigger shifters

Whether grip shift or trigger shifters are preferred is probably as individual a decision for children as it is for adults. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Trigger shifters are easy to use, grip shift often works more intuitively. Have your child test them before purchasing a bike or simply accept what is already mounted. Single ring cranks are absolutely sufficient and make shifting less confusing. Bikes from 20” upwards usually come with 7 to 10 gears which is absolutely sufficient for most applications. As riders of 16”-bikes usually have a smaller range of motion, one gear will be enough.

  • 7 speed trigger on the 20"7 speed trigger on the 20"
    7 speed trigger on the 20"
    7 speed trigger on the 20"
  • Cf. 7 speed grip shiftCf. 7 speed grip shift
    Cf. 7 speed grip shift
    Cf. 7 speed grip shift

Suspension fork

Many of the children's suspension forks available on the market are heavy as lead and cursed with such a limited adjustment range that they mutate into rigid forks under the low weight of the little pilots. Considering this, why not mount a real rigid fork in combination with voluminous tires right from the beginning - because at low air pressure the latter will replace the chassis when ridden by a flyweight child and in most cases provide an optimal mix of traction, damping and safety.

Nevertheless, children's suspension forks may also be justified - in our opinion, however, only on bikes larger than 20 inches and only when riding at higher speeds and on real trails. As soon as the offspring is likely to go for their first jumps, the advantages of a light air suspension fork outweigh the total weight disadvantage. However, if you opt for a suspension fork for your child's bike, you should be willing to pay for a decent one.

  • 20" Rigid fork20" Rigid fork
    20" Rigid fork
    20" Rigid fork
  • 24" Rigid fork24" Rigid fork
    24" Rigid fork
    24" Rigid fork
  • Cf. 20" Suspension forkCf. 20" Suspension fork
    Cf. 20" Suspension fork
    Cf. 20" Suspension fork

Real-life impressions

Test ride and photo shoot took place in the Waldviertel at river Kamp on dry, flat and technically rather easy terrain, as our tester Valentina aka Rübi, the eldest daughter of NoPain, is not a daredevil off-road and even less willing than her old man to take any risks. And that's a really good thing as we do not want to see her in hospital or with broken bones as often as him - but that's another story.

It was all the more surprising that getting used to both wide-tired Matts J+ bikes only took her a few moments, although Valentina had no experience with trigger shifters, disc brakes and the like. The motto being "climb on it and get going" she coolly mastered the roughest root passages of Schönberg and even the scary doubles of the BMX track in Langenlois - despite excitement and unnecessary skepticism had kept her awake the nights before the test ride. The pleasantly wide handlebars and the fat tires ridden at particularly low air pressure compensated for the unfamiliar bumping and never got our off-road newcomer into trouble.

However, it was not possible to elicit particularly detailed information about her personal impressions. In terms of color she could not really decide whether she preferred blue or yellow, both bikes showed good directional stability, she reached the ground well with her feet without touching the top tube and the weight penalty due to the wide tires and disc brakes did not bother her. "Mega", she enthused about the smooth rollover and considered it "cool" how well both bikes braked. Whereby she probably meant by the latter that the brake levers were extremely close to the handlebars and still worked.

  • Valentina's seat height and setup on the 20" bike...Valentina's seat height and setup on the 20" bike...
    Valentina's seat height and setup on the 20" bike...
    Valentina's seat height and setup on the 20" bike...
  • ... and here the same on the 24" bike. Conclusion: too big (yet).... and here the same on the 24" bike. Conclusion: too big (yet).
    ... and here the same on the 24" bike. Conclusion: too big (yet).
    ... and here the same on the 24" bike. Conclusion: too big (yet).

With her body height of 125 centimeters (49 inches), she fitted perfectly on the 20-inch bike (Merida specification: 115 to 140 cm body height), which, thanks to the seat post length and the adjustment options of stem and handlebars, offers future potential, too. Nevertheless, she was more enthusiastic about the (much) too large 24" Matts J+ and used every opportunity to ride it. The main reason for this could finally be tracked down to the wheel size after an hour-long "interrogation": the larger wheels moved noticeably better over obstacles and she felt very safe due to the compact integration between front and rear wheel.

  • Although the 20" bike size was rather perfect...Although the 20" bike size was rather perfect...
    Although the 20" bike size was rather perfect...
    Although the 20" bike size was rather perfect...
  • ... Valentina prefered the 24" bike, which was (still) too big for her.... Valentina prefered the 24" bike, which was (still) too big for her.
    ... Valentina prefered the 24" bike, which was (still) too big for her.
    ... Valentina prefered the 24" bike, which was (still) too big for her.
  • (Tire-)size does matter.(Tire-)size does matter.
    (Tire-)size does matter.
    (Tire-)size does matter.

 What a great ride! The brakes are cool! 

Rübi‘s first impressions after the test ride

Bottom line

Merida Matts J+
Model year: 2020/21
Test duration: 1 month
Price: from € 459,-
+ High-quality parts with age-appropriate ergonomics
+ Geometry suitable for children
+ Finish and paint quality
+ Secure handling, good balance and control
+ Stylish design
+ Fit for mounting mudguards, pannier rack and kick stand
+ Price/performance
o Systemic weight
o Suspension fork models only from autumn 2020
BB judgement: Modern children's mountain bikes with a particularly large application area.


Merida’s Matt's J+ mountain bikes are specially designed to suit the stature and needs of riders of a body height of 115 cm (45 inches) or taller and are true all-rounders! They are both real off-road bikes that allow young children to have real fun in the forest and on trails as well as modern and stylish companions on family tours, on the daily commute to school, the way to the playground or to the ice cream shop, thanks to the easy mounting options for mudguards, pannier rack and kick stand. Envious looks from peers included.

Whether on or off-road - the ride was a lot of fun for our 8-year-old test rider. And on both Matts J+ models this riding pleasure was defined above all by safe handling, directional stability, the high comfort of tires, saddle and handlebars and good control when braking or stopping. In addition to their manageable weight, the high-quality aluminum frame with child-friendly geometry, the modern specs with hydraulic discs and Shimano gears and many other consistent parts, both bikes were particularly appealing due to their sleek design and top-quality finish. In addition, the two bikes featured will not only enter model year 2021 unchanged, but - to the delight of true bunny hop cracks - will this autumn be complemented with additional suspension fork models (Suntour XCT JR).

Matts J20+ weighs 9.56 kg (21 lbs) and has an RRP of 459 Euros. For the 10.4 kg (22.9 lbs) bike Matts J24+, Merida Austria recommends a retail price of 499 Euros. The two Merida bikes seem to be a good deal in terms of the quality offered. Especially as the abbreviation RRP in the specialist trade means “recommended retail price” and not “fixed price without any chance of being reduced”.