Highly regarded by bike fans despite only launching in January 2017, Squish has developed a reputation for creating good value bikes for little people. Its 18in is a bit of a rarity among kids’ bike brands and neatly bridges the large gap between the 16" and 20" bikes that are more readily available.
However, we were keen to test its 24" junior bike to see how it fared against the more established brands.
Who are Squish Bikes?
Squish Bikes are part of 'Tandem Group Cycles', a company that also owns a number of other brands such as Dawes, Claud Butler and British Eagle. The Squish Head Office is based in Birmingham, and it's here that the team come up with the designs for the Squish kids bike range with an eye firmly fixed on not only making their products lightweight and fit for purpose but also creating visually attractive themes to appeal to a younger audience.
As the name suggests, the Squish MTB 24 is a 24-inch wheel mountain bike that has been designed for kids looking to go just that little bit further afield and start venturing off-road onto more challenging terrain. Squish state that the setup is great for hardpack and woodland trails so we gave it a blast on this type of terrain but we also thought it's capable of a lot more. With that in mind, we decided to test it at a trail centre to see how it handles that as well.
What age are Squish mountain bikes aimed at?
As well as the 24" MTB, the Squish MTB range consists of a larger 26" wheel bike that Squish say is suitable for ages 9 plus. They've also just released a 650B size for taller kids - it has a 14" wheel frame and is designed for ages 10 and over. There's a size guide chart on the website that gives minimum height and inside leg measurements for each model and this can be viewed here.
Frame and forks
The Squish is built around a triple-butted aluminium frame which means that the walls of the tubes that make up the frame will have three thicknesses, with the thickest part being at the joints where strength is needed most and where they're welded together. This process helps keep weight down.
The frame is constructed from tubing with traditional round profiles and is designed with a short seat tube and steeply angled top tube that gives a very low standover making it easy for kids to clamber on and off. However, this does mean that the front end is quite high, so the height difference between saddle and bars can be quite marked depending on where the saddle is set. There are a good number of spacers fitted below the stem, so some adjustment to lower the bars can be made if it's felt necessary.
The forks supplied by SR Suntour are the XCR-Lo model. This is an air fork which has a number of benefits for a lightweight rider such as a child. Firstly, the weight of the fork is much less than the alternative 'coil' fork, so the overall weight of the bike will be less. This could translate into less moaning when that big hill rears its head!
Secondly, air forks can be 'tuned' to give the best ride for the weight of the rider. It's kind of a 'Three Bears' scenario. Manufacturers create charts to accompany their forks that give the recommended air pressure for a given weight, so armed with this information and a shock pump, pressure can be added or removed to get things 'just right'.
Paintwork and branding
It's a really attractive colour and should appeal to kids as it's fun and bright, but should also strike a chord with adults too. In fact, I've seen a rather expensive high-end road bike recently in the same colour and it looked great!
Squish have not held back in creating a brand to appeal to kids. On their smaller sizes there's a cute little Squish character that adorns the bikes, plus the bikes of all sizes get the "Splodge" treatment. There's a club they can join and every bike comes with a set of stickers.
Gearing on the Squish MTB 26
Gearing is hugely important if you want to get anywhere without pushing! Current thinking is that where possible, things should be kept simple by having a single ring chainset at the front. This avoids the need for a front derailleur, and so there's less complication with changing gears with your left hand. So less equipment, less cost, less faff.
Thankfully, the MTB 24 is set up like this and has a 32 tooth chainring at the front and a cassette at the rear with sprockets ranging from 11 up to 32 teeth. The more teeth on a sprocket, the easier it is to pedal. So in hilly areas, you want more teeth. Squish has opted for an 8-speed drivetrain that makes use of Shimano's tried and tested Altus shifter and rear derailleur and this worked well in operation.
Disc brakes tend to be the norm these days for mountain bikes, and the MTB 24 is no exception here.
It comes fitted with Tektro brand brakes that are mechanically operated so are cheaper than hydraulic ones and use a cable to operate the brake rather than hydraulic fluid. The brake discs are 160mm in diameter and in use the brake system has proven to be effective.
Wheels and tyres
The MTB 24 comes with a set of wheels that should prove plenty enough for the required application. There are double walled wheel rims in a black finish with the branding even extending here, as they come adorned with a bright orange 'Squish' decal.
Both the front and rear are quick release so easy to pop off, either for putting the bike in the car or for dealing with any dreaded punctures that may arise. It's really nice to see branded hubs in use too, plus they're made by Shimano which is certainly not the norm we see on kids bikes.
The finishing kit is as you would expect and suitable for the bike. The handlebars and stem are free of any logo's, while there's a Squish branded top cap sitting on the stem. The handlebar grips are cheap and cheerful but are grippy enough and do the job. Each item is appropriately sized for smaller bodies, with shorter crank arms and smaller pedals in place too.
The Squish MTB 24 is aimed at kids of 8 years and over that are getting a bit more adventurous and wanting to head out onto terrain that provides them with a challenge and get the juices flowing. Dressed in a funky paint job, the Squish certainly lets you know it's arrived.
The specification gives a good spread of gears for the type of terrain it's likely to encounter, with a set of cable operated disc brakes to keep speeds in check. There's also an air sprung suspension fork that's a great option as you can change the pressure to suit the weight of the child, meaning it will actually work as it's supposed to!
The multi-terrain tyres are described by Squish as being suitable for hardpack and woodland trails. So if you're looking to expand your riding and start getting out on the trails, the Squish MTB 24 should certainly fit the bill.
It’s a simpler bike, but it’s also cheaper and lighter than it's closest competitors. It is really nicely thought through. The whole Squish range benefits from great ergonomics and there are plenty of different sizes available; Squish’s aim being that no one should have to grow into a bike.