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You might not see as many Worx bikes on the road (and off it) as, say, Islabikes or Frog Bikes, but if the success of a brand can be based on the sheer hard work and attention to detail lavished upon its products, including this excellent Juniorworx JA26, then Worx is set to challenge for top honours in the youth road bike market.
We tested the slightly smaller JA24 last year and loved it. All of it, from the short head tube to the cold forged dropouts and everything in between. It was a bike that was more than the sum of its parts. Sharp, smooth, sexy and speedy. No wonder our pint-sized peloton fell in love with it.
Kids grow though. It's an expensive fact of life. Luckily Worx, like many of the new kids' bike brands on the scene, produces a raft of size options. Unlike adult bikes where you get a choice of frame sizes, kids' bikes use wheel size to ensure John or Jane are getting the right size bike. So for this test we switched up to the JA26, which uses 26-inch (650C) wheels, to see if the magic carpet ride given by the JA24 would continue. There is also a 700C kid's version, should their legs have sprouted like wild weeds. That's for another time.
Worx, Hoy, IslaBikes, Scott, Forme and a few others are winning friends in the youth market, not just for building light bikes that fit and have great kit on them, but also because they're taking kids' road cycling seriously. These brands aren't making road-bike-shaped toys, but real, race-worthy road bikes.
When the JA26 was unboxed there was a sharp intake of breath. The matt-black paint with strong white and Team Sky-esque light blue livery detailing just looks awesome. I'd be happy having any of my bikes painted in the same scheme.
Worx makes its JA24, JA26 and JA700 as versatile racing workhorses, with cantilever brakes and enough clearance for cyclo-cross tyres and the associated mud they bring. This means your young riders can, with a switch of tyres or, if they're keen, a switch of wheels, get a ride in on the dirt or the tarmac at a moment's notice. Really handy if, like us, you're an on-road/off-road sort of family.
The frame is made of 6061 T6 alloy, with the bespoke drawn tubes featuring lots of shaping and manipulation to ensure stiffness, forgiveness and, as already mentioned, being a bike with dirt in its core DNA, plenty of tyre clearance. The welds are neat and wouldn't look out of place on a luxury adult frame. The more you look over the JA26 frame, the more the relatively high price (for a child's bike) seems to make sense.
Another small but, in the eyes of our tester, significant feature of the Worx range is the addition of the secondary 'cross-top' two-finger brake levers. Set on the tops of the shallow-drop bar, close in to the stem, these allow greater control of braking from the tops, helping young riders to stay safe when arm/hand/finger reach and control to the regular brakes is limited.
Helping the fit of the JA26 match the needs of young riders is a beautiful compact, shallow-drop bar. As well as being narrow at 34cm, the bar features an incredibly tight bend to bring the lower horizontal sections of the 'hooks' up higher. This enables young riders to use the classic aero drop bar tuck with less over-reaching and without hurting themselves. Not only does this help them look and feel like proper roadies, it helps build their confidence to ride this way as standard, rather than just on the brake hoods. Matched with a short 50mm flip/flop aheadstem, the cockpit of the JA26 is both user-friendly and adaptable.
The bike's running gear is a compilation of 'best-of' junior sized components. Worx believes young riders should concentrate on spinning relatively low gears. To achieve this it eschews front shifting, fitting the JA26 with a single 36-tooth front chainring (complete with guard) to its forged alloy 145mm-long black anodised cranks. Microshift provides the 9-speed integrated rear shift/brake lever and the front, brake-only, lever. Both levers are sized for smaller hands and shorter, less strong fingers. The brake levers operate Tektro Oryx cantilevers, which are small and very effective, with a positive feel through both levers – once the pads and shiny machined alloy brake surfaces on the Worx-branded rims bed together.
The gear shifter fires the smart looking silver chain across the 9-speed 11-34t SRAM cassette cleanly and efficiently. If you've never heard of Microshift, worry not, the components are accurate, robust and nice to use.
The stem and seatpost are in-house Worx-branded alloy items, well sized, impeccably finished and neither gave any cause for concern or comment. The saddle is also a Worx-branded model, and not only does it fit the junior posterior like some sort of badly designed glove, it's comfortable too.
To the wheels. Worx places a lot of emphasis on the importance of good wheels (and we have to agree). To this end, the company takes the matter literally into its own hands, speccing its own WheelWorx wheels. At the heart of the package are WRT (Wide Rim Technology) rims; at 23mm – internal diameter – they're wider than the normal 19-21mm size of other 'standard' rims. The benefits of wider rims are said to be better presentation of the tyre to the road for enhanced grip, and improved aerodynamics. Whatever, they certainly don't hold up our testers as they tore up whatever road or trail was presented. Laced with 32 double-butted spokes to WRT sealed cartridge bearing hubs, they're butter smooth.
Tyres are 23mm lightweight, hardwearing and actually quite grippy Kenda Kontenders (Maxxis cross tyres can be specified at point of sale). Impressive final touches extend to the quick release levers, which are nicer-than-they-need-to-be items, complete with polished silver D-ring ends to the nuts. The devil, as they say, is in the detail.
So that's the sum of the parts, but does the Worx JA26 amount to more than that? Really special bike always do. The proof is in the ride and, as with the JA24, the JA26 was almost permanently clocking up miles with a steady rota of 'interested' young riders offering to test it. That most tried not to come back with it speaks volumes... Some of them felt they wanted a double chainset, one wasn't sure he wanted to ever ride cyclo-cross and would have like callipers over the cantilevers, but apart from that the feedback was unanimous in its high praise for the Worx JA26.
Some thought the lack of second chainring helped them to set a steady cadence, and those who rode it on grass in 'cross mode liked the 34-tooth large sprocket for cresting the steep pitches. To be honest it's useful to have on the road, too, for the inevitable blow-up at the end of a long ride. Kids' energy batteries can crash in a flash, and while they recover quickly too, when they've blown they need a bailout – the 34t sprocket is it.
Individually these tiny spec details might not make a difference, but together they all mount up. They make the difference between this bike just being a nice bike and one that exceeds expectations.
What would we change about the Worx JA26? Nothing. We would, in time, fit a lighter cassette, as the budget SRAM one is a bit of a lump, but that's it. It's a work of cycling art.
As riders grow, Worx makes race-ready bikes to fit, and this 650C model is a blinder
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Worx JA26
Size tested: Black/blue
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The Worx JA26 is a 650C cyclo-cross bike, which works as well on the roads as it does in the dirt. Worx says: "The Juniorworx JA26 is ready to race from the first pedal stroke."
We agree wholeheartedly.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The Worx is perhaps the neatest, most function-specific competition-focused junior CX/road bike we've ever seen. From the frame to the QR skewers, everything is as light, stripped back and designed for speed as possible.
Utterly beautiful. If it said Cannondale on the downtube, you'd believe it. This is no looky-likey road bike, toy, or wannabe. It's the biz.
Smooth, responsive, fast. On road and off, we had zero questions that the sublime ride didn't answer.
We've had a few Worx on test, with many miles covered and no issues to report, and no areas where we'd expect one to emanate from.
It's pleasingly light and, for a kid's bike, which (generally) can be very rear heavy, is very well balanced. Weight could be saved with a lighter cassette and so on, but it's small beer.
Testament to the quality of the frame as much as anything is the JA26's ability to ride the bumps of cross tracks and poor road surfaces without every bit of vibration getting through to your body.
The Worx JA26, as a package, isn't cheap, but it very much is worth every penny. The quality of every aspect of its build and performance just makes riders smile and want to 'do another mile'.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Perfectly. Simply a focused product which achieves its design goal of being a light, fast, race-ready CX bike that happens to ride the road well too.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Everything. From the build, to the look, to the spec, to the final proof of the pudding, the ride. It's rare to be quite so comprehensively impressed, but I am with the JA26.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Absolutely
Would you recommend the product to a friend? We have done.
Use this box to explain your score
The bike deserves a high score because it's been engineered to serve a purpose not a price point. It takes the end goal of making a race bike seriously, even if the riders are still to have their first zit. That dedication deserves plaudits.
About the tester
Age: 43 Height: 5'9 Weight: ?
I usually ride: My seven titanium My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, club rides, sportives, mountain biking, a bit of everything