Looking to get a bike for my 8 year old boy. We took him to a LBS, and he rode the 7.2 with 24" wheels just fine, but I wouldn't go any bigger.
Our riding is almost exclusively paved railroad trails, and we'd keep his old bike for beating on around the neighborhood. I'd prefer somethng a little more "roady" than a MTB, sine we do try to put some miles on when we ride, and the easier, faster ride is more needed than off-road abilities.
The LBS can give us the 7.2 for $369. I wouldn't want to spend any more than that.
Is there something out there that is comparable quality wise for less money, or better suited for our riding style in the same price range, or am I looking at the best option already?
Redline's Conquest 24 has the 24" wheels, but the price is $740. REI's Novara Pulse is also out of your price range ($500) and has 26" tires. The kids road bikes with 650c tires are all priced over $500.
Might be better to wait until he's older before getting him a road bike. The 7.2 should be fine and be fast enough. Might have to change saddles if you take him on long rides for more comfort/better fit.