I have been looking for a new bike for my daughter's 7th birthday. I thought the ideal would be a bike with: a reasonably light frame, fork and components, 20" wheels, 5-8 speed internal hub, and highly adjustable to allow for proper fit for a few years. Well, after looking at readily available bikes I learned the following:
All manufacturers seem to include a clunky, heavy "suspension" fork on any kids bikes with multiple gears. I don't see why considering the target riders. For the price point, these suspension forks can't work well and are not needed considering the fat tires on the bikes which should adequately absorb minor bumps better than these cruddy forks will.
No manufacturers include an internal hub. They put 6 or 7 speed deraileurs and a heavy guard to protect them. The guard suggests they understand kids will likely damage the works, but they don't think to put an internal hub on? I think the additional cost of an internally geared hub could be offset by the fact that they could use the same frame for single speeds and multi-geared bikes (both horizontal dropouts) with the internal hubs and they could save a few bucks by using a rigid fork.
I know it is all marketing driven and the manufacturers know their business, but it is still puzzling why they all just offer basically the same thing.
BTW, I ended up buying a used Trek Mountain60 off CraigsList and am probably just going to live with the suspension fork and traditional gears. At least it is highly adjustable and well thought out with regards to fitting a girl 6-10 years old. Kudos to Trek for the adjustable crank length, stem, and possibility of a low seat position.