Way back in 2009, I posted about mini velos which, at the time, were new to me. Unlike Japan and much of Europe, the 20" wheel size is pretty uncommon in the U.S., so you don’t really encounter them much–if ever–over here. However, there’s still a market over here, and a lot has changed in the past few years, so I figured an update was in order.
First and foremost, BikesDirect has their steel framed Mercier Nano up for sale again. It’s currently in pre-order status, but ships next June. If you want one, I’d suggest jumping on it right now, as they don’t seem to offer them every year, and they sell out fast.
It’s a pretty simple bike, with 20" (406 not 451 wheels), 2×8 drivetrain with downtube shifters, and the old 1" threaded fork standard. Starting price is extremely affordable at $300, with lots of upgrade potential, and it comes in two sizes.
If you don’t need full gearing, Respect Cycles Urban Velo is one of the only readily available mini velos for the U.S. market. Starting price is $350-370, and it’s available as a singlespeed or fixed gear, with a flip-flop rear hub. It’s currently at v2.1, and comes in only one size, with a steel frame and fork. The upside is, it uses a more modern 1 1/8" fork, so you have some upgrade potential there, since eBay is flooded with carbon forks from China that would fit. It can also fit a 2" wide tire.
Cannondale seems to be the only major manufacturer to offer a mini, which they call the Hooligan. It comes with a flat bar, disc brakes, and a Lefty fork. It’s about 3x the price of the other two above, but you can pick it up at any local Cannondale dealer. It comes with a 3-speed internally gear rear hub, which will work for flatter cities, but may not be a good choice for everyone.
Unfortunately, that’s about it, as far as minis that can be easily acquired without turning to eBay, having a custom frame builder hook you up, or finding an off-shore retailer who will ship to the U.S. If you know of any others, please leave a comment below.