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Verdict: 
Still the children's bike to beat, with super performance and incredible resale value
Weight: 
9,800g
Islabikes Beinn 26
9 10

Islabikes have been the leading 'proper' kids' bikes in the UK for many years, and all the reasons that they've been the market leaders still hold true, which makes a bike like the Beinn 26 Large an excellent investment. It's a lightweight bike with a near-perfect spec that's fun to ride, and it'll hold its value better than pretty much any consumer product I can think of. The ticket price is high, but thanks to the extraordinary resale value owning one of these bikes for several years will, in reality, cost you no more than half the retail price. Looked at like that, it's an absolute steal.

Islabikes Beinn 26 - full bike.jpg

Islabikes Beinn 26 - full bike.jpg

Isla Rowntree is a successful competitive cyclist – British veteran cyclocross and cross-country mountain bike champion across a number of years – and the children's bikes that she's been producing over the last decade show that racing DNA. Go to any youth racing event and you'll see a high percentage of Islabikes on the start line. But the reasons that they're great for racing – light weight, child-specific spec – also make them great all-rounders.

Islabikes Beinn 26 - derailleur.jpg

Islabikes Beinn 26 - derailleur.jpg

The Beinn 26 Large is a 26in-wheeled flat bar bike that's suitable for kids of about 10 and up. The wheels may be adult sized but the bike is not. The geometry of the alloy frame and chromoly fork are scaled down for smaller riders and so is the other stuff: the cranks are shorter, the brake levers have a shorter reach, the wheels are a light build because children aren't as heavy as grown-ups. You get an eight-speed SRAM X4 derailleur setup with a twist-grip shifter and Islabikes' own multi-purpose tyres that are reminiscent of Kenda's Small Block Eight, with a close knobbled tread that's good for tarmac and hardpack.

Islabikes Beinn 26 - chainset.jpg

Islabikes Beinn 26 - chainset.jpg

The bike can be supplied fitted with a kickstand, bottle cages, mudguards and a rear rack depending on what your offspring will be using the bike for. You can also have a name decal on the top tube, and Islabikes offer a wide range of accessories (panniers, tyre options, pedals, pumps, helmets, mitts and more) for purchase with the bike. The bike-specific stuff such as mudguards and racks is worth looking at; most of the more generic kit can be had more cheaply elsewhere.

Islabikes Beinn 26 - tyre.jpg

Islabikes Beinn 26 - tyre.jpg

The bare-bones bike weighs in at 9.8kg. If you're used to the rarefied world of sub-7kg race bikes that might seem a lot but there are very few kids' bikes that are lighter than this. Cheaper children's bikes of this size weigh in at up to 15kg; with, say, a 40kg rider, that's a lot of bike to haul about.

Islabikes Beinn 26 - shifter.jpg

Islabikes Beinn 26 - shifter.jpg

Daisy (11) has been using this bike for about six months now and she loves it. She's not really interested in racing but she's very interested in rolling along the Two Tunnels greenway to Wellow trekking centre to see the horses (her first love) and get a milkshake. On the way back there's a big old hill back up to the house and this is the first bike she's managed to conquer it on thanks to the wide spread of gears. She finds the twist shifter easy to use (although I still think a Rapidfire shifter would be a better option) and the bike easy to ride.

Islabikes Beinn 26 - brake.jpg

Islabikes Beinn 26 - brake.jpg

There's not much point going into the finer minutiae of handling with a bike like this, although suffice to say they always seem to be the first over the line at local kids' cyclo-cross races. The geometry works for the size and ability of rider, and the rest of the equipment does too. The brakes are especially good, so much so that the first application of them was a bit hairy, but once Daisy was used to them they gave her plenty of confidence. The 165mm cranks (shorter than the grown-up standard 172.5mm) work well and the 32-tooth chainring with an 11-32 cassette gives a more or less perfect range of gears for younger riders.

Islabikes Beinn 26 - riding 2.jpg

Islabikes Beinn 26 - riding 2.jpg

So is it worth £419.99? It is, but you should also bear in mind that these bikes hold their value like no other bikes. Head to eBay and you'll see that they regularly change hands second hand for over £300. Certainly you can expect to get £250 for yours after a couple of years of use, and even if you keep if for two kids you'll probably get back half what you initially paid. Looked at like that, it's a no-brainer. That's an outlay of £50 or less a year for what's still among the best, if not the best, all-purpose kids' bike. Still the one to beat, even after all these years.

Verdict

Still the children's bike to beat, with super performance and incredible resale value

road.cc test report

Make and model: Islabikes Beinn 26 large

Size tested: Blue

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

Beinn 26 large weight: 9.9kg (incl. pedals)

Lightweight 7005 T6 aluminium frame, proportional geometry

Cro-moly forks

8sp wide ratio Sram X4 gears with light action shifter

Short reach aluminium brake levers with V brakes give powerful, light action braking with small hands

Very lightweight wheels with quick release hubs

Exclusive Islabikes tyres with our own multi-purpose tread pattern. Grips well on grass and light tracks whilst offering a low rolling resistance. 38c wide, wire bead with puncture resistant aramid strip under tread and reflective side walls.

Exclusive child specific component set

Free UK mainland delivery on all orders

Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?

Adult sized wheels but this is not an adult sized bike. Scaled to suit the dimensions of a growing child the Beinn 26 can be equipped for mountain biking, going to school or touring – the choice is yours.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
9/10

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

Daisy loved riding the Beinn. She found it comfortable and easy to pilot, with brakes and gears easy to reach and easy to use

The drivetrain

Wheels and tyres

Controls

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Daisy did, yes

Would you consider buying the bike? Yes

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
10/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
9/10

Use this box to explain your score

Value takes into account the fact that you'll get more than half what you paid for it back when you hand it on

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 43  Height: 189cm  Weight: 92kg

I usually ride: whatever I'm testing...  My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Kinesis Aithein

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track

Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.

8 comments

Avatar
barongreenback [68 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

I'd like to see how these now stack up against the Wiggins range at Halfords. 

Avatar
DaveE128 [858 posts] 9 months ago
2 likes

As a parent of a kid who rides an Islabike I'll second this review. They totally tore up the rule book on kids bike geometry and sizing, and it's a massive improvement. Everything else seems to use the same geometry for smaller size kids bikes and it's dire - reach too short, bottom bracket and seat too high, bars even higher, and so on.

Their advice on balance bikes v (un)stabilisers is spot on too.

Avatar
Morat [258 posts] 9 months ago
2 likes

I picked up my 5yo's much loved CUDA bike, then his mate's Islabike.
I felt ashamed of myself and sorry for my son.

Avatar
flathunt [239 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

3rded, I've recently lashed out the best chunk of £800 on a Beinn 20 and a 24 for my 4 and 6 yr old, they've only just learned to ride and these make it an absolute pleasure. It is a high price of entry but as long as those resale values hold up then that takes away the sting. They're beautifully put together, and whilst the twist shift isn't great for adults the boys do like to pretend they're on a motorbike. I got the kick stands from Decathlon though, £9 vs £26 for the official ones (two of).

Avatar
therevokid [1010 posts] 9 months ago
1 like

got a 24 small and a 26 large for mine and both are loved no end.
shame on some other manufacturers - one bike we had at 16" wheels was actually
heavier than the Isla 24 !!!

Avatar
kil0ran [326 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

Just bought a 24 for my lad to celebrate him reaching the minimum height limit. Friends have 20s and 26s for their kids so this should work well for bike swaps as they all grow. Looked at everything else in the market (Frog, Pinnacle, Genesis, Wiggins, Hoy) and none had the right geometry for his size or right kit. I did wonder about twist grip vs trigger but I think on balance twist was the right way to go - having a numbered dial really helps when learning gears. For example, I can advise him what number to shift to based on what's ahead. Easy and cheap enough to swap to trigger (£15 for the shifter) if they don't get on with it - mine does complain that its a bit stiff heading down to the larger cogs.

I'd welcome a comparative review between the big brands as the Islabikes hegemony has forced everyone to raise their game. The Genesis bikes look lovely, and the Pinnacles look good on paper for a budget option.

Avatar
multimodal [53 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes
flathunt wrote:

3rded, I've recently lashed out the best chunk of £800 on a Beinn 20 and a 24 for my 4 and 6 yr old

How does your 4 year old get on with the bike? Mine can ride (did the 8 mile London Freecycle route) but he's on a 16" with no gears. On flat ground he's always spinning out the gear and I've been searching for a bike that has gears and will fit him. Most 20" are just that bit too big for him - the 16" he's on has the seat post at its lowest setting for him to ride it!

Avatar
flathunt [239 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes
multimodal wrote:

How does your 4 year old get on with the bike? Mine can ride (did the 8 mile London Freecycle route) but he's on a 16" with no gears. On flat ground he's always spinning out the gear and I've been searching for a bike that has gears and will fit him. Most 20" are just that bit too big for him - the 16" he's on has the seat post at its lowest setting for him to ride it!

Mine are quite tall, the 4 year old is the size of most 6 year olds (115cm), and the bike is a Beinn 20 Small, and despite it being the small frame and him being tall, I still had to take the reflector off to get the seat down enough, so it might be a stretch. That said, your boy isn't going to get any shorter so it's going to fit him at some point, and probably pretty soon.

Now the only worry I have is plod pulling him over for not having a reflector.