Islabikes Beinn 24   £349.99

9/10

Well-designed, well-made, well-equipped bike for kids aged about 7 to 9 - ideal for the budding world champion in your family

Weight 8800g   Contact  www.islabikes.co.uk

by David Else   June 20, 2013  

The Islabikes Beinn 24 is aimed at kids aged about 7 to 9. It's a beautiful little bike, surprisingly light and well-proportioned, apart from a slight oddity around the front end that may affect smaller children.

When the test model came into the road.cc office, we all agreed it looked a very good bike for a kids. Several months on, it's been properly tested by my 9-year-old daughter, and we're all still very impressed.

Islabikes was set up by Isla Rowntree, a seriously high-achieving cyclist with numerous national and international mountain-bike masters titles to her name, as well as grass-track and cyclocross awards, plus a long career in the cycle trade.

The Islabikes range includes around a dozen bikes designed specifically for children aged from 2 to around 13, plus an adult bike. They stand out from most other kiddie brands simply because they are 'proper' bikes.

Now, are you sitting comfortably? Let's look at the various aspects of the bike in more detail.

Frame and fork

Like most Islabikes, the Beinn 24 has an aluminium frame and chromoly steel fork. Most components are also aluminium to keep the weight down. We all know how important it is to have a light bike, but it's even more important when you weigh only about 20kg.

The Islabikes website says the frame geometry is 'proportional'. Our tester is aged 9, but small for her age (about the size of most 7-year-olds) and found the seat-tube height and top-tube length were fine.

However, the combination of a relatively large head-tube and plenty of clearance between tyre and fork crown means the handlebars are much higher than the saddle, so that she rides the bike in very upright position, even with the stem in its lowest position on the steerer tube. This isn't necessarily a problem - maybe Islabikes designed this model specifically to encourage kids to sit up and look ahead - but it's an oddity worth noting.

As kids grow, the saddle height and bar height will be more in keeping, and more like an adult bike in that respect.

Components

As mentioned, most components on the Beinn 24 are aluminium. This contrasts with the heavy and poor quality components on some other brands of kids' bikes, fitted to save costs, which make cycling tough for little legs. On the Beinn 24, the light components and good bearings help to make family cycling trips easy and enjoyable.

The components are also sized with kids in mind. For example, many small kids' bikes from other brands have brake levers more suitable for teenagers, so the under 10s can't actually reach the brakes and stop safely. On the Beinn 24 the levers are tiny, specifically designed for small hands, and combined with long-arm V-brakes, our tester was able to stopping quickly and safely.

Having said that, our young tester did find the handlebars surprisingly wide. The ends of the bars stretch way beyond the end of the brake levers, so could probably have an inch or so chopped off each end without compromising braking safety, and with only a minor impact on handling.

Contact points

The bike has flat handlebars, and on this latest version of the Beinn 24 they're a smaller diameter than the previous version - which our tester (who has small hands) found a definite improvement.

The grips have also been changed on this model for a slightly more 'squashy' rubber – which our tester said was more comfortable than the last version. Young hands have delicate skin, so gripping the squashy rubber is another little touch to make cycling more enjoyable. It also helps iron out a bit of road vibration.

The saddle is child specific. Unlike on many kids' bikes it's narrow, as well as short from front to back, which our tester found very comfortable.

Wheels & Tyres

The Beinn 24 is fitted with 24-inch aluminium wheels, fitted with quick-release skewers. To be honest, quick-release skewers aren't isn't strictly necessary. Nuts would be fine, as any mid-ride punctures are likely to be mended in a leisurely fashion by mum or dad so getting wheels in and out quickly isn't going to be an issue. But they do save carrying a spanner, and make it easier to take off the wheels to load the bike in the back of the car.

The standard tyre for this model is the Kenda Small Block 8, a chunky hybrid-style tread suitable for road and off-road riding. For those of you with kids already keen to specialise in a certain cycling discipline, you can upgrade to tyres specific for mountain biking, road-racing or cyclo cross.

Chainset & Gearing

The chainset is an eight speed 11-32T cassette combined with a single 32-tooth chainwheel. This gives a wide enough range of gears for kids to deal with uphills and downhills, without the hassle of a double or triple chainset.

The chainwheel has an attached chainguard which provides a dual function: it stops the chain coming off, and stops trousers (or legs) getting oily.

The rear mech is a SRAM X4, operated by a SRAM handlebar mounted twist-grip shifter. This is much better for kids than a mountain-bike style thumb-shifter, as kids thumbs often aren't strong enough to push the lever all the way into the lower gears. (The mech is pretty much the only big brand components on the bike - everything else is stickered Islabikes or anonymous.)

The rear mech is fitted with a cam, common on some other types of SRAM mech, which seems to provide extra leverage and further help small hands to change gear. On previous versions of this bike, gear changing was slightly stiffer, meaning our tester did not have enough grip in her hands to get the bike in bottom gear. On this latest version of the Beinn 24 she can do it just fine – a QOM in the making.

Conclusion

To end this review, I have to come clean and say I've been a fan of Islabikes for years. Apart from the various adult bikes that fill up my shed, the family fleet also includes several other Islabikes, so to a certain extent I knew what to expect when this Beinn 24. But although the previous Islabikes my kids have ridden were all great, this latest incarnation of the Beinn 24 takes things a step further and is verging on perfection.

Verdict

Well-designed, well-made, well-equipped bike for kids aged about 7 to 9 - ideal for the budding world champion in your family.

road.cc test report

Make and model: Islabikes Beinn 24

Size tested: 12 inch frame

About the bike

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

The Beinn 24 has an aluminium frame and chromoly steel fork. Most components are also aluminium. This keeps the weight down (we all know how important it is to have a light bike - it's even more important the rider is only about 20kg) but it does increase the price tag.

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?

The bike is aimed at children aged about 7 to 9. On the Islabikes website, the main features of the Beinn 24 are described thus:

"Lightweight 7005 T6 aluminium frame, proportional geometry.

Cro-moly forks.

8sp wide ratio Sram X4 gears with light action shifter.

Very short reach aluminium brake levers with V brakes give powerful, light action braking with small hands.

Very lightweight wheels with quick release hubs."

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
9/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

The build quality is very good, especially for a kids bike. Neat welds and tidy paint job.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

The Beinn 24 has an aluminium frame and 'cro-moly' steel fork.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

The Islabikes website says the frame geometry is 'proportional'. Our tester is aged 9, but small for her age (about the size of most 7-year-olds), so while she found the seat-tube height and top-tube length were fine, the combination of a relatively large head-tube and plenty of fork clearance meant the handlebars were much higher than the saddle, so that she rode the bike in very upright position. Not stretched forward at all, so fine from that point of view, but just very upright - even with the stem in its lowest position on the steerer tube with all the spacers taken out. This isn't necessarily a problem - maybe it's designed this way to encourage kids to sit up and look ahead - but it's an oddity worth noting. Obviously as kids grow, the saddle height and bar hight will be more in keeping, and more like an adult bike in that respect.

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

Height and reach was fine, but - as stated above - the bars are very high for our tester, meaning the position is very upright. I'm not sure why the fork clearance and head-tube are on the large size on this bike. At first glance I'd have thought both could be reduced so as to bring the minimum height of the bars down a bit, but there may be engineering reasons why this isn't possible.

Riding the bike

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

Our tester reported that the ride is very comfortable indeed. The bike was fitted with Kenda 'Small Block 8' tyres; these have a slightly chunky hybrid-style tread, and they're fine for riding on the road as well as some very light off-road.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

To save costs, kids bikes often use heavy components, and the quality of bearings in the hubs and bottom bracket can be poor. This makes cycling tough for little legs. Not so on the Beinn 24. As with other Islabikes, light components and good bearings allow for very efficient cycling.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

Handling is very good. Our 7-year-old tester used the bike to on a Go Rides style obstacle course, weaving effortlessly between the cones .

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

The brake levers are specifically designed for small hands. (Many small kids bikes from other brands have brake levers more suitable for teenagers.) These are combined with long-arm V-brakes, meaning stopping quickly and under control is easy for our tester.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
9/10

Light components and good bearings mean power transfer is efficient - very important when your legs are only little!

Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
9/10

Thanks to the proportions, stability is very good at all speeds.

Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
9/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
9/10

Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?

The chainset on the Beinn 24 is perfect for youngsters: an eight speed ultra-wide-ratio 11-32 cassette (replacing the seven-speed block of sprockets on the previous version of this model) combined with a single 32-tooth chainwheel. This gives a wide enough range of gears for kids to deal with uphills and downhills, without the hassle of a double or triple chainset.

The rear mech is a SRAM X4 operated by a SRAM handlebar mounted twist-grip shifter - pretty much the only big brand components on the bike (everything else is stickered Islabikes or anonymous).

The rear mech is fitted with a pulley wheel, making it much easier for small hands to change gear. Shifting between gears is very smooth. On previous versions of this bike, even with the pulley-wheel, gear changing was slightly stiffer and our tester did not have a enough grip in her hands to get the bike in bottom gear. On this latest version the gear-changing is smooth and she can do it just fine.

The chainwheel has an attached chainguard which provides a dual function - it stops the chain coming off, and stops trousers (or legs) getting oily.

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels and tyres for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for durability:
 
9/10

It's too early to say for sure, but my guess is my daughter will grow out of this bike before the wheels need replacing or the tyres wear out

Rate the wheels and tyres for weight:
 
8/10

For a kids bike, the wheels are impressively light

Rate the wheels and tyres for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for value:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?

The Beinn 24 is fitted with 24-inch aluminium wheels. The hubs spin easily on proper ball races, and the spindles have quick-release skewers. The test bike that came to the office was fitted with Kenda Small Block 8 tyres, a chunky hybrid-style tread suitable for road and off-road riding. This tyre is fitted as standard to this bike. For an extra cost, you can upgrade to tyres specific for mountain bike-style riding, road-racing or cyclo cross.

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
9/10

Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?

The bike has flat handlebars and is fitted with a handlebar-mounted grip-twist shifter to move the rear mech across the 8-speed cassette. This is much better for kids than a mountain-bike style thumb-shifter, as kids thumbs often aren't strong enough to change into a lower gear.

Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)

This latest version of the Beinn 24 has handlebars with a smaller diameter than the previous version - which our tester (who has small hands) found a definite improvement. The grips have also been changed on this model for a slightly more 'squashy' rubber - also adding to comfort.

However, our tester did find the bars surprisingly wide. The ends of the bars stretch way beyond the end of the brake levers, so could probably have an inch or so chopped off each end without compromising braking safety, and with only a minor impact on handling.

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Our 9-year-old tester enjoyed riding the bike. As her dad, I enjoyed seeing her ride it so comfortably and confidently.

Would you consider buying the bike? yes

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? yes

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

Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?

When it comes to performance, this bike is excellent.

My only grumbles concern the long head tube that gives an upright position for smaller kids, and the surprisingly wide bars - but neither of these are deal-breakers.

Value is also excellent, thanks to the strong re-sale market. (It's not unusual to see three year-old secondhand Islabikes for sale at only 10% less than new price.)

So the Beinn 24 bike gets a score of 9 for overall performance and 10 for overall value, giving a well-deserved 'exceptional' (9 out of 10) overall rating.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 51  Height: 5ft 10 / 178cm  Weight: 11 stone / 70kg

I usually ride: an old Marin Alp, or an old steel classic  My best bike is: an old Giant Cadex (can you see a theme here?)

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: A few times a week  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,

 

10 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

The rear mech is a SRAM X4, operated by a SRAM handlebar mounted twist-grip shifter. This is much better for kids than a mountain-bike style thumb-shifter, as kids thumbs often aren't strong enough to push the lever all the way into the lower gears.

Really? All the evidence I have (my own children and others) says the opposite.

Small children tend to find it incredibly hard to twist the gripshift around. They can twist towards them, but not away from them. A switch to rapidfire however, and they start changing gear constantly. I've switched both my kids to rapidfire and I hear them changing gear all the time, rather than leaving in a single gear and struggling.

othello's picture

posted by othello [297 posts]
20th June 2013 - 8:11

1 Like

And the "daddy/Mummy" Bienn 29 compliments it perfectly Smile
Or so my 11 year old thinks when we're out. Interestingly
the latest version of the Bienn 29 is now 10 speed.

still on the 3rd switch-back of Bwlch !

posted by therevokid [749 posts]
20th June 2013 - 8:15

26 Likes

Had one of Isla's trailer bikes 20 years ago and had some wonderful times with the children, all of whom still ride; glad she is still going strong.

New Forester

posted by Forester [97 posts]
20th June 2013 - 8:43

24 Likes

Our kids had Beinn 20 L and then moved to Beinn 26 S (either side of the model reviewed here). Neither have reported particular problems with the gripshift, though our daughter couldn't deal with the cheaper, nastier, stiffer gripshift on the rescue bike she'd had before the Beinn.

Daughter (9, very nearly 10) has recently taken up MTB at a local club and the machine she borrows there has trigger shifters which she says she prefers, but the gripshift on her Islabike has never stopped her changing gear.

Would I buy another Islabike when they outgrow the B26Ss? Yes, definitely. They ride to school and back every day, in their case being about 2.5 km with ~50m of ascent to get home so a good light bike makes a useful difference, as does the ability to buy top quality well fitting pannier racks and mudguards to start with so they don't get to school with an aching back and/or a brown stripe up it.

Pete Clinch
often seen riding a bike around Dundee...

posted by pjclinch [72 posts]
20th June 2013 - 8:53

28 Likes

maybe Islabikes designed this model specifically to encourage kids to sit up and look ahead

A slightly high front end makes sense to me -- children's arms are shorter as a proportion of their height than those of adults. You could flip the stem to get the bars a bit lower if needed, too.

Could you elaborate on the "pulley wheel" on the rear mech? All I can see is the cam that's a standard part of a SRAM derailleur.

Every time one of the kids needs a new bike I have a good look around at what's available. And then buy another Islabikes Smile

posted by David Portland [89 posts]
20th June 2013 - 10:54

26 Likes

I'm just about to invest in one of these for my 7 year old son James who is now at the size limit of his Beinn 20. With my 3 year old son now progressing onto James's first Islabike (Cnoc 14) and the eventual e-bay resale values being so high, I reckon you are looking at spending less than £30 per child per bike over the piece!
I can't fault these bikes, the only difficulty we had with the Beinn 20 was gear changes until James was over 6. He found the gripshift too stiff for his little hands and I ended up greasing the grip barrel and fitting a single Gore Ride-On cable to get the friction right down (muddy cables didn't help!). Interesting to note they seem to have addressed this with the new 8 speed set up.
Very adaptable little bikes and with the Conti Explorer MTB tyre option we have enjoyed hours on trail centre blue/red routes.

posted by Ottadini [16 posts]
20th June 2013 - 11:43

24 Likes

I only have a cnoc 16 for my 4 yr old. But I think Islabikes do themselves a disservice. Without an easily accessible retail outlet it is difficult for folk to appreciate the sheer quality of these bikes. I for one looked at various options and decided to order one online, on the chance that all the rave reviews that they got were deserved. Its only when you actually hold the bike in your hands that you realise how well made, proportioned and light the bikes are. For a child the lightness/manouverability is paramount.

On another note, the upright position is not an oddity. It is due to the way children are built. You cannot expect children of that age to crouch down like adults do. And I dont think I would want my 7 year old to be looking down whilst riding. I would rather he be reasonably upright and observant.

posted by indyjukebox [52 posts]
20th June 2013 - 13:31

29 Likes

Quote:
Having said that, our young tester did find the handlebars surprisingly wide. The ends of the bars stretch way beyond the end of the brake levers, so could probably have an inch or so chopped off each end without compromising braking safety, and with only a minor impact on handling.

Brake levers which reach the end of flat bars are ill-fitted. The index finger should line up with the little kink at the end of the lever for optimum leverage. Setting the brakes up as you describe decreases the leverage of the strongest fingers and encourages using more than one finger, decreasing control.

posted by Ham-planet [103 posts]
21st June 2013 - 17:00

25 Likes

Thanks for the comments folks.

On the riding position, I agree I wouldn’t want my child ‘crouched down’, but I’m not sure a very upright position is necessary either. Obviously, every parent can decide what’s best for their child. Personally, I’d like my kids going for somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. My daughter’s position on this bike is more upright now than when she rode the previous (smaller) model. As she grows, and the saddle goes up, I don’t think I’ll be raising the bars any further. That way I think she’ll become more balanced and comfortable on the bike.

On grip-shifts versus thumb-shifts, I guess that’s also down to personal preference (of the child). If they’re happier with one rather than the other, then that’s the choice made. My kids prefer grip-shifts. In contrast to othello’s experience, my kids find that twisting the shift away from them (ie changing up a gear) is much easier than twisting towards, as the spring in the mech is contracting and so helping move the mech itself.

Pulley wheel. My mistake. Wrong terminolgy. Yes it’s a cam, as is common on some types of SRAM rear mech. I’ve amended the main review.

Point taken on brake levers. But I think small kids need a couple of fingers on the lever. And even with just the index finger lining up with the kink in the lever, and the rest of the palm and fingers on the bars, there’s still a bit of spare bar sticking out, as you can see in the picture. Not the end of the world, as I indicate in the main review, but worth a mention I think.

All the points I make in the main review about these various aspects are for reference. There's nothing I'd class as a problem. Overall, this is a really great little bike.

thanks again for the feedback.
David

David Else

posted by David Else [289 posts]
21st June 2013 - 21:03

28 Likes

I have a new (fluo green) Beinn 24 and a two-year-old blue one sitting side-by-side at home, and we've previously had an older grey one in the fleet too.
The blue one has the standard gripshift while I've already swapped to an X4 thumb shifter on the new bike. My six-year-old son whose bike the new one is (the blue one is borrowed from a cousin) races every week, MTB, circuit racing, and cyclocross during the winter (he also has a Moda Minor CX bike whith drop bars and STI-style shifters.) He's been riding clipped-in to SPDs for the last 8 months.
A couple of observations:
- the new Beinn 24 really is much lighter than the previous model and bears out the weight figures on the Islabikes website.
- the detail improvements, including narrower Q factor, are mostly for the better.
- the new bars are strangely wide (I'm guessing they may fit the same bars to the Beinn 26) and I'll be cutting 1.5 inches off.
- the Kenda small block 8 tyres are a good hybrid choice but best fit the Conti Explorers for trail centre use.
- Don't assume your child will find Gripshift easier than the very light shifting standard X4 thumbshifters. In my experience, Gripshift feels easy when new and clean, but if the child is riding year-round the shifting deteriorates (exaggerating any stiction in the cables) and it becomes particularly difficult if the child has cold hands.
- Also, if the child is keen and you're riding at trail centres, Gripshift discourages the child from downshifting as they approach a sharp corner, because they have to remove their fingers from the brake lever. My son was immediately a couple of minutes quicker on his first ride on the new thumbshifter-equipped bike around the standard loop at our local trail centre and I think this was the main reason.
- I spent 10 minutes chatting to Isla Rowntree at an MTB race a couple of weekends ago and the fitting of Gripshift (and the wide bars) are the only aspects of the Beinns I don't agree with. In all other respects the Beinn 24 is a great bike (and it looks the business in fluo green). In any case, as you can buy an X4 thumbshifter for 15 quid, it's not much of an problem to replace it.

posted by ta51ora [2 posts]
24th June 2013 - 14:43

1 Like

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