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Just in: Islabikes Beinn 20

Perfectly proportioned bike for the junior cyclist

We get a lot of bikes for review here at Towers, but this is one of the smallest we’ve seen for a while. That’s because the Beinn 20 is a bike designed for kids, from specialist manufacturer Islabikes. And it is, without doubt, a lovely little piece of kit.

For those that might not know, Islabikes was set up by Isla Rowntree, a dyed-in-the-wool cyclist with numerous grass-track, cyclocross and mountain bike national and international masters titles to her name, as well as a long career in the cycle trade. The first Islabike product was a trailerbike (I’ve got one hanging up in the garage) and the range now includes at least a dozen bikes designed specifically for children from age 2 to 13 and upwards.

Islabikes stand out from most other kiddie brands because they are ‘proper’ bikes - and the Beinn 20 is no exception. First, it’s relatively light, using aluminium frame and components rather than steel. (We all know how important it is to have a light bike - it's even more important when you weigh only 15kg yourself.) Second,everything is in proportion, not just the 20 inch wheels and 12 inch frame, but the saddle, cranks and brake levers too. And third, all other features are designed with kids in mind, such as the pulley wheel on the rear mech, making it much easier for tiny hands to change gear.

The Beinn 20 (it’s pronounced ‘Ben’ - as in Ben Nevis, or Beinn Nibheis if you live north of the border) is aimed at kids aged 5 up to about 7. To test the bike I’ve enlisted the help of No 1 Son, Michael, age 6. He’s already been introduced to the bike, and as I write this piece he’s riding round the front garden, teaching himself to ride one-handed and showing off to the neighbours.

I’ll post a full review on this bike after a few more weeks of use, but first impressions so far from rider and reviewer are very good.

Other 6 year-olds will be delighted to know that Michael thinks the bike looks cool. Other parents will be delighted to know that the frame proportions are perfect, meaning the saddle can be the correct height above the bottom bracket, while still enabling the child to get both feet on the ground when stopped. The reach is also just right - allowing the child to lean forward slightly, but without being stretched. 

The wheels are aluminium with quick-release hubs, and spin easily on proper ball races. Braking is excellent: the combination of mini levers and long-arm V-brakes mean Michael can stop on a sixpence (that’s just 2.5p to him).

The chainset is perfect for youngsters: a seven-speed wide-ratio cassette combined with a single chainwheel. Gearing is by SRAM - the X4 rear mech is operated by a handlebar mounted twist-grip shifter - pretty much the only big brand components on the bike (everything else is stickered Islabikes or anonymous). Changing is as smooth as silk, meaning all seven gears can be very easily engaged. 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 Beinn 20 test bike that came to the office was originally fitted with Kenda Block 8 tyres, a chunky hybrid tread suitable for on-road and off-road riding fitted as standard to this model. The test bike was also fitted with mudguards (an optional extra), but this didn’t leave a lot of room for the tyres. So we went for another optional extra, and asked Islabikes to swap out the Block 8s for a pair of Schwalbe Marathons. These have a tread pattern more suitable for road riding, through still plenty tough enough to stand up to a bit of rough stuff, and fit much better under the ‘guards.

The Islabike Beinn 20 costs £249 new, plus £19.99  for the mudguards and £34 for the upgrade to Schwalbe tyres. Not cheap as kids’ bikes go, but then this is no ordinary kids’ bike. This is a well-designed, well-made, well-equipped bike - perfect for the budding World Champion in your family.

All I need to do now is get my own bike out and join Else Jr on the road, to see how the Beinn 20 performs on longer rides beyond a few laps of the front garden.

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