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The Hoy Cammo 650c is every bit as glossy, engineered and exotic looking as anything dad (or mum) would want to bring home and call their own. It was instantly liked by our testers, who valued being valued by the bike's designers, people who took their riding as seriously as they do.
There are few people in Britain, and indeed the rest of the world, who don't know the name Chris Hoy. The recently retired Scottish track cycling powerhouse, world and Olympic champion, and knight of the realm launched his own brand of bicycles in 2013. Covering all bases, the Hoy range also includes kids' bikes. Chris himself was a child cycling star, racing BMX in the 1980s.
The thing is, Sir Chris doesn't do things by halves, from training, to winning, and detailing his bikes. To call the Cammo 'a kid's bike' is like calling the internet 'quite useful' – it just doesn't do it justice. Every adult who saw it said the same thing, when looking deeply into the luxuriously deep red paint: “I wish they made bikes like that when I was a kid.”
Its 650C wheels are just larger than 24in, just smaller than 700C. According to Hoy Bikes, it's designed for children aged eight to nine. Tall ones, maybe. Our 11-year-old tester (height 135cm) fitted it perfectly.
The bike was an instant hit, whether riding fast or slow, on the hoods or down in the drops. It's like it simply goes where you think it; the physical input required to effect a line change is minimal. Our main tester, who is learning to ride in close peloton formation, really appreciated this ability to 'think it' into gaps or away from trouble, without having to actually steer it.
The Hoy Cammo also likes to climb. The riding position ensures power from the legs, arms and back can be brought to bear to get it to the crest in short order. Off the top of the hill the bike descends with purpose and poise. At 8.8kg (19lb), it's got enough mass to stick it to rough downhills and enable it to stay on line even under pint-sized pilots.
The 6061 aluminium frame is beautifully welded, with clean joins throughout, all well covered in some of the nicest paint I've seen recently. The block red and off-white is bold and the contrasting bands of light blue are what you'd expect on a bespoke custom paint job. It's a good looking, stylish road bike, not a kid's toy. Someone with a deep love of bicycles and things that look right had a hand in the way the Hoy Cammo looks. We approve.
The frame itself is a compact shape, with a sporty looking sloping top tube. It's nothing too extreme, but offers good levels of standover clearance, which is useful if John or Jane is growing into it. The frame is clean and free of fuss, with down tube bottle mounts and a pair of mudguard eyelets for winter use.
The alloy fork with sloping crown blends well with the clean lines of the head tube. With a 40mm offset (basically, how far forward the dropouts are of the steering axis), it offers a quick feel. It's not twitchy – this is a bike for learning the ropes of road cycling, not winning crits – but far from lazy or slow.
Sir Chris is known for a lot of things, of which two are: his ability to spin 150rpm and the size of his quads. Speccing gearing for pre-teens is a hard task, as the range of body shapes and abilities varies greatly, but Hoy Bikes clearly expects riders of this age to be blessed with Sir Chris sized legs, speccing a 34/46-tooth chainring combo with a 13-26t cassette on the Cammo 650c. The Islabikes Luath tested recently had 36/46-tooth chainrings, with a SRAM 11-32t cassette.
I'm not suggesting riders this age can't push gears like this, I'm questioning whether they should. I'm a firm believer that kids should spin, develop condition, cadence and pedalling form before speed and leg strength. Also, kids of this age (and some adults) are apt to write gear ratio cheques that their bodies struggle to cash, and when overgearing and inexperience collide, rides can be ruined. In youngsters, this can mean running out of puff before the ride is over, not making the summit, and the like. Not good for the head body or soul. I'd rather see a 32/42, which would give a deeper bailout gear and a big rig that is more sustainable for youthful fast burn/fast recovery muscles.
The look of the transmission is worth noting, though: we love it. The 155mm-long unbranded Lasco alloy cranks and rings are anodised black, and clean and dainty in design. The derailleurs are grey, and through them all is threaded a lovely bright silver KMC 8-speed chain. Silver chains are rare on kids' bikes, because black ones are, generally, cheaper spec options. In my experience, fitting silver ones to youngsters' bikes helps promote a regular care and cleaning regime to keep them looking good – dirt and grime is visible and obvious. With any luck, keeping the chain shiny is a habit that will lead to them looking after every element of the bike.
Operation of the gears is via Microshift integrated paddle brake/gear levers. Sized for junior hands, they're about spot on for the age group, though some will still find it a reach. The feel is light and the shifting action is clean and crisp. It's not Dura-Ace, but good all the same.
The derailleurs themselves are from Shimano's excellent entry-level groupset, Claris. Everything works, is durable enough, and looks the part. The brakes are Tektro dual-pull callipers and they're good without being spectacular, slowing the bike with precision and enough power to give confidence. My key tester has rather fallen in love with cross-top secondary brake levers, and that the Hoy Cammo doesn't have them is, in his eyes, the only spec faux pas. But he does concede it's a 'cross bike thing, not a 'pure' road fitment.
The fitting of the rider to the bike is well handled by Hoy. The 70mm-long stem and narrow 38cm bar with shallow drop (118mm) and short (70mm) reach combine to let youngsters attain the classic tops'n'drops positions without hurting themselves or relinquishing control of the bike.
Bar tape is classic white, and is soft and relatively durable. The saddle looks the business, and is both well shaped and colour coded to match the bike. Our tester didn't get on with it. Saddles are personal things, even when you're a kid. The seatpost, also colour detailed to match the frame, is a usefully long 350mm with an inline head that places the rider over the pedals and reduces the reach a whisker. The post has a twin-bolt head for easy adjustment.
The wheels are light(ish), good looking and, the most important factor, strong, with 28 spokes lacing smooth-running (loose ball) Joy hubs to anodised and machined Alex alloy rims. No issues had or expected.
The tyres are a treat: folding-bead 128tpi Kenda Kalientes, featuring Kenda's top end LR3 compound and its Iron Cloak puncture protection system. Light, fast and durable, they have a full slick crown with a very, very fine file tread to the shoulders. They lend the Hoy Cammo a turn of speed and enhance the road feel of an already sweet-handling bike.
Is this Hoy Cammo the real McCoy? It's a definite yes, from us. Where does it fit into the new world order of upmarket pre-teen road bikes? Pretty much on the top stem of the podium, where the Hoy bike's namesake made his home.
A stunning looking purist road racing bike for pre-700C peloton disciplines
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Make and model: Hoy Cammo 650c
Size tested: White/red
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
This is a purist road racing bike built around 650C wheels - the last stop before full sized 700C 'adult' wheels.
Hoy says: "The Cammo takes all the design cues and ideas that make the Sa Calobra a great bike and scales them into a smaller package." We're inclined to agree.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Frame: HOY 6061 Aluminium
Fork: 1-1-8" Alloy steerer threadless, Alloy blade, Offset: 40mm
Front Derailleur: Shimano 2400 Claris, Band-type 31.8mm
Rear Derailleur: Shimano 2400 Claris
Number of Gears: 16
Shifters: Microshift with short reach
Bottom Bracket: Lasco
Cassette: Shimano HG50 8-Speed, Ni-Plated 13-26T
Chain: KMC Z82, 8-Speed
Pedals: Not included
Front Brake: Teltro R340 Dual Pivot Calliper Brake
Rear Brake: Teltro R340 Dual Pivot Calliper Brake
Brake Levers: Microshift
Handlebars: Satori Furio Pro, Alloy 6061 DB, 31.8mm, Drop:118mm, Reach:70mm, Width:380mm
Stem: Kalloy Ahead Stem, 3D-Forged, 31.8mm, Length: 70mm
Headset: Prestine 1, 1-1/8" Integrated Headset
Grips: Velo, Soft microfiber tape
Rims: ALEX R450, 28H
Front Hub: JOY, 9mm, 28H, Lose Bal
Rear Hub: JOY, 10mm, 28H, Lose Ball
Front Tyre: Kenda K-925, 120 TPI, Folding
Rear Tyre: Kenda K-925, 120 TPI, Folding
Tubes: Kenda 650Cx18/23C
Saddle: HOY, PU Leather top, Nylon base, Light foam, CR-MO rail with track stripe logo
Seatpost: HOY Micro-adjust, 350mm
Seat Binder: Single bolt lightweight design
Weight: Approx. 8.8kg/19lbs
The Cammo frame is a proper stunner. With its smoothed out welds and gloriously bright, shiny and durable paint, if it was an adult bike costing three or four times as much you'd not be unhappy.
The ride is as focused and sharp as the design remit intended. That takes some getting used to for new young roadies for whom this will be their first real taste of a true pedigree road bike.
No complaints or issues.
Not quite as light as some, but it's a matter of grams not pounds. Plenty of opportunity to shave some off as parts wear out or as parental desire to upgrade permits.
Generally good. A smooth ride without too much road buzz. Riders wanted a slightly softer saddle.
You get a lot of bike and quality for your money. Granted, 500 quid isn't cheap for an intermediate bike, but it's on par with the best of the rest and if well maintained should re-sell for a good sum.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Pretty much as described. Climbs efficiently, if not spectacularly, and descending inspires high levels of confidence.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The Hoy Cammo feels like it was designed, built and specced by someone who really cares about road bikes. It looks and feels like a serious road bike, which the riders loved.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
We felt it was over-geared. The top gear needs to be smaller to induce a higher cadence, and the lowest gear needs to be lower. Young riders burn their batteries fast, and recharge them fast, but when the lights go out they need to be able to get up the hills to get home.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The Hoy Cammo is a great bike, ready to concentrate a young rider's desire to get into road riding/racing in quick order. It's well made and looks stunning. Only the gearing and our preference for a slightly shallower bar bend stopped it from scoring higher.
Age: 41 Height: 5'9 Weight:
I usually ride: My seven titanium My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, club rides, sportives, mountain biking, a bit of everything