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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Well-designed, well-made, well-equipped bike for kids aged about 7 to 9 - ideal for the budding world champion in your family.
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Make and model: Islabikes Beinn 24
Size tested: 12 inch frame
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.
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."
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.
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.
Light components and good bearings mean power transfer is efficient - very important when your legs are only little!
Thanks to the proportions, stability is very good at all speeds.
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.
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
For a kids bike, the wheels are impressively light
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.
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.
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
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.
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,