Islabikes was founded by Isla Rowntree in 2005. It is a UK company produces bikes specifically kid’s bikes.
Do any research on the company and you’ll see their bikes are deliberately gender neutral, as opposed to other bikes available in most large High Street stores, which are obviously gender specific, most notably through their decoration – think ‘Disney Princess’ versus ‘Batman’.
You’ll also quickly come to realise that stabilisers are not the way to start your child on their journey to a life on two wheels, according to the Islabikes philosophy. The company instead prefers balance bikes, which are becoming really popular in the UK for toddlers exploring the bikes for the first time.
Thankfully, my son Donovan is past this stage being almost 7-years-old. We tested the Beinn 20 small bike, which is suitable from 5 years upwards and perfect for kids who are secure enough to really start exploring when on a bike.
The bike looked fantastic – no, really fantastic. There wasn’t a cartoon character in sight and the overall impression is much more like an adult bike, just on a smaller scale.
Is it easy to put together?
Yes it is, surprisingly so. Admittedly, the prospect of putting it together ourselves, rather than leaving it to a nice person in a shop, was a little daunting at first – but the instructions were clear and it was easy to assemble by one person working alone.
What was it like on the ‘first big bike ride’?
Two years ago a friendly cycling enthusiast gave both of our older children a quick lesson to help get them on to ‘big’ bikes.
Our eldest, now eight was riding off into the distance straight away and I had initially hoped, as the more confident cyclist, he could test the bike for this review.
But on this occasion we had supplied very precise inside leg measurements and the bike sent was specifically for my six-year-old, who hadn’t been on a bike regularly since that lesson. So he took is proper first ride on the Beinn 20.
My fears about whether he was up to the task proved to be unfounded, much to the disappointment of my eldest, who was waiting in the wings to take over!
Is it as lightweight as Islabike says?
Yes, the Isla Beinn 20 small frame is made from light slim-tubed aluminium. I thought this was for my benefit, lifting it in and out of the car and up and down stairs, but my six-year-old felt the difference straight away.
Not only could he lift the bike himself with relative ease, which he can’t do with his brother’s bike or any other bike he’s tried before, but he started to tackle hills himself for the first time.
Keep in mind that, at this stage, there will be fairly regular occasions where a small child will need to push the bike, when the path gets too steep or small legs get tired, and you will see that light bikes have other benefits.
He was instantly more confident and comfortable – and the weight is possibly a factor here too as I think it was, quite simply, easier for his little body to pedal along.
My assumption that a hefty weight of frame equalled sturdiness and ease of riding was, watching him on this bike, quite simply wrong.
What are the breaks like?
Alongside his joy of whizzing along was his joy at stopping. That seems a strange thing to note but he shouted right down the street that the brakes were ‘epic’.
Getting a six-year-old to define what he means by ‘epic brakes’ is a bit like herding cats – but I think he found them easier to use than on other bikes.
They didn’t need super strength to activate and were responsive. Knowing he could easily stop also helped with his confidence.
What age is the bike best for?
As I mentioned earlier, my son is 6, and the bike along with the handlebars seemed very well proportioned for smaller hands and the rubber grips were comfortable.
It seems like this bike would be great for the ages of 5-8, but Islabike as a company makes sure riders get the right sized bike, which is why it has a size guide on the site to measure leg lengths, it’s best to check the site to find out what bike is ideal for your child.
Tell us about the gears and modes of the bike.
The Beinn 20 small bike can be kitted out as a mountain bike, hybrid or road bike. It has a 7sp wide ratio Sram X4 gears with light action shifter, but as a relatively new cyclist the range of gears was probably a bit too much for my six-year-old to get to grips with.
Give it a few months, and some better weather to get out on the bike regularly, and I’m sure he will be taking advantage of these on the hills where we live.
But what about his older brother waiting expectantly in the wings?
The style of the Isla Beinn makes the bike look bigger, and more grown up, than, perhaps, it is.
So although it looked bigger than his own bike he realised he was a bit too tall for it when he tried to ride it.
Needless to say the seat is easy to adjust, which makes it easy for him to beg for his turn at every opportunity.
A stylish, lightweight easy-to-ride bike, great at turning new cyclists into confident riders. The price could prove a little steep for some parents though, particularly given the speed at which children can grow at this age.
I would highly recommend this bike for regular cyclists or for families who enjoy proper bike rides together. It is probably better suited for this market than a child who would take it for an occasional outing to the park.
Available to buy from Isla Bikes