Islabikes specialise in children’s bikes. We tested the Beinn Large last year in its street bike guise. This is the same bike in a smaller frame size with the optional off-road tyres: they cost an extra £15 over the basic bike, or an extra £25 if you want both on and off-road tyres.
Low weight and big wheels make the Beinn a very capable junior mountain bike. But it’s more that: it’s a versatile do-anything bike. Swap the tyres and it’d be ﬁne for junior cyclo-cross racing; add accessories and it becomes a ride-to-school bike or a summer holiday tourer. Frankly, the only bike that compares is its bigger sibling, the Beinn Large. It’s great.
Ride & handling: Very light, very versatile and totally child-scaled
The Beinn is remarkably light for a child’s mountain bike. In the intended age range (8+), only the £799 Scott RC JR compares. “It feels like a road bike,” said one of our testers as they wheeled the Beinn along before getting on. On short easy rides, that’s nice. On trickier or longer rides or on climbs, it’s pure gold.
One of our young testers missed that feeling of heavy bike inertia when he ﬁrst rode the Beinn downhill. The other, though, noticed straight away its “better manoeuvrability” and thought it would be “really good as a bike for doing everything on”.
The Continental Explorer tyres were capable on the surfaces we rode on and could easily be swapped out. The bigger wheels stopped the ‘BMX feeling’ of 24in wheels on bumpier surfaces.
Frame: Capable, well designed chassis, but it won’t accept fatter tyres.
Compared with most kids’ bikes, the Beinn looks understated to the point of minimalism. The butted aluminium tubes are mostly straight pipes, joined together in the classic double triangle. Diameters are modest – which saves weight, as does the rigid chromoly fork – but the frame is still plenty strong and stiff enough. Since the forks on most children’s bikes are more about marketing than function, a rigid fork is usually an improvement.
The Beinn squeezes 26in wheels into a small frame, but unlike most of its rivals, it has been designed around shorter cranks (152mm). The bottom bracket has thus been lowered without risking pedal strikes, and the saddle to ﬂoor distance is reduced while maintaining the pedal-saddle distance.
The top tube hasn’t had to be stretched to keep the wheel out of the way of the feet: in fact, the reach is spot-on thanks to the very short stem. The result is a bike that will ﬁt riders aged eight and up. Growing room is good too; the Beinn might still ﬁt riders aged 12 or 13.
Frame clearance around the 2.1in rear tyre is just enough, so don’t expect to ﬁt anything bigger for typical UK conditions. The frame also has ﬁttings for mudguards and carrier racks front and rear.
Equipment: Bigger wheels improve performance, and lack of suspension isn't a problem
Despite the Beinn’s lack of suspension the ride is smooth, as the 26in wheels cope with bumps better than the 24in wheels that bikes for this age group usually have.
These have 28 well-tensioned spokes each: fewer spokes is ﬁne for a child’s bikes, because kids are much lighter than adults. They’re laced to doublewall rims and decent hubs, and they’re the adult standard size, so there are ample opportunities for upgrades or hand-me-downs from your old bike, whether that’s tyres or a suspension fork.
Gearing is simpliﬁed to a 1x8 setup, with a 32T chainring driving a wide range cassette. Ours was 11-32T rather than 11-34T, but the latter is readily available. A deep double chainguard meant that the chain never unshipped during testing. The SRAM 3.0 Comp twist shifter works a SRAM X4 mech with 1:1 actuation.