The Islabikes ﬂeet is aimed at kids, from toddlers to teens. But the new-to-the-range ‘large’ Beinn has a 16in frame, intended for 11 years upwards, effectively making it a consideration for anyone from just under 5ft up to about 5ft 6in.
Isla Rowntree’s race-winning past shines through in the Beinn, and that’s unusual in a £300 bike. She focuses the speciﬁcation on achieving the lightest possible weight and understands that tweaking componentry is just as crucial as tweaking the frame geometry with bikes built for smaller riders. The 16in frame Beinn rides better than most bikes costing £200 more.
Ride & handling: Low weight and lively ride make it feel like a much more costly bike
Look around the £300 market and you’ll soon realise that Islabikes are one of the few brands who design decent budget bikes without suspension forks. That’s a good thing, because most low-budget suspension forks are poor in terms of performance and add an unwelcome lump to bike weight. The Beinn weighs in at under 25lb, several pounds less than most £300 bikes.
Riders who try the Beinn have often already tried starter mountain bikes for a similar amount of money. In comparison, the Beinn is a breath of fresh air: the low weight and lively ride make it feel like a much more costly bike, while the lack of suspension – and fast tyres, if you opt for them – means your pedal energy translates far more readily into forward motion.
Many £300 mountain bikes feel dull; the Beinn feels sharp. If all starter bikes were like this, many more people could be enthused to continue riding instead of dumping their hefty suspension-laden bikes in the shed. We hope Isla move into the adult bike market soon.
Frame: Simple frame and fork keep weight and price down, but not at the loss of performance
The light 7005 aluminium frame has no pointlessly fancy tube shapes and the chromoly steel fork is quite adequate for easy terrain.
There’s room for more shock-absorbent knobbly tyres if you have trail aspirations, and Islabikes will happily supply these and other add-ons, like the mudguards on our school run test bike. Islabikes sell direct rather than through a dealer network.
Equipment: Excellent wheels and mix of carefully chosen quality parts
The devil is in the detail, and that’s where Isla Rowntree’s competitive and small bike design expertise shines. The 165mm cranks are perfect on a 16in frame, as is the simplicity of a single 32-tooth chainring and chainguard rings.
A 34-tooth rear sprocket will serve most riders well on all but the very steepest climbs and we know a lot of beginners who prefer the simplicity of Grip Shift to twin paddle shifters.
The tough 28-spoke wheels are the best we’ve seen on a £300 bike and you can choose either smooth or knobbly tyres. The brake levers are short reach offerings, the top-up kit is quality stuff and there’s loads of adjustment in the saddle, post, stem and bars.