We are looking to buy a 24in-wheel bike for our 10-year-old son. He is more interested in a mountain bike style (street cred) but we do not want to buy him an overweight, fat-tyred monster. The only place we have found that quotes weights for children's bikes (13kg plus - boy, are kids 'bikes heavy!) is Edinburgh Bike Co-op.
Our local shop, although helpful, has a very small selection. We have been in contact with Islabikes, but they are a little far for a test ride visit. Any top tips in the £100-£200 range? And is there anyone out there who sells last year's children's lines at a discount?
William Wake, Minehead
As you suspect, the bike you want is the Islabikes Beinn - go for the 26 instead of the 24. Islabikes are scaled-down better than most kids' bikes.
The Beinn 26 suits riders from about 130cm tall (inside leg: 64-74cm) and it weighs only 11.6kg.
By default, it comes with knobbly tyres but you can specify road or touring tyres at point of purchase, and it will accept mudguards and carrier racks (ditto). One of the reasons it's light is that it doesn't have cheap and nasty suspension, which is more of a handicap than a bonus at this price.
At £250, it's 50 quid over your budget but it's worth it. So long as your son is in the recommended size range, I wouldn't worry unduly about a test ride. We've tested 26in and 24in wheel Islabikes already: they're great. Islabikes are at www.islabikes.co.uk, as you know.
If you absolutely can't spend more than £200, look for a bike with an aluminium frame and, if possible, a rigid fork. As with the Islabike, this will save weight and won't detract from off-road performance. The Giant MTX 250 (not the FS or DS) is one of the few 24in mountain bikes with a rigid fork. There's less growing room than the Beinn 26 - expect your son to outgrow it at 12 - and the components (eg, 18-speed drivetrain) are cheaper. See www.giant-bicycle.com.
If you don't mind getting a bike with token front suspension, you've got more choice. Reasonably decent ones in your price range include the Trek Mountain Track 220 (£200, more growing room than some), Ridgeback MX24 (£190), and Specialized Hotrock 24-inch (£200). Apart from the Beinn 26, your son will probably find even a 13in frame, 26in-wheel bike too awkward, so, unless he's tall, it would be best to avoid these for a year or two.
As for bargains, the best time to buy is when the new models come in, in late autumn. Even your local bike shop may be marking bikes down then.