Islabikes Beinn 20 Review

As many of you know, I have a delightful 7 year old daughter.

She started “riding bikes” a tiny bit when she was 3.  Then a bit more when she was 4.  When she was 5, she got into it even more, and we tried riding without training wheels.  That was a failed venture.  Last year, we rocked an oversized glider bike for a few months, and developed the balance necessary to ride.  By the end of last summer, she was riding confidently without training wheels.

Her riding was still brought down by a few things, however.

  1. Her bike weighed nearly 40 pounds.  That’s a basic, single speed, coaster-brake only 16″ bike.  It’s a REI/Novara hand-me-down from the family.
  2. The bike had a crappy saddle that was not comfortable for longer than 20 minutes at a time.
  3. The coaster brake meant that she could not backpedal.  For a young rider, just learning how to start out without training wheels, it is a lot easier for her to start if she can get one pedal forward and up, to a good ‘starting to pedal’ position.  Coaster brakes render that impossible.
  4. The geometry was terrible.  Seriously.  Who designs these things?
  5. Singlespeed, which meant it was always too high or too low.

I went out in search of a bike looking for the following characteristics:

  1. Decent components
  2. Lightweight
  3. Stable geometry
  4. Gears
  5. Hand-brakes
  6. Fun to ride
  7. Cute enough to interest a 7 year old girl.

I’d like to say that the world was replete with many examples, but sadly it was not.  I found naught but one bike that satisfied these criteria.  Those who regularly read here know that I’m a huge proponent of local bike shops, and generally abhor buying online.  In this instance, I couldn’t find a comparable LBS offering, and thus had to head online…to the Islabikes store.  (Google it for yourself).

In looking there, the Beinn 20 was everything that I was looking for.

SRAM X-4 1×7 gearing with grip shifters.  (Sadly, there is no Di2 option).

My Di-2 comment is mostly tongue in cheek.  My 7 year old was graced with my cyclist’s upper body strength.  Getting use to the grip shift took her a while and some serious effort.  I will say that the gearing was totally intuitive; 1 is slow and 7 is fast.

Kenda tires with a tread that is suitable for pavement and light off-road.  Kind of like a 20″ small block 8.  They are 20″ x 1.5″, which is a nice all-around width.

The whole bike.  (Spoke-y-dokes not included).

A reasonable, comfortable saddle.  It strikes a nice balance between padded and not too padded.

Relatively lightweight 20″ aluminum wheels with presta valves.

1x cranks with a nice chain guard.

Mass-produced, aluminum frame.

Non-tapered, chromoly fork.

It has fender eyelets front and rear and rack eyelets in the rear.

Total weight is right at 17 pounds.  Yes, the bike could be lighter, but it’s literally half the weight of her old bike…and she now has 7 speeds, front and rear brakes, and much nicer components overall, on a bike with 20″ wheels instead of 16″ wheels.

The difference in her riding is amazing.  Overnight, we went from a 2-3 mile ride up to a 7-8 mile ride.  Moreover, we’re riding at reasonable speeds (for a tiny nano), and we no longer have to find routes that are totally flat.  Her confidence is greatly increased, as is her resilience.  She can shift down to 1 and spin up a hill, or shift up to a higher gear and crank down a hill, knowing that she has brakes to stop at the bottom.

Because she’s so much more independent, I’ve been able to take the Trailgator off of my Vaya, and ride a little happier.  (The tailgater added a surprising amount of weight).

(Vaya shown here with Tubus Ti rack).

Here’s Lu’s impression of the bike:

Islabikes Beinn 20 Review from Lawfarm on Vimeo.

I have no complaints about the bike.  If you look at seatpost length and stem length, this bike will last her for a few years.  It’s not cheap–they retail for $439–but it has made a huge improvement in the quality of our riding together, and in her level of enthusiasm about riding.  With quality components and an aluminum frame, it will last a long time and take a lot of abuse, as well.

Lu’s comments are apt.  In low gears, there’s no resistance and she can easily pedal up steep hills that would have stopped her on her old bike.  In the high gears, she can drop the hammer.  Like a brick.  But her language is important to note–this bike gives her confidence, and makes her enjoy cycling more.  That’s worth a high price.

I’ll update as time goes on.  For now, this bike has been a great upgrade to our family bike fleet, and I look forward to many miles to come.

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