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Product review: The Islabikes Beinn 20 children’s bike

Posted by on October 25th, 2016 at 10:44 am

Testing the Islabike Beinn 20-4.jpg

When a kid has the confidence to do little tricks, it’s a good sign they trust their bike.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

When he was finally ready, his bike was more than up to the task. That’s how I think about my five-year-old son Everett’s evolution to becoming a confident bike rider.

It wasn’t easy. He first learned to ride a regular pedal-bike (after learning on a balance bike) over two years ago. But for some reason he didn’t keep it up. He parked the bike and seemed afraid or nervous about it whenever we urged him to get back on the saddle. Even getting a shiny new red bike didn’t inspire him! I was completely at a loss. I was so frustrated that I just stepped back and stopped even talking about riding (absent dropping a few hints here and there).

Then one day while I was out of town, I got a text from Juli. It was a video of Everett riding his bike. “This just happened,” she wrote.

He got his bike out and just started riding it. All on his own. I guess he was finally ready.

And thankfully, his bike was too.

Since that day Everett has fallen in love with riding. And with his bike — a Beinn 20 model made by Islabikes.

Islabikes is a UK-based company with its US headquarters in southeast Portland that specializes in children’s bikes. That doesn’t mean they put cartoonish stickers and crappy plastic bits all over their bikes — that would be the children’s equivalent of the “shrink it and pink it” approach some bike companies have taken towards “women’s bikes”. Instead, Islabikes creates bikes for kids from the ground up. Their entire approach, from fitting to making their own components, is based around customers who have smaller-sized hands, legs, muscles and brains.

So, how does that approach translate into a good cycling experience for kids?

One of my issues with crappy kids bikes (the ones sold in toy stores and big box retailers across America, which are the only option for many people due to their price and availability) is because they often fail to deliver on the promise of cycling. To get someone hooked on biking, regardless of their age, their experience needs to be as simple and fun as possible, right from the get-go. That thrill of balancing on two wheels that only you control, while coasting effortlessly with the wind in your face: That’s the feeling that creates a lifelong love affair with cycling.

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Testing the Islabike Beinn 20-1.jpg

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Everett’s Islabike weighs just under 18 pounds. That means it has nimble handling and doesn’t take big muscles to speed up and slow down. It also has components that are easy for him to use and easy for us to adjust and service as needed. We’ve had a lot of kids bikes come through our household (I also have two older kids aged 11 and 13) and the cheap ones are nearly impossible to keep running smoothly. When I need to put my hands on the Beinn it feels like a mini version of one of my own bikes.

Over the weekend I installed a new set of fenders and it took me about five minutes. Everything was in the right place and they went on flawlessly. To me, that’s a sign of a quality bike.

It’s worth noting that the Beinn from Islabike costs $499.00. That’s about five times as much as a bike from Wal-Mart or Fred Meyer. Is it worth it? That’s up to each person to decide for themselves.

Our experience with Islabikes has value beyond the product. To get one, we went direct to the Portland showroom. (Islabikes are only sold direct, so if you can’t make it to Portland, you call and talk to a sales person to make sure you get the right bike for your kid.) After sizing up Everett, we decided on the 20-inch-wheeled Beinn. It’s got flat bars, an aluminum frame, and a 7-speed grip-shifter that’s easy to twist.

The company behind the bike is also first-rate. Not only are they local, they support our community in more ways than one. Islabikes is also behind an inspiring new initiative called the Imagine Project that aims to reduce waste and change the bike-buying paradigm.

But enough about all that: Everett loves this bike! He’s not old enough to really describe what he likes about it; but it’s easy to tell that being on it makes him happy. Whether it’s our daily ride to school (where there are half a dozen other Islabikes in the racks!) or weekend adventures, his bike is growing with him.

Everett’s not the daredevil type by any stretch; but I watch him gain confidence every time he goes out. We’ve been watching videos of the Red Bull Rampage (a famous downhill MTB event) lately and the other day while riding during his sister’s soccer game he came to a steep hill. Nervous, he paused at the top. Then he rolled forward, yelled, “Red Bull riding!!” at the top of his lungs and took the plunge.

Testing the Islabike Beinn 20-10.mp4

That’s all the evidence I need that this is the right bike for him.

Disclaimer: Islabikes provided me with a bike for Everett at no charge and with no expectation of editorial coverage.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Dan (Islabikes)Glenn WoodburyMike HealeyJohnDan A Recent comment authors
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Dan A
Dan A

We love our Beinns (20 & 24).

I just did a 20-mile ride with our Scout Troop this weekend, and my 11-year-old was riding up at the front of the group the whole time. I barely saw him, as I was at the back helping the other kids deal with their heavy, janky bikes.

Let's Active
Let's Active

Really awesome story, Jonathan. Love the look of the Isla bike. My daughter sounds a lot like your son: it took a while for her to feel comfortable with riding. She’s 10 now and fairly confident. Which brings me around to what I think would be a great story: Portland-area (Hood River to Wilsonville to Scappoose) trail riding for kids who are new to mountain biking! Where are the good trails for the newbie beyond the NW Trail Alliance’s fantastic easyClimb trail in Cascade Locks?


I stopped by their showroom for the first time on Friday and got first-hand info from the gal there… I was already impressed just by shopping online, but you don’t get the full effect of how specialized these bikes are for the full range of growing kids until you see them for yourself in the showroom…

Eric Leifsdad
Eric Leifsdad

The specialized hotrock is at least lighter than a huffy but the single-speed and coaster brake have made it hard for my 5yo on hills up or down. We added a caliper front brake and sanded the paint off of the rim. I also changed the saddle and moved it back with a brompton seat post adapter to make it a bit more crank-forward since he has more confidence if he can put his feet down (he started from a scoot bike, no training wheels.) He rode the entire 10mi loop of the last Sunday Parkways. He wants it to have a hand lever for the rear brake, and probably gears.

The fork on this looks much more slender than even the 16in hotrock’s. How is the gearing?

Huey Lewis
Huey Lewis

My (almost) step daughter has the Beinn 26 and it’s great. No bogus suspension fork that weighs more than her. Decent enough parts. Fenders and rack went on no problem as there was plenty of clearance and the appropriate eyelets needed. Also switched out the Kenda cross style tires for some giant Paselas (Soma branded (YUCK) Panaracers. Got’em at work for like 4 bucks a piece). Anyway, it’s a pretty nice bike.


The cost is prohibitive for most especially since the kid will outgrow it soon enough. I would love to get my kid an isla bike, love the idea of them but darn, they are pricey. There has to be a way to make a light kids bike that doesn’t break the bank


That was a great advertorial


Nice that they seemed to put specific focus on the shift action. I got my 6-yr-old a 20″ Diamondback with a gripshift-style Shimano 6-spd drivetrain. She loves it, but the shift action is quite difficult and it’s taken her the better part of a year to build up the wrist strength to be able to shift while riding.


Glides Bikes have been building balance bikes from the ground up since 2006 and not offers a 16″ version that you add pedals to. The Go Glider.
Starts out as a balance bikes and converts to a pedal bike just by adding a pedal kit.

Dolan Halbrook
Dolan Halbrook

We love our Beinn 20 (and now 24, with the younger kid riding the 20). My son went from riding ~5 miles on his hand-me-down clunker, to riding 20+ miles. Now that he’s on the 24, he’s hard to keep up with!


I really hope other manufacturers are paying attention. Kids love these Isla bikes. The only down side is they’re new enough that it’s hard to find d a used one.

The price seems steep at first. But “comparable” models of Giant, Trek, or Specialized, (etc.) are all in the $350 – $495 range. What’s the point of upgrading your kid to a geared bike when the grip shift is made for adults and they can’t use it and get stuck going up a hill in the wrong gear? Pushing a useless super heavy suspension fork on a bike that’s as heavy as they are?

Kudos to Isla bikes.

Dan A
Dan A

Wow, just found this awesome list, and it includes the weight of some of their ‘recommended’ bikes:

#9: 50lbs
#6: “quite light and weighs about 34lbs”
#3: “weighs just 36lbs”
#2: 41lbs