Islabikes Beinn

Islabikes Beinn

Over the years, the technological advances on bicycles have been remarkable.  From carbon fiber frames to custom fitting and dialed in geometry, it’s no surprise that the sport of cycling continues to grow year by year.  Sadly, the opposite has happened in the children’s biking market.  While adult bikes transition into efficient, lightweight marvels, children’s bikes have morphed into gaudy, sugary-sweet, super-hero-covered tanks.  Located in the toy section at the nearest big-box store, the majority of kids bikes are extremely heavy, poorly designed, difficult to ride and rarely last a few years before they join their counterparts at the dump.  Seeing a need for a change, Isla, a highly acclaimed British bicycle designer, applied her years of experience to create Islabikes, a bike line designed exclusively for the unique needs of children.Islabike Beinn 20 Sall

Engineered specifically for kids, Islabikes went beyond simply reaching for the smallest and lightest parts available, they completely redesigned and reengineered several key components to ensure each of their models would fit the smaller, narrower frames of children.  Upon first glance of the Islabikes Beinn 20,” it was quite clear that Isla stayed focused on her goal.  From the brake levers to the pedals, the components are not just smaller than those on an adult bikes, they are scaled appropriately to fit a child’s frame.  As a result, compared to other children’s bikes with the same size tire, Islabikes have a narrower Q factor (see bellow) and their frames are set lower to the ground to allow for a lower center of gravity.

Islabike v Novara

**The Islabikes BEINN 20″ size small and large now cost $439 (without shipping)**

While impressive on paper (and on screen), the bike’s performance is the real determining factor.  To get a feel for just how much better Islabikes performs compared to other 20″ bikes, we put it through several side-by-side comparisons with the Novara Pixie 20.”  A mid-range bike costing $269, the Novara is a quality 20″ bike from REI that has a similar frame design and components as most high-end bikes.


The weight of a bike places a major role in the overall handling and performance of the bike.  While professional racer’s bikes often weigh less than 10% of their body weight, the standard big-box-store bike can weigh as much as 50% of a child’s weight.  Just as an adult would, kids often have difficulty balancing, getting control and stopping a bike that weighs half their body weight.  By utilizing new technologies and an aluminum alloy frame, Islabikes was able to dramatically lower the weight of their bikes.  Compared to the Novara Pixie, the Islabikes Beinn weighed 8 pounds less, or 33% of our 52 lb. five-year-old tester weight vs. 49% with the Novara.

Islabike weight2

Frame Geometry

To help improve the overall handling of their bikes, improve a child’s position on a bike, as well as allow kids to fit onto larger wheeled bikes, Islabikes designed their frames to be closer to the ground.  Closer to the ground, the pedals are more likely to hit the ground when pedaling through turns, so to compensate Islabikes shortened the crank arm on their bikes.

islabike frame diff

While a smaller crank arm does decrease the leverage a child has on the crank, when used in combination with a lower frame, it helps to increase the overall efficiency of the bike by creating a more favorable peddling position for the child.  To demonstrate the difference, we adjusted the seats of both bikes to allow our five-year-old tester’s to place his whole foot on the ground and then had him ride both bikes.  As shown below, the shorter crank arm and lower frame allowed our tester to keep his knee close to the optimal 90 degree bend (for maximum efficiency) during his complete pedal rotation around the crank.  In comparison, the same motion on the Novara required a greater bend at the knee, which in turn made the bike more difficult to pedal.  Due to the decreased efficiency of every pedal stroke on the Novara, our tester also found the Novara difficult to start as he was able to gain less speed with every stroke.  In addition, the long crank arm/high frame found on essentially every child bike, is also one reason why kids often prefer to stand up as they ride.  Pedaling while standing is often easier for them as it provides them more space to achieve the optimum 90 degree knee bend.

Islabike Pedaling

The Q Factor

The “Q Factor” of a bike is essentially the distance between where the pedals attach on a bike (for a more thorough explanation, read Q factor on Wikipedia), which determines the width that a person must splay their legs in order to pedal the bike.  For the average adult rider, the Q factor of a bike is generally a non-issue as the standard-sized components that determine the Q factor on adult bikes creates a favorable amount of splay (approximately the same distance your legs are apart as you walk) for an adult frame.  To help keep costs down on children bikes, those same standard components are often used on children’s bikes, which require kids to splay their legs out at a much greater angle as compared to adults.  According to a study done in the UK, a higher q factor not only decreases the efficiency of each stroke, it also increases the risk for injury.  As a result, Islabikes reengineered the crankset of their bikes to allow for an optimal Q factor for kids.  To demonstrate the difference, we measured both bikes from pedal edge to pedal edge.  We then duplicated those measurements on the sidewalk with chalk and had our tester place his feet on the inside of those lines, representative of where the pedals would be on the bikes.  With the white line representing the width of the Islabikes and the yellow representing the Novara (ignore the pink line), the additional splay required to ride the Novara is apparent.

Islabike width

When viewed in motion with our seven-year-old tester, the increased amount of splay needed to pedal the Novara vs. the Islabikes is clearly demonstrated.

Islabike leg angle


With increased efficiency comes the need for better braking.  While the standard V-pull braking system provides enough power to sufficiently stop a child’s bike, in most cases, the ease at which a child can reach and pull on a brake lever is severely lacking.  Staying true to their mission, Islabikes designed their own, child specific, braking lever to allow for easier and more powerful braking ability.  As shown below, even with the Novara brake adjusted as much as possible, it was much easier for our five-year-old testers to pull the Islabikes brake lever versus the Novara’s.

Islabike brake

Furthermore, the brakes on the Islabikes are so responsive, that prior to riding the bike, Islabikes highly recommends having your child walk beside the bike and practice activating the brake levers to help a child get a feel for the power the bikes provide.

Practicing the brakes


Leaving no stone unturned, Islabikes also addressed the shape of the saddle.  To facilitate easier mounting and dismounting, the front of every saddle is angled downward.  Their saddles are also narrower to better fit the smaller frames of kids.
Isalbike seats2

The Bell

Like a cherry on top, each Islabikes comes with a bell!

Islabike Bell


The difference between our five-year-old and seven-year-old testers riding the Islabikes versus the Novara akin to the differences of a motorcycle and a moped competing in a race.   Both have two wheels and can easily perform the task, but one is much more nimble, easier to maneuver and more enjoyable to ride than the other.  From day one, it was clearly apparent that our testers were not only more comfortable on the Islabikes, but that it was more efficient as well.  With his previous bike (an old 16″ Specialized that was much too small for him) our five-year-old tester dreaded long bike rides, with the Islabikes Beinn, he begs for them.  While our seven-year-old tester once loved her Novara (which is honestly a great bike for the price), she now rides the Islabikes Beinn every chance that she gets.
Islabike in Action

Bottom Line

While pricey, if Islabikes are in your budget, they are worth every penny.  From their newfound desire for longer rides to their willingness to ride faster, be prepared to be amazed at the difference one bike can make in your child’s life.  Islabikes BEINN20″ vs. WOOM4 review

Where to Purchase

In order to ensure a proper fit, Islabikes does not take orders through their website and require you to call in for a brief consultation prior to your purchase.  Islabikes can be reached at (503) 954-2410 or at their retail store in Portland Oregon.

New Colors for 2015

Islabikes is currently phasing out the red while bringing in three new colors, orangey-red, pink and green.

Beinn 20 colors

Beinn 20 small green 300

FTC Disclosure:  Two Wheeling Tots LLC did receive an Islabikes 20″ Beinn to help facilitate this review.  No monetary compensation was provided and all opinions expressed are strictly our own.  Two Wheeling Tots LLC is not an affiliate of Islabikes and will receive no “credit” or payment of any type as a result of any referrals made through this review.  We are, however, an affiliate of REI, where the Novara Pixie is available for purchase.

      • Can’t agree more, my 4 year old just got a 20″ Beinn today and he really took to it. He rode it for over 2 hours today. He’s never been able nor willing to ride that long on his 16″ Giant. I purchased the bike largely on faith and I was expecting that it would take a few days for him to take to it. But in his case it was virtually instantaneous (a few minutes). I would caution parents to heed the brake warning, These brakes are extremely responsive for a kids bike and some extra attention is worthwhile.

        • Thanks for sharing. I too was amazed at how much a difference the bike made with my five-year-old son. From constant complaining about being “tired” on family bike rides, we now often have to remind him to slow down and he always wants to keep riding! Agreed about the brakes as well! In fact, my son “endoed” the first day he had his bike (even after testing them out) because he was so used to having to pull hard on his sisters Novara.

      • polishmadman

        One problem with the comparison. The REI bike had a suspension fork. It would weigh less without that.

        • Completely agree with you there. The comparison is not without it’s flaws, but even if the Islabikes weighed the same as the Novara, I believe the differences in the overall geometry of the bike (not to mention the extremely responsive brakes) would be make it worth the additional price increase.

      • Alex

        Forgive me if I double-post…I think I may have closed my browser before posting, but not sure…

        First of all thank you so much for this amazing website and your very thorough reviews! This site has been a great resource for me in all of my bike and helmet purchases for both of my kiddos!

        This year, for Christmas, we plan to buy my 6.5 year-old his first new bike. He’s been riding a 16″ Specialized Hotrock since his fourth birthday and it’s now way too small for him. I think I’ve narrowed it down to either Islabike or Woom (but still also considering the Trek Superfly). What I keep going back and forth on is the sizing. He’s currently 48″ tall and has an inseam of 21.5-22″, which according to Islabike would put him on the Benin 20 Large. Seeing posts like the one below, however, make me wonder whether the 24″ would be a smarter bet. The minimum inseam for the 24″ bike is 22.5 and the recommended minimum height is 50″. His inseam is close, but he’s still a couple of inches away from the minimum height. I’ve tried him on a 24″ Specialized and it was clearly too big for him, but wonder whether Islabike’s sizing is much different? I don’t want to get something too big for him to enjoy now, but do want to get as much life out of it as I can. 🙂 Anyone have any experience with this? Also, wondering whether there is much of a resale market for Islabikes in the US? Thanks!

        • Glad to be of help! My six-year-old (almost 7) can ride our Islabike BEINN 24″ without any issues. While is now in size 8 pants, he could ride it while in size 7 pants just fine. When we did this review, he was 5 and rode the 20″ for almost two years, before he outgrew it. He currently rides the WOOM5 Supra (24″) while his 8yo sister rides the BEINN 24″. You can see both of them riding both bikes in our Supra review here: So as long as he is in comfortably in size 7/8 pants and is a confident rider, then I think you would be okay with the 24″. The 24″ does have a longer top tube, though, so it will be more of a reach for him, which shouldn’t be a huge issues if he is a confident rider.

          • Alex

            Thanks so much for your reply. Funny, my son wears size 7-8 shorts…not sure about pants since we almost never have the opportunity to wear them in southern California where it’s been 90 all fall! I don’t imagine you know offhand what your son’s inseam is? Islabikes, when I called, was adamant that the 20″ would be the best bet. After looking at him on Treks and Specialized I was tending to agree, but now I”m wondering whether the Islabikes and Woom would be more of an intermediate size. I just wish I knew where I could find one locally to try it for fit! Such a tough decision. 🙂

            • Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I’m honestly not sure of my son’s exact inseam (he’s sleeping), but I would say around 21″. Islabikes is generally right on when it comes to their inseams, so I would stick to what they have to say. Both the Islabikes and the WOOM have geometries that allow their riders to sit lower on the frame and the tires, so they will have a much lower minimum inseam than the Trek and Specialized bikes. Sadly, they aren’t local, but I know they both have good return policies if they don’t fit, but both companies ensure the bikes fit before they send them out.

            • Jen

              What did you end up choosing Alex? My son is almost exact same dimensions as yours and here we are comparing inseams/bikes/heights for Christmas! The specialized 24 was way to tall for him but I’m thinking Isla and Woom 24s are different than those.

              • Alex

       We ended up with the Islabike Beinn 20 Large and it’s a perfect fit for him. A year later and it still fits him very well. He probably would have been okay on the 24, but I think the 20 was the right choice. I wanted to be sure the bike would fit him properly now so he’d be happy and comfortable on it. Our neighbors who have boys a year younger and a year older bought their (big) 5.5 and 7.5 year olds 20″ and 24″ diamondback and although the kids can ride them they are still too big and harder for them to control. I love the Islabike and think it was absolutely worth the money. I would have also considered Cleary, which I can find locally, but I didn’t realize that until after I’d already made the Islabike purchase. I’m attaching a photo from last Xmas to show the sizing.

              • Awesome, glad to hear the Islabikes worked out. As you mentioned, their bikes are much smaller and easier to control than other brands. They are pricey, but worth it.

      • Kim

        Happy New Year! We are looking to get our 7 yo a “better” bike she currently has a yikes! Toysrus heavy piece of metal.. We can’t spend a ton though and while the novara in this comparison didn’t fair well, I did see you said it was good for the price! It’s selling at rei for $125. I was also thinking about the diamondback mini viper on sale for $150. (Diamondback is a boys bike but do you think it matters?). Thanks for your advice 🙂

        • It depends on what she plans on using it for. If she is just going to be riding around town, I would try to track down a bike without a shock, as they add a considerable amount of weight to the bike. Actually, the $125 doesn’t have one, so yes, I would got for it over the Diamondback. For the price, the Novara are great bikes, especially for $125.

      • Radim Blaho

        Hi all. Have anybody experience with Ridgeback dimension 20 please? According to specs it is as light as Islabike and looks really good. I would like to buy one for my son, but I can’t find any review. I am from outside UK and I don’t want to take a risk. Thanks.

        • I agree, they look great! I recently came across them and was wondering the same thing. In a month or so I am planning on reviewing the Dimensions balance bike, but a 20″ bike is a far cry from a balance bike. Good luck in your search and please let me know if you come across some info on the Dimensions line.

          • Radim Blaho

            Hello Natalie, I have received just this info from Evans cycles site today: “The weight is only something we can advise based on the information provided by Ridgeback and is an estimate, however this is the correct weight”. I had some doubt about its weight, because it has more components from alloy or steel instead of Islabikes’ s aluminum components. So if I will make decision for Ridgeback I let you know how is it. Maybe finally somebody from Slovakia write a first review on Ridgeback dimension 20:)

            • Thanks for the feedback. After looking at the specs, I did notice that the Dimensions has slicks while the Islabikes had Kenda Small Black 8’s, which is a more universal tire for both dirt and street. The Islabikes also has a threadless headset while the Dimensions is threaded. Performance wise, they are essentially the same, but for longevity, we’ve found the threadless to be better (I’m sure there are many other opinions about this though). Lastly, the Islabikes has SRAM shifters while the Dimensions has Shimano. Since we have only used SRAM with our kids, I can’t comment on which has worked better for our kids, but in case you have, I thought it was worth mentioning. For others who make come across this thread, the Dimensions is listed at 17.2 lb. and the Islabikes BEINN 20″ at 17.3 lb. If you do go for the Dimensions, please let me know as I would LOVE to hear your thoughts about it as you clearly have done your homework regarding kid’s bikes!

      • Lisa

        Hi Natalie! I’m looking to get my son his first pedal bike. He’ll be turning 6 soon, and is currently doing very well on his TykesBykes 16 inch balance bike. He is 45-46 inches tall with a 19 inch inseam and size 5T pants. I’ve been researching 16 inch bikes and called Islabikes about their CNOC 16, but with his measurements they said he’d outgrow the CNOC soon and recommended their Beinn small instead. They said he could touch down with the balls of his feet, better leg extension for pedaling etc. Now I’m confused– I thought it’s best to have a bike without gears and where the entire foot can touch the ground for a first pedal bike? My son does like to stop with his feet but also uses the handbrake. He’s not a real daredevil but does like some speed. We’re mostly on paved roads around town and nothing too hilly. I think he’d be ok on the Beinn because he is fairly athletic and eager to ride. He actually went from a tricycle to the Tykesbikes after I stumbled onto your site and you saved us from training wheels! At the time the bike was a little big for him and I was concerned about the weight, but he did just fine with the transition. What do you think about the Beinn, and do you have any other recommendations? I’ve also looked at the Woom and the Priority Start. Thanks so much!!

        • Lisa, humm, I am confused as well as Islabikes appears to have given you information contrary to what they have given me and others in the past. I have emailed the head of Islabikes here in the US to make sure that specs on their bikes is up to date. For now, I’ll stick to what they told me last month:). For a child’s first bike, you are right in that they should be able to touch the ground with their foot flat on the ground. This will cause them to outgrow the bike faster, but will allow them to be comfortable on the bike from day one, and in most cases, be able to confidently ride the bike sooner. In regards to leg extension, the advice you got is correct, but for kids just learning, comfort on the bike (being able to touch the ground) is more important for first riders than proper leg extension. For their second bike, once they are fully comfortable and confident on their bike, then leg extension is king and you want kids to only be able to touch with their tippy toes. In regards to gears, you are right in that gears aren’t necessary for first riders, but they won’t hurt either as you don’t have to use them. The Priority Start is similarly sizes without gears, but it is best for more aggressive riders. If you don’t want to worry about gears, I think he would do fine on the Start F/W since he likes speed. If you are okay with gears, then I would go with the WOOM3 if he likes to ride faster without using gears, but the Islabike if you plan on doing any trail riding as the geometry is slightly more aggressive, but not much.

      • Glad to help! I haven’t seen the Beinn 20 Large in person, but my son rode the Beinn Small for several years and we currently have the Guardian 20″ for testing and there are some differences between the two. If he is doing extended rides, I would go for the Beinn. It is lighter and a more nimble bike for more road riding than the Guardian, which is better for everyday riding and some all-terrain. Then again, my son rode his Beinn for several years on single-track trails and did amazing on it. The braking system on the Guardian though is simply amazing. Kids love being able to stop fast on the bike and parents love that kids can stop fast and safe. The SureStop system, which was invented by Guardian’s designers, is truly an industry changing invention. All in all though, the Beinn is better for longer road riding. Hope that helps!