Matt Lamy

See other accessory reviews written by Matt Lamy

Children love this brand, and now the firm's making all-purpose bikes for adults – here's Practical Caravan's Islabikes Beinn 29 review and expert verdict

Overview

The sun on your skin, the wind in your hair, the flies in your teeth – is there anything better than taking to your bike to enjoy the countryside? Wherever you’re travelling with your caravan, a bicycle offers the perfect opportunity to explore the area. You sit high enough to get a good view, travel at a perfect pace to witness an evolving landscape, and can even enjoy a little bit of exercise at the same time. 

Here we’ve brought together eight bikes, all of which can be broadly categorised as hybrids; that is to say, they feature unthreatening flat handlebars, and an upright position in the saddle rather like a mountain bike. But they roll on 29in or 700c wheels – effectively road or ‘racing’ bike wheels – so they can travel distances with ease. 

Despite initial appearances, these aren’t off-road machines, though. They will cope with towpaths, gravel trails and moderate bridleways – but the smoother the surface, the better they feel.

Unlike sports cyclists, we’re not interested in the out-and-out performance of our bikes: more important is their ease of use and general ride comfort. Mass plays a role in both of those qualities – the lighter the bike, the easier it is to manhandle, manoeuvre and set in motion – so we’ve provided overall weights for each machine on test.

However, a range of other factors can also make or break a bike’s ease of use. Gearing, both in terms of the range of ratios available and quality of the gearset’s operation, is hugely important when it comes to how rewarding your bike feels to ride. The same goes for brakes: those that are safe and secure let you spin on with confidence.

In terms of comfort, saddle and tyre choice have a great bearing on things. Both can easily be changed after initial purchase, but it’s still handy if the basic set-up is good enough to use from the kick-off. Handlebars, grips and steering controls can be a little less simple to alter, so it’s worth being comfortable with those from the start, too. 

Finally, something that non-cyclists often don’t think about: position on the bike. Is the basic frame shape comfortable for a rider of average size? And are there easy ways to manipulate it? Let’s find out.

We took a selection of hybrid bicycles out to the countryside for testing as part of our Practical Caravan cycling special edition. We assessed the Islabikes Beinn 29, costing £499.99, the Ridgeback Vanteo, also priced at £499.99, the Fuji Absolute 2.0 at £360 and the Claud Butler Urban 200, at £324.99.

In this review we'll focus on the Islabikes Beinn 29. Parents may recognise Islabikes as a top name in the children’s bike market. Not so long ago, however, the UK firm realised that mums and dads need a good general-purpose bike, too, so came up with the Beinn 29. 

As a brand, Islabikes has a lot in common with a company such as Apple — other manufacturers may offer better deals or higher specifications, but an Islabike is designed to work faultlessly. And that’s certainly the case here, with the straightforward 10-speed SRAM gearset and Tektro brakes never missing a beat. Ten gears may sound like not a lot, but they’re well spaced, so any challenge on a ride should be surmountable. The real beauty of the Beinn 29, though, is that copper-sparkle aluminium frame, which feels light, quick, easy to ride and supremely refined. The bike weighs just 12.1kg.

It also features mounting points for disc brakes, racks and mudguards, so this really could be a future-proof bike for life. Simply fantastic.

Technical specs

FrameLightweight 7005 T6 butted aluminium
Tyre optionFrame has clearance for up to 2" MTB tyres
Sliding dropoutsFor future single speed or hub gear conversion
Gears10 speed, very wide ratio Sram X5 gears
BrakesAluminium brake levers with V brakes
Brake optionDisc-ready quick-release hubs
SpokesStainless steel
RimsDouble wall
UK mainland deliveryFree and within 7 days
Europe delivery10 days
Cro-moly forksWith mudguard and rack eyes, disc mount
Size700c wheels, 16", 18" and 20" frames

Verdict

We love this hybrid bike because it's so versatile, light and easy to ride. The Islabikes Beinn 29 is our Practical Caravan leisure bike test winner, gaining a five-star rating from our expert.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Reliable and straightforward
  • Superbly light aluminium frame
  • You can add mud guards, disc brakes and racks later

Cons

  • Only 10 gears
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