I’ve got 4 kids and I’ve bought a lot of bikes for them in my time. There is an absolute massive amount of choice. And not. Because you start down at the bike shaped object at Tesco, move up to the pretty much a bike for not much money at Halfords and then get up to the right, that’s a proper bike with likes of Frog and, how much money?!?!?! with an Islabike. And kids grow up so quickly that, frankly, a bike shaped object for whizzing round the park is generally enough. Unless you want to get them into CX or something and then I’d be yelling at you to get a Frog or an Islabike. But, perhaps, unless you have very deep pockets or very high aspirations, not the £1k Islabike Pro 1X Sram Hydro thingy. Though, I have to say, it’s quite something. But, to my mind, there’s never been anything that’s sufficiently budget to allow the kids to knock it around but still to have a level of quality that makes a bike mad Dad just a little pleased.
Until, just before Christmas, I spent £152 on the Vitus 20. Ok, here’s the catch. I used my platinum discount at Wiggle and a Strava premium voucher too, but it has been as low as £160. It’s currently showing as out of stock but I am assured that it, and it’s 24″ brother, will return in April/May.
So, why do I like this cheap bike quite so much? Well, the first thing is, it’s light. Not Supersix Evo light. It’s still about 9kg but all the BSO’s we’ve owned before are the weight of a dying star with added suspension forks. Which are always always rubbish and unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong, the Islabike 20 is lighter, by about 1kg or so. The Frog 55 by about 0.3kg or so. But it’s still a breath of fresh air compared to the pieces of forged steel that have taken up residence in my garage.
It’s a good looking bike. The colour is pretty vibrant (orange was also available) and you get a little pot of paint to keep it looking fresh. The fork is, naturally, steel at this price.
Braking duties are taken care of by branded brakes, Tektro in this instance. They’re pretty straightforward V’s but seem better in quality than the ones that come with cheaper bikes. Tyres are 20″ Kenda Small Block 8. These tyres are pretty great really, and are recommended as good, semi off road tyres, for even adult bikes. They’re also not that cheap to buy, around £20 each, so that full bike RRP is already looking pretty good.
The metal Tektro brakes complete the braking package and seem hardy enough. The grips are nice and seem robust. Gearing duties are provided by Shimano in the shape of their Altus range. The front chainset is a 32 (and protected each side by a plastic sheath) and the 7 speed system at the back is 12-32. There’s thumb shift gearing just like on a proper grown up bike (and better, IMO, than the grip shift systems which are found on so many cheaper bikes). There’s a big jump in the gearing but more than good enough for kids at this price.
The wheels are ok. They’re not branded but seem decently made. What’s particularly nice at this price is that both front and rear benefit from quick release levers. If you’re going on holiday etc, that’s a pretty good thing to have. There are also attachments, front and rear, for mudguard mounts should you want to!
The saddle is made by Velo, who, let’s face it, make most of the world’s saddles. And it’s absolutely fine. There’s even a quick release clamp to make adjustment easy.
This is a great kid’s bike. It’s way better than a Halfords special, and light years ahead of something that would cost you £70 in Tesco. Indeed, even with Wiggle’s buying power, it’s still quite difficult to see how they can do it for the price. It’s pretty, cheap and lightweight (relatively speaking). It seems, sometimes, you can choose all three. Add a 2 year warranty on the frame and one year on parts and it’s all good. Even delivery was free. And that would be that, had my second youngest son not also needed a new bike. And that one, well that was a bargain and a half.
Hoy Bonaly 24″
The Hoy Bonaly range at Evans Cycles is similar to what Wiggle do with the Vitus. There’s a variety of frame sizes and specs depending on your child’s age. My second youngest son is 9 so the 20″ frame was, arguably, a little small but, crucially, not future proof. And, of course, buy a quality bike now and the youngest son can move up and into that. And so on and so forth.
The Bonaly 24 moves in the same circles as the equivalent Frog 24″ (the confusingly named 62). Actually it costs more. The RRP is £360. But, at the moment, head to Evans ebay store and it’s £259. Use a code a week ago, like I did, and I nabbed it for £209 with free delivery. And that is massively impressive.
The Bonaly is circa 9kg, a tad lighter than the Vitus, which is impressive given that it’s a bigger bike. For too long I’ve picked up my kid’s bikes to find them heavier than my aluminum cx bike. That’s wrong. The Hoy redresses that balance. It’s pretty much the same. That’s a step in the right direction. It’s still not Islabike light, but, at least at the sale price, it isn’t £240 more. Geometry seems fairly sorted though, of course, Islabike have been doing this for much longer.
There are obvious similarities with the Vitus and, indeed, other bikes of this type. So we again see the Tektro V-Brakes and levers and Kenda Small Block 8’s. The brake levers are a little more premium in look than on the Vitus. Shifting duties here are Shimano’s Altus 8 speed system. The front ring (again protected) is 32t and the rear block 11-34. It makes it a bit better on hills and, if used for CX, in the mud. The extra gear doesn’t really do an awful lot to cut out the jumps in gearing but, again, it’s not really a big issue. It benefits, like the Vitus, from short crank arms. The pedals are the standard resin affair but ok.
Superficially, the rims appear similar. But these are actually branded. They are Alex ACE20 (24″) with Joytech hubs and steel plain gauge spokes. Again, they are quick release. They’re a very decent set of wheels at the price and a cut above the competition.
The finishing kit is good. The Hoy branding carries over to the seatpost and saddle, which is a nice flat affair. Both the bar and stem are Hoy branded too. There’s no QR on the seatpost so keep an allen key handy. Clearance is good around the 1.95 inch tyres and I would imagine squeezing some 2 inch mud pluggers in there for CX would be pretty easy.
I’m impressed by both bikes. They satisfy my own desires of having good bikes for my children without paying the earth. And they won’t fall to bits and require constant attention like the cheaper stuff that I’ve spent money on before. They also provide a very decent upgrade path so, with care, the 24″ will pass to the youngest and the second youngest can progress to the 26″ model in due course. Wiggle/CRC and Evans can be quite proud of these ranges because giving our kids quality cycling equipment is important. Having a good bike makes them want to cycle. And cycling is so very very good.