The Hoy Bonaly range is Hoy Bikes’ answer to a mountain bike. It’s a step up from the usual children’s hybrid bikes – or hybrids with slightly knobbly tyres – but doesn’t go the whole hog and include any form of suspension. However, I’m still inclined to call it a mountain bike, rather than a hybrid.
We’ve been testing the Bonaly 24, which has – surprise, surprise – 24in wheels. These wheels are shod with 2.1in tyres by Kenda, which give a pleasingly chunky proportioned look to the bike. In fact, it’s almost like a plus tyre scaled down to a child size – which I’m inclined to think is a very practical approach. Just as many of us (especially us non-huckers) could happily ride a rigid bike with plus tyres in lieu of suspension, I think that there will be a lot of children for whom this bike will provide the cushioning, grip and confidence they need without adding a lot of superfluous weight, expense or maintenance needs to their bike.
At 16in and 20in sizes it’s rim brakes only, at this 24in wheel size you have a choice of disc or rim brakes, at and 26in there’s no rim brake option. We had the rim brake option, which has proved perfectly adequate for our needs during an unusually dry and warm UK summer.
Hoy has put some effort into achieving the relatively low weight of this bike. At 8.6kg, its claimed weight is a little lighter than with the claimed weights of a comparably sized Islabike (9kg claimed) or Frog (9.2kg), although our scales of truth put it at 9.15kg, so it’s perhaps not actually that different. We don’t have current models of the other brands to test their claimed to actual weights, but we can say that a Frog 62 from a couple of years ago weighs 9.92kg with pedals, so perhaps the weight differences are very small.
To achieve its target weight, Hoy has specced foam grips and a foam padded saddle, lightweight inner tubes, lighter bar, stem and seat-post, and low-spoke wheels. The foam saddle seems to me to be rather unsuccessful, with both my children complaining they found it hard and uncomfortable. While I had misgivings about the foam grips, they’re a hit with our seven year old tester, Rafe, who declares them soft and comfortable. He is a reasonably careful bike owner – not prone to dropping it on the ground, but will instead prop it carefully against whatever is to hand – so the grips haven’t been put through too much abuse. I had worried that they’d chip and dent like a swimming pool float, but so far there’s no evidence of that. I’d also worried that they might absorb water and become either smelly or uncomfortable, but since I’m not cruel/dedicated enough to force my kids on any prolonged wet riding slogs I can’t say whether this concern is founded.
At 130cm tall and with a 52cm inside leg, Rafe was at the lower end of the height range for this bike, but – other than perhaps looking a little like a short XC rider on a 29er – he’s had no problems with fit. The brakes and thumb shift gears are easy to operate, his position on the bike is good, and there’s room to grow. It would be nice to have a quick release for easy swapping between children – but maybe it’s just us that often finds ourselves sharing a bike round a group of kids. After all, this is a nice looking bike that does attract attention.
Rafe had recently inherited a larger Frog 62, with 1.75in tyres. Hopping onto the Bonaly, the effect was instantly noticeable – he was able to roll up kerbs as well as down them, and parental nerves have been tested as he has moved on to (quite successfully) learning to ride no-handed and even doing jumps in the skate park. There’s been a huge leap in both confidence and desire to ride, and of course that has meant more practice and, in turn, improved ability.
Of course, for most parents the question of price comes in to play. This rim brake Bonaly 24 costs £360, while an equivalent sized Beinn 24 Islabike is £439 and a Frog 62 is £330. There are differences between the bikes, but on balance I’d say the Hoy is competitively priced and a little better suited to off road duties than the other two brands, which both come with skinnier tyres.
Being the second child, and child to a parent who resolutely refuses to buy anything in ‘gendered’ colours (partly out of principal, partly out of frugalness), Rafe is sadly not in need of a bike and will be returning this one and getting back aboard his hand-me-down Frog 62. Unfortunately for him, he’s not going to inherit a larger Bonaly in future either as the Bonaly 26 his elder (always gets news stuff) sister required takes a leap up in spec to disc brakes, and with it a much higher price point of £465. I suspect that a child who really needs disc brakes might also feel the benefit of some suspension, so I’m not sure that the disc brake models are quite as good value a package as the Bonaly 24 we’ve been testing.
Three Things We’d Change
- The saddle isn’t very comfortable
- A quick release would be handy
- A rim brake option in a size 26 would be good to see.
Three Things We Love
- The proportions of the tyres to the bike are just right for fun without too much drag.
- The soft grips and thumbshift gears made for a comfortable cockpit.
- The styling is grown up and timeless.
The Bonaly 24 tested here sits nicely in a gap in the quality children’s bike market between smoother surface hybrids and higher end suspension bikes. It’s lightweight and it comes in simple and stylish designs that I think will date well. If you are looking for a child’s bike of this size for general off road riding, but stopping short of full on hucking and jumping, I’d have no reservations about recommending this.