Review: Hoy Meadowmill 24 – a grown up drop bar bike for kids

by Hannah Dobson 0

  • Tested: Hoy Meadowmill 24
  • From: Evans Cycles
  • Price: £460
  • Tested For: 2 months

The Hoy Meadowmill is sold as ‘a perfect all-round ride for a young rider gripped by the thrills of fast bikes’. Meadowmill is the name of a cyclocross tracked that Chris Hoy raced as a child, but the bike is said to be ‘not only a cyclo-cross bike, it makes a fine road bike and it’s happy on the bridleways and quiet tracks that make up any young explorer’s ride’.

A grown up looking bike.

We took a first look at the bike here, and then sent it off to Eve for a spot of testing. Let’s start with what she has to say.

Eve’s Thoughts

I have only ridden Frog bikes with hybrid tyres and flat handlebars before. I wanted to try drop handlebars because I thought it would be something new and they look cool! When I first saw the Meadowmill I was worried that it would be too small, but when I got on it, it felt good.

The first time I sat on it the bike seemed a good height and length but I did find it hard to reach to the brakes on the drops. Moving about on the bars is quite easy and on the flat the drops are comfortable. I live up quite a steep hill and I was glad it had the extra brakes on the tops. Changing gear is easy but I think it would be better if there was an indicator so you know which gear you’re in.

Up! Steep, steep up!
And even more up. Cruel parent.

For a first proper ride after I’d got used to the bike on the pavements and road near my house, Mummy took me on the sort of ride she would do on her gravel bike. First we went up really steep tarmac hill. I think I did better on this bike than I would have done on my Frog because I felt I could push more using the hoods. I had to push the last few meters but I felt proud of myself and my Mum said ‘Wow!’.

Victory fig roll!

The next bit was a flat farm track full of holes. I had to go quite slowly but it was still fun. Then we went through my mum’s favourite fields, on a path that was narrow with dry mud and grass on it. That was good fun because it was quite smooth and you could just roll along the bumps.

Fields of fun.
Danger cobbles.

After that we went down a really rough stoney path. I rode a lot of it but I didn’t like it because I thought that I was going to fall off the entire time and my hands really hurt. I got off because I couldn’t use the brakes anymore. Once we were at the bottom of the hill we rode our bikes along the canal. That was good because it was smoother and you could go quite fast on it. I surprised my mum when I rode across some cobbles where the water drains off the canal. The gaps between the cobbles are the right size to get your wheels stuck but I made it!

Since, I’ve ridden the bike lots. I think it is most fun on the road or canal. If the path gets rough it is quite bumpy to ride. It’s okay for a short rough bit, but if it’s for a while it gets uncomfortable and it’s hard to hold on. I really don’t like it on steep rough stuff.

The drops are good for going faster and I think it is easier for going up hill. But now that I have tried this bike, I think I prefer flat bars for where I ride.

Eve’s Mummy’s Thoughts

I do a lot of gravel bike riding and my husband rides on the road a lot, so it’s not surprising that Eve wanted to give drop handlebars a go. I was a bit worried about whether it would meet her expectations – I tend to ride gravel bikes because enjoy the added mild peril that comes with drop bars off road – and so the chance to try a bike out before buying one was welcome.

The sizing has me a little divided. Out of the box, it looked tiny. But then sitting her on it the bike looked OK, and she seemed to get off and away on it much quicker than I had anticipated. I thought she’d be riding around on the tops for ages before graduating to the drops, but the first time she hopped on it she was away and heading off kerbs. After a bit more time on the bike however, we’ve ended up putting the saddle up much higher – I think as her confidence has grown (and she has too) she’s been able to extend her legs while pedalling and doesn’t mind not being able to get her feet down so easily. As a result, she’s actually been riding it with the seat set at it’s maximum height – in hindsight I think the Meadowmill 26 might have been a more sensible option with physical growing room, rather than just space for confidence to grow.

It’s better suited to less rough tracks.
Short obstacles are fun, but long long descents are tough on hands.

It’s also worth noting that it’s not a straight swap between sizes across the Hoy children’s range. We’ve also been testing the Bonaly 24, with my son riding that. He’s just big enough to ride that, but he’s not big enough for the Meadowmill 24. He’ll tell you he can ride it, but really he’s too stretched out. With this in mind, if at all possible I’d recommend sitting your child on the bike before buying to test them out for size.

No adjustment on the left brake
Right brake comes wound in.

The bike is noticeably lightweight at 8.76kg (with pedals, against a claimed weight of 8.2kg without pedals) and the drop bars do seem the right size for little hands. However, the brakes on the drops are not really very small-hand friendly. The rear brake isn’t adjustable, while the front brake arrives set as close to the bars as is possible. However, even the closest reach settings proved quite hard to get to, especially when combined with steep or rough descents. Given that Eve is about as big as it’s possible to be for this bike, I’d be concerned that someone smaller would struggle to reach the brakes. I think it would be worth the Hoy range investing in bespoke levers to improve this, as it’s a critical part of the drop bar experience.

The top brakes were appreciated.
The foam saddle was not so appreciated.

In search of weight loss, the Hoy range deploys a variety of tactics and bespoke parts, including a foam padded saddle. Both my children complained that they found this hard and rather uncomfortable – perhaps some more cushioning or an alternative shape would be worth the weight penalty.

The gears have worked well, although Eve is used to gears which have some form of indicator on the cockpit show which gear you’re in. As a result she has tended to lose track of which gear she’s in, and has needed reminding to get into her easiest gear before the steepest of climbs. And she’s certainly done plenty of them – both our house and her school are up steep hills, and the school run has got markedly easier, with her happily pedalling ahead up hills I’ve seen adults having to push up. I think she’ll miss the climbing ability of the Meadowmill once it’s returned.

36T chainring and 11-34T cassette has been great on steep hills.

If you’re thinking of buying your child a bike like this, I think it’s worth considering where you’ll be riding first. Often I think us adults forget that we’re on bigger tyres and bigger wheels, and that our poor children are pedalling like mad to keep up and keep going. Like me, you might enjoy the peril of cross bike fun on mountain bike trails, but scale the rocks and obstacles up to how they appear to your child and I think you may find that they’ll appreciate the confidence that a flat bar and wider tyre would offer. Certainly much of my own gravel riding is pushing at the boundaries of what’s really mountain biking, and family rides tend to be more on the mountain bike side of things. However, if you’re planning to ride mixed surface canal paths and quiet roads, then the Meadowmill will likely give them more confidence and comfort than a road bike, and more speed than a flat bar/hybrid option.

There’s plenty of clearance for those contemplating more serious winter CX race type activities.
This is not a bike to just roll over everything – you need line choice.

Three Things We’d Change

  1. The brakes – the reach just isn’t short enough on the drops.
  2. The saddle is apparently hard and uncomfortable.
  3. An indicator for which gear you’re in would be useful.

Three Things We Loved

  1. The weight. It’s lovely and light.
  2. The bars – great for little hands when cruising along.
  3. The styling – it’s grown up and classy. And gender neutral.

Overall

It’s a sound bike let down somewhat by the brakes. If you live somewhere a little less steep and technical, you can probably overlook this and you’ll have a bike for mixed surface rides that feels fast and climbs well.

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