Review: HOY Meadowmill 26
19 June 2016
When we tested HOY’s Cammo junior road bike we liked it a lot, but we wondered why HOY hadn’t made a more versatile road/cyclocross bike instead of a pure road bike. Now, though, say hello to the Meadowmill 26!
The Meadowmill 26 is HOY’s entrant into the highly competitive market for 26” wheel dual-purpose road/cyclocross bikes. These are often the first “proper” bikes that children will own, and we tested six of the best last year. They’re typically suited to children aged 8 to 11, depending upon their individual size.
Let’s see how HOY’s contender compares to leaders from Islabikes, Worx, Frog, Raleigh, Cuda and the rest.
|Product||HOY Meadowmill 26|
|Weight||9.0 kg / 19.8 lbs (without pedals)|
|Supplier||Evans Cycles – www.evanscycles.com|
1. About our test
2. About the bike
3. Geometry and fit
5. Frame and forks
6. Wheels and tyres
11. Customisation and upgrade
12. Service and support
13. Value for money and resale
We’re always looking for three things when reviewing a child’s bike: light weight; proportional design for children; and high quality. This is especially important for off-road riding and for cyclocross racing: here in particular a young rider needs to control the bike confidently and be as agile as possible.
The Meadowmill would probably be the only bike a rider would own, so we’re looking for easy adaptability for riding on the road, and for competing in Under 8 (Youth E), Under 10 (Youth D) and Under 12 (Youth C) circuit races.
A lot of the testing took place at a military base where there was a great mix of terrain: tarmac, gravel, mud and grass – a bit of everything.
The bike’s Schwalbe CX Pro cyclocross tyres were inflated to 30 psi, and it was fitted with a pair of double-sided SPD MTB pedals.
To gauge the size of the Meadowmill it might help you to know that our test rider in the photos is 1.4m tall, weighs 25kg, and is 11 years old.
As always, we weighed the bike without pedals and after removing its reflectors and bell.
HOY’s range is closely associated with Evans Cycles which is the sole distributor. Its bikes are designed by the highly-respected James Olsen who also designs Evans’s in-house Pinnacle brand. We’ve talked with James before about good bike design for children, and he approaches the work with great understanding. Our expectations of the Meadowmill 26’s design were high.
Straight away it’s clear that the Meadowmill has one or two differences to the other bikes in its class: the most obvious one is its very compact frame with a steeply sloping top tube (similar to a mountain bike). It looks like a baby “gravel bike” compared to a more traditionally styled bike like the Islabikes Luath 26.
The presence of V-brakes instead of cantilever brakes is the other most obvious difference. More on that later.
The bike looks very classy with subtle (almost invisibly so) HOY graphics on a stealthy, satin grey-black finish.
HOY Bikes had already got this right on the two previous models that we’ve tested (the Meadowbank track bike and the Cammo road bike) and the new Meadowmill was just as well-designed. Everything is proportionately sized for small riders: crank length, saddle size, handlebar size, and brake lever reach.
We always look at effective horizontal top tube length in particular. Along with the stand-over height it’s the dimension that truly determines the bike’s size.
These are the full measurements:-
|All dimensions in mm|
|Top tube (effective horizontal)||470|
|Top tube (actual)||455|
|Seat tube (centre-to-centre)||330|
|Seat tube (centre-to-top)||382|
|Handlebar width (centre-to-centre)||380|
The virtual horizontal top tube measurement of 470mm means the Meadowmill is marginally shorter than most of its competitors: 5mm shorter than the Islabikes Luath 26; 10mm shorter than the Juniorworx JA26 and Frog Road 70, and a whopping 30mm shorter than the Raleigh Performance 26.
Along with the bike’s low stand-over height (a result of its compact frame with a steeply sloping top tube) the short top tube helps make the Meadowmill suitable for children who aren’t quite tall enough for some of its rivals.
You can check out how the Meadowmill’s geometry compares with its competitors in our six-bike grouptest.
At 155mm long the cranks are fine for the rider of this size, although we’d have been even happier to see 145mm cranks which we think would be ideal.
Like all the bikes in this class the handlebars are very compact (i.e. very short reach and short drop). There’s a nice, small saddle and the brake levers/shifters are short-reach models from Microshift – a popular choice for young children’s small hands.
As usual, we weighed the bike without pedals, reflectors or bell. At 9.0 kg (19.8 lbs) the Meadowmill 26’s weight is very competitive, being marginally lighter than its rivals. Only the hugely more expensive (£1600) brand-new Islabikes Luath Pro 26 is appreciably lighter. Check out the weights of its competitors in our grouptest.
Of course, the smaller the child, the more important the bike’s weight. For example. consider that even at 9.0 kg the Meadowmill is 35% of the bodyweight of our test rider.
The Meadowmill’s aluminium frame is beautifully made with neat, smooth welds. Each of the frame’s main tubes is subtly-shaped for stiffness. The alloy fork is a workmanlike product, with more obvious welds.
Cables are internally routed within the frame which keeps things very neat, but at the expense perhaps of making cable replacement & maintenance a little more awkward.
We’re always pleased to see children’s bikes with the necessary clearance and frame fittings for mudguards, and happily the Meadowmill 26 is one of those bikes. These allow the bike to be used for winter riding without having to clean the rider’s clothes & shoes so often, and they keep the bike itself in much better condition too.
There are braze-on fittings for a single bottle cage, as you’d expect, plus fittings for a rear rack too.
No bike costing £450 in total is going to have very sophisticated wheels. We’re still looking for well-built wheels though, with double-wall rims, no excess weight, and reasonably smooth bearings. Although small riders with such low bodyweights don’t need super-strong wheels, junior road/CX bikes like the Meadowmill get some heavy-handed use as riders explore new skills.
The bike is supplied with the ubiquitous 26 x 1.35 Schwalbe CX Pro knobbly tyres. At 35mm wide these are very comfortable off-road when run at a low pressure, and they have great grip on mud and grass. For road riding or circuit racing, though, fit 23/25mm road tyres instead. This instantly turns the Meadowmill 26 from a cyclocross bike into a road bike.
The Weinmann SP17 double-wall rims aren’t light but they look very strong, also being used for 26” wheel mountain bikes. There are 32 spokes front and rear but we think 28 spokes would be plenty for this kind of bike.
Taiwanese Joytech hubs are a popular choice on bikes of this value. They have simple cup and cone bearings as you’d expect with budget hubs.
We really believe that a double chainset is unnecessary on 26” wheel bikes intended for such young children. A single chainring specification is much simpler to use and to understand, saves significant weight (especially as you can remove the heavy left-hand gear-shifter and the front derailleur). A single-ring set-up still offers all the gear ratios needed when combined with a wide-ratio cassette.
So we were disappointed that HOY has specified a double chainset on the Meadowmill 26. It’s the sole aspect of the bike’s design and specification that we would disagree with.
HOY has fitted Taiwanese 110BCD five-arm Lasco cranks which use a simple square-taper bottom bracket. This is almost a universal specification on children’s bikes like this. At 155 mm the crank length is well-chosen for the size of rider.
The two chainrings have 46/34 teeth – again, nothing unusual here. Combined with the 11-32 teeth 8-speed cassette that gives a useful wide range of gear ratios. There’s a little cost shaved from the cassette as it’s from Sunrace rather than SRAM or Shimano.
The front and rear derailleurs are both top-quality though, coming from Shimano’s excellent 8-speed Claris groupset.
HOY breaks away from Shimano when it comes to the integrated brake lever / gear-shifters which are short reach versions of Microshift’s R8 model. We’ve tested several bikes previously using Microshift’s system which has a brake lever, a separate gear lever tucked behind it to change to a large sprocket, and a small button-like lever to shift to a smaller sprocket. In our experience most children really like the Microshift system and its ergonomics for their small hands. Good choice, HOY.
HOY has broken away from convention here. While all its competitors use traditional cyclocross cantilever brakes, the Meadowmill 26 has been fitted with Tektro Mini-V brakes. V-brakes have the reputation of being a little easier to adjust than cantilevers, and many people believe that they are more powerful as well as having better “feel”.
However, in practical usage on bikes like the Meadowmill 26 there’s no functional difference between the two varieties. One thing that became rather irritating, though, is that the front brake doesn’t open up enough to remove the 35mm wide tyre when the quick-release mechanism is engaged. So, every time we needed to remove the front wheel from the bike we had to deflate the tyre completely, and then pump it up again after the wheel had been refitted.
Using V-brakes means that the front brake cable routing is much less tight than with cantilevers which need a cable hanger fitted – that can lead to crowded handlebars and a cable action that quickly loses its smoothness.
On the other hand, though, we were very pleased that HOY hadn’t followed the crowd by specifying “cross-top” levers (also known as “interrupter levers”). When these levers are fitted many children starting out tend to use them instead of learning to use the main brake levers. There’s much less steering control when using cross-top brake levers (because such a narrow grip is needed) and there’s less braking power & control too.
The short-reach Microshift brake levers are a great size for small hands.
The high standard of “finishing kit” components on junior HOY Bikes has always been a strength, and the Meadowmill 26 is just as strong here as the Meadowbank and Cammo that we’ve tested previously.
There’s nice attention to detail for a bike that costs well under £500. For example, we like the handlebar-end plugs secured by Allen bolts – it would have been all too easy for HOY just to shove in cheap press-fit plastic end plugs instead.
The matching 70 mm handlebar stem, seatpost and 380 mm wide handlebars are all well finished and they wouldn’t look out of place on an adult bike costing three times the price.
HOY has produced a proper scaled-down junior saddle, with the same narrow design as adult road saddles rather than the overly soft, too-wide junior saddles that some competitors fit.
Our skilful tester felt at home on the Meadowmill 26 immediately – she was soon throwing the bike around, jumping it over obstacles, and cornering it hard.
We think the ultra-compact frame geometry with its steeply sloping top tube helps here, making the rider agile on the bike in the same way that they are on a MTB.
Gears and brakes worked flawlessly and with a light action, as you’d expect.
The Meadowmill is just as happy on the road as off-road, like all good 26” wheel dual-purpose road/cyclocross bikes.
The Meadowmill can be ridden and raced straight out of the box. Just fit road tyres and the bike becomes highly versatile.
There’s really no reason to upgrade the Meadowmill, especially give the age of its riders and the bike’s typically usage – it’s already everything that a young rider needs. And because it has 26” wheels there’s no point in a child nagging Mum or Dad to borrow their own fancy full-size 700c wheels!
Like all HOY bikes the Meadowmill 26 is available only through Evans Cycles. It can be bought in-store or via their online shop. The try-before-you-buy and 30-day-return policies make the Meadowmill a low-risk purchase.
All components are standard so the bike would be very easy to service at home, but any good bike shop would be able to look after it for you.
At £450 the Meadowmill falls right in the middle of the price range for 26” wheel road/CX bikes. Current promotions make the Frog Road 70 and Raleigh Performance Road 26 RRP £60 to £70 cheaper than the HOY. At the time of writing, though, the Raleigh can be found much cheaper still through online retailers.
The Islabikes Luath 26 costs the same as the Meadowmill, whilst the Cuda Performance CP26R costs just £10 more.
The Juniorworx JA26 is available direct from Worx for £495, while Trek’s rare KRX tops the lot at £650. Way up high is the exotic new Islabikes Luath 26 Pro, of course, at £1600, but that’s not competing with any of these others for the same sale.
Not many HOY children’s bikes have appeared yet on the second-hand market so resale value is hard to judge. The few Cammos, Meadowbanks and Bonalys that have come up for sale have lost significantly more of their original value than a Luath does. Evans has occasionally discounted the bikes’ new price considerably, which makes a new sale very attractive but undermines the second-hand value of course.
That said, quality used 26” wheel road/CX bikes are always sought-after, and a well cared for Meadowmill is likely to be easy to sell and worth more than a used Meadowbank track bike or Cammo road bike.
The quality and agility of the Meadowmill 26 are outstanding. The bike’s spec is great, it’s as light as any competitor, and it’s a fair price too. And if styling matters to you, the HOY is very strong there too.
Downsides? Very few – primarily just the presence of double chainrings and the unnecessary complexity and weight that comes with them.