Mirroring Sir Chris Hoy’s personal life — which has changed focus somewhat in recent years with the arrival of son Callum and daughter Chloe — the HOY bike range that bears his name has changed emphasis for 2018 and now centres purely on young riders.
We spoke to HOY designer and product manager Scott Decker, who led the refresh process, and find out how the brand has managed to produce some of the best — and lightest — children’s bikes on the market.
Just like Sir Chris, Scott Decker is an enthusiastic dad and has a very personal interest in making sure HOY bikes are the best they possibly can be.
“Being a parent you always want your children to have great experiences and get the most enjoyment out of life. Cycling played a huge part in how I had fun as a child and now I can see the same thing happening with my son when he rides his bike. What that means in terms of our approach to HOY bikes is that we know the result of our efforts will have a significant impact on children up and down the country, so they need to be the best possible bikes we can create,” Scott said.
The original HOY children’s range was released more than three years ago and were a revelation at the time, combining excellent child-specific geometry with the best selection of smaller-sized components then available, great value and — arguably, most importantly — high-street availability. In HOY’s kids’ range, the vast majority of British children had access to truly specialist, high-quality, size-specific bicycles, without their parents requiring specialist knowledge of where to buy them.
The weighting game
However, in the years since the release of that first range, the market for high-end children’s bikes has grown. Along with that, so has the availability of even better size-specific parts. Scott said that he and the HOY design team knew they could produce an improved selection of kids’ bikes, so decided to put the range through a thorough refresh process.
“Fit is always the most important aspect when it comes to any bike. But when it comes to kids’ bikes fit is even more crucial because, if a child’s bike doesn’t fit well, the experience could potentially put the rider off cycling for life. Luckily we already had a winning formula for the geometry of our bikes, so it meant we could focus on developments to reduce weight all based around the original fit,” Scott explained.
“As any ‘weight weenie’ cyclist will tell you, every gram saved is important, so we went for marginal gains when redesigning the HOY kids range. We developed some lighter components with our suppliers including hubs, seatposts and handlebars. We also used lower spoke-count wheels, lighter foam padding in the saddle and superlight inner tubes.
“Reducing the frame weight was one of the most time-consuming aspects of the new bikes, due to having to test the frames against ISO standards and producing a new frame each time. So we experimented with different tube diameters and wall thicknesses, alongside different alloys for their strength characteristics. After various rounds of testing we came up with a frame that uses a mix of 6061 and 6066 alloys in thinner tubing, which allows us to get the perfect combination of weight and strength. The final frames save us between 250-300g, which doesn’t sound like a lot but that’s between 3-5% of complete weight,” Scott said.
Focus on details
In terms of pure numbers alone, the results are impressive with the new HOY models’ complete bike weights being among the lightest on the market. But weight alone wasn’t the only reason for the refresh: the addition of new size-specific componentry also adds to a better overall ride quality.
“One of the best new size-specific components we have introduced is the crankset. This provides a narrower Q factor — which is the width between the two pedals. Imagine if you had a Harley Davidson where your feet are wide apart and then imagine if you had to pedal it, it would be pretty difficult! With a narrower gap between the pedals, the pedalling is efficient and therefore the child has a better cycling experience,” Scott said.
“Across the range we have also fitted size-specific saddles, crank lengths, handlebars, brake levers. These are all matched to the size of the rider and therefore help put the child in control at all times.”
There are also some quite advanced little details, normally only found on adults’ bikes. Internal cable routing is one such concept, which adds aesthetic and practical benefits to the rider, but also extra manufacturing difficulty when it comes to smaller frame sizes.
“It’s trickier to add these kinds of details to kids’ bikes and get them right, because the space you have to work with is smaller yet a cable is the same size. Another difficulty of children’s frame design is the gearing and chainline, because the rear cassette and chainring are so much closer than on an adult’s bike,” Scott said.
“But the most important thing is to understand how all these different aspects of the bike’s design will combine when the bike is ridden: a single aspect is never considered in isolation. A well-designed bike should provide an enjoyable experience for the rider from start to finish, without leaving any thoughts about the fit or function of parts.”
Putting it to the test
So how does Scott and the HOY team analyse the results of their work on these bikes? He quickly puts us right when we suggest it must be hard finding testers.
“Well, we definitely test ride these bikes ourselves — it’s a lot of fun riding around the warehouse on a children’s 16in bike! Luckily for proper test riding and evaluation we have a great panel of willing testers who are children of staff here at Evans. We have also built up 100s of customer reviews on our website, which we have used to feed in to the new bikes.”
And what is Scott most proud of with the new range? Fittingly, it’s something that feeds into the wider reasons for HOY’s refocus: the aim to provide children with a really great cycling experience from the start.
“I would say I’m most proud of the Bonaly 16in, which is the smallest bike in the range. Partly because it reminds me of my first little red bike which had one gear but also because it’s a proper bike for children having their first experience of riding. That first experience is pivotal to whether a child enjoys cycling and I feel this bike is the perfect to ensure it really will be enjoyable!”
To see the all-new refreshed 2018 range of HOY children’s bikes, click here.