Review: First impressions of the Squish 18 kids bike

We’ve been very excited at Cycle Sprog for two reasons. Firstly, we’ve taken delivery of our first ever 18” wheel kids bike (I know – it’s not a wheel size that you tend to equate with lightweight, well specified kids bikes). Secondly, it comes in the form of a Squish Bike – a new entrant into the lightweight kids bike market. Exciting times!!! So, without further ado, here is the first part of our Squish 18 review  – first impressions only at this point.

Squish Bikes review - the Squish 18 is an 18" wheel kids bike

Who are Squish Bikes?

A good question! Squish Bikes are a new brand from Tandem Group Cycles, who also own the Dawes and Claud Butler ranges. They’re Birmingham based and do all their design and development work here in the UK.

We’d read Squish Bikes promotional claims to be light weight, good quality and fun to ride, but we’ve been reserving judgement until we could actually get our hands on a Squish bike to review.

The price points on the Squish Bikes seem very competitive indeed, and they have been designed to be a more affordable light weight bike than the Dawes Academy. The Squish bikes range in size and price from a 14″ wheel bike (£210) through to a 26″ wheel bike with two frame size options (£300). The Squish 18 comes in at £240.

Is there a need for an 18″ wheel kids bike?

None of the other players in the lightweight kids bike market currently do an 18″ wheel bike. So, why have Squish taken the step of releasing this bike?  I asked them and this was the answer I got:

“The 18” is a great stop gap for kids jumping up from a 16” to a 20”, and also those jumping from a 14” that are a bit too tall for a 16”.  More sizes simply offers better choice and a better fit“.

It will be interesting to see how this size kids bike sells, and whether we’ll see other brands following their example over the coming year or so.

First impressions of the Squish 18 

Because we live a fair way from a major conurbation we don’t have a Squish bike dealer close by.  We therefore received the Squish 18 review bike via courier.

As you can imagine we’ve taken delivery of a fair few bikes in boxes over the years, and I have to say we were really impressed with the way the Squish 18 was packaged. This wasn’t just a bike ‘stuffed’ into a box.

The frame tubes were double protected with both foam and cardboard. The front wheel was removed for packing but came with a cardboard disc over the spokes to stop any rubbing issues. A nice touch was that sections of inner tube had been used to protect the cranks. For a bike at this price point, it may have been tempting to cut corners on packaging, so this was a good start.

Lifting the bike from the box the lightness of the triple butted alloy frame is evident – this certainly isn’t a hunk of steel that will be difficult for a child to ride. In fact, it’s a real featherweight coming in at 6.96kg.

As we removed the layers of protection, the Squish 18 began to reveal itself to us.  The paint work is deep and glossy and the design very pleasing. The Squish branding is a little person called Squish, who features on the headset, along with bright, fun sploshes of paint, which we feel will appeal to the younger age range.

The bike was reasonably simple for Chris (a seasoned bike assembler) to put together, with a few caveats mentioned below that wouldn’t be a problem if buying in store. The bike doesn’t come with an assembly manual – the owners manual assumes you’ve bought a fully assembled bike.

The Squish Bike 18″ wheel review 

Bikes are built to compete at a certain price point, and to achieve this manufacturers choose components such as wheels, chainsets, seatposts, stem and handlebars, very carefully indeed.

Obviously the proof of any bike is how it will perform out on the paths, roads and trails, and whether it will withstand being passed on down to siblings and friends. As Squish Bikes are a new brand, we can’t comment on performance until our reviewer has had the bike for a while. However, we can give you our ‘first look’ opinion of the bike, and it goes something like this:

Squish Bike frame

The triple butted alloy frames are sprayed and then lacquered, which gives a lovely shiny finish to the bike.  The paint is deep and glossy and the lacquer should allow your child to adorn with stickers and not damage the frame.

Squish Bikes branding - the Squish 18 is blue and lime green

On that topic, perhaps the most important bit for any young cyclists reading this review is that Squish Bikes come with a sticker sheet!!!   This probably doesn’t cause as much excitement by the time you’re buying a 24” wheel bike, but for younger children this is a great idea – they can decorate their bike frame or their bedroom door with the little gender neutral character called Squish.

The only small niggle we have is that the head badge is a squidgy vinyl Squish which doesn’t sit particularly tight against the frame at the edges. It will be interesting to see how this stays on the bike after being rained on and vigorously scrubbed during a wash down.

The 18″ wheel Squish bike currently only comes in the bright blue with lime green decals which, it has to be said, is a fantastic colour combination.  Squish inform us they will be releasing a different, lighter colour in spring 2018.

Other bike sizes have different colour ranges – all of them bright and marketed as unisex kids bikes.

Cheap 18" wheel kids bike - the Squish 18

Brakes on the Squish 18

The Tektro brakes are designed for small hands and can be easily adjusted to ensure that your child can brake safely. Your local bike shop can do this if you’re getting the bike fitted in store. If you’re buying for a surprise Christmas present, or online, it’s an easy adjustment to make at home if your child has smaller or larger hands than average.

In typical Tektro fashion, the brakes proved effective when applied with good stopping power, no noise and no fuss.

Child proportioned brake levers on the Squish Bikes 18" wheel kids bikes

Seat tube and saddle

The seat tube on our Squish 18 came pre-applied with thick grease to stop it seizing up – a nice touch. It’s not quick release, so you might want to take a suitable hex key with you when out riding to make those ‘on the fly’ adjustments. Plus, you just need to turn your back and your child seems to grow!

Unfortunately the hex keys supplied with the bike don’t fit the 4mm bolt on the seat post, so you will have to use your own if you’re assembling the bike and then for future adjustments (if buying in store ask them to supply a 4mm allen/hex key for the seat post).

If you’re buying the Squish 18 mail order from Tredz, I’ve checked and all their bikes are supplied with a 9-piece multi-tool, which has a 4mm hex key on it.   If you’re buying else where, you may need to get yourself a handy pocket sized bike multitool – an invaluable piece of kit!

Multitools come in all sizes and prices, but the Topeak Hexus II is a bargain for the quality and tools it offers.

Topeak Hexus 2 multitool

 

=> Available at Tredz for £15.99

 

The saddle is of child sized proportions, and is decorated with the Squish “splosh” of paint.

Squish Bikes Saddle - on the Squish 18 kids bike

Squish bike wheels

The 18″ wheels spin freely and fast. Alloy rims with cnc machined rims for braking are matched to alloy hubs by Quando; it’s comforting to see a named brand widely used throughout the industry. A hollow axle and Hex key (Allen key) fixing bolts attach the front wheel to the Squish 18 – a simple and neat solution not seen on cheap, heavy kids bikes. Just remember to take your multitool or hex keys with you in case of a puncture!

Front wheel of the Squish 18 childs bike

At the rear, there is a solid axle that is slightly over standard length to allow stabilisers to be fitted. But not everybody wants to fit stabilisers? It’s okay, the guys at Squish have it covered as the Squish 18 comes with black plastic protectors that slip onto the axle nuts and cover everything up neatly.

The rear axles on the Squish 18 kids bike are solid to allow you fit stabilisers if needed

However, a word of warning – we struggled to remove these black caps. There was no movement at all when we tried to loosen by hand, and a token effort when attempting to prise off with a knife. They didn’t fit the spanner tool supplied with the bike either. Finally pliers were found, and these did the trick easily.  We mention this, as you’d need to take off the caps to remove the wheel to fix a puncture – so worth thinking how you would get the caps off  if needed when out and about. Alternatively, you could leave them off.

Applying a liberal amount of grease to the inside surface should help and refitting them a couple of times may work, else take a small pair of pliers with you if you’re doing any adventurous cycling.  Also make sure you’re carrying a tool to release both axle types (the tools supplied with the bike is fine).

18″ tyres – an unusual size!

The tyres on Squish Bikes are  18″ x 1.5″ small blocks – they look to be grippy enough for grass and gravel but not too fat and chunky to be a hindrance on the road.

The 14″ and 16” Squish bikes both use Kenda tyres, but interestingly, all the larger sizes, including the 18”, use the Tandem Groups own brand “Cadence” tyres. They opened tooling for these exclusive tyres in 2013 when developing the Dawes Academy range (when it was much more difficult to get hold of Kenda 1.5” width tyres).  We’ve been reliably informed that the Cadence tyres are designed to be as light as possible, whilst maintaining optimum grip and performance. We’re going to be awaiting the verdict of our tester as to how they perform – we’ve got high hopes as the tyres were designed for a bike with a higher price point!

Tyres on the Squish 18 are small block so should be ideal for all surfaces

Gears on the Squish 18

The Squish 18 a single speed kids bike, so firmly aimed at younger riders stepping up from 16” wheel bikes but not wanting or ready for the complexity that gears bring.

The Squish 18 is a single speed kids bike with 18" wheels

As time progresses, it would be good to see if Squish release a geared version of the 18″ wheel bike for those children ready for gears but not quite big enough to handle a 20” wheel bike – this is a current gap in the quality kids bike market.

Pedals and reflectors

The pedals are plastic bodied so aren’t too heavy – they rotate well and have grippy plastic pins for traction during wet weather.

Pedals on the Squish 18 junior bike

Our bike came in a box and needed the pedals fitting, but before doing that we greased the threads to stop them from seizing into the cranks as this isn’t a fun way to spend time should you wish to remove them. The pedals came without grease on the threads, so we recommend you grease these up yourself if you’re assembling at home. If you’re picking it up from a reputable bike shop, then they’ll have this sorted.

The reflectors and bell require a pozi-drive (crosshead) screwdriver to install. These items are really worth fitting as they help raise awareness to others that your child is on their bike.

Is the Squish Bikes 18″ wheel kids bike good value for money?

In our opinion of having a first look at the Squish 18, then we’d say yes, it’s definitely good value for money. Firstly, this is a wheel size that the other quality bike manufacturers aren’t yet catering for, so if you’re looking for a well specified, lightweight 18″ wheel bike, then this is your only choice.

Secondly, Squish bikes in general are very competitively priced compared to their rivals in the lightweight bike market. We’ve been impressed with the quality of the frame and components and the thought that has gone into the design of the bike. There are a few little niggles, such as the lack of a Hex key to secure the seat post, but these are really very minor.

Of course – the real test is going to be how this bike performs over a period of time. Our 6 year old tester has now got the bike, and she’s going to be putting it through its paces over the next few months. We’ll be doing a follow up post in a few months time when we can give you a detailed review as to how the Squish 18 performs. If you sign up for our newsletter you’ll be the first to know when this is completed.

Squish 18 review – the final verdict

We were really impressed with this bike – it would be a great choice for a taller child who is too big for a 16″ wheel bike but isn’t ready to make the jump up to 20″ wheels and the complexity of gears.  Those not confident with allen keys should buy from a local dealer who will assemble the bike for you.

Where can I buy Squish Bikes?

Squish Bikes are sold through a network of local bike shops, which is great as you can try sizings before you buy, and support your local independent bike shop at the same time.

===>  CHECK IF YOUR LOCAL BIKE SHOP STOCKS SQUISH BIKES

However, if like us, you don’t live close to a Squish Bikes stockist, then you can also buy online at Tredz Bikes, who offer free UK delivery plus a free mutlitool (with 4mm allen key). They will also give Cycle Sprog readers a £10 discount if you use the code SNG7NYG2 at the checkout.

===> BUY THE SQUISH 18 AT TREDZ BIKES AND ENTER CODE AT CHECKOUT

Squish Bikes Review - the Squish 18 single speed cheap kids bike with 18" wheels

Cycle Sprog have been provided with the Squish 18 kids bike for review by Tandem Group Cycles.

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