Islabikes Creig 26 £599.99

Cross-country hardtail of choice for kids

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

The best kid’s mountain bike we’ve tested, the Islabikes Creig 26 has a impeccable performance with every detail designed with kids in mind. As well as a kid’s weight-friendly fork, it has short cranks for little legs, a short stem and low bar and great brakes. If your nipper is a real mountain bike nut – or you want them to be – this is the bike to put them on to grow and develop their skills.

The Creig 26 is the first high-end mountain bike from Islabikes, a specialist manufacturer of kids’ bikes. The company’s beenproducing versatile children’s bikes for a couple of years now – machines with rigid forks and carefully specced components that your nipper could use for mountain biking, cycling to school, touring or racing.

Ride & handling: spot-on for small riders

We tested it alongside several other kids mountain bikes and the Creig 26 quickly established itself as the most popular bike with our tester as soon as the rides were over. Not only does it look the part, but the ride quality was much better than anything else on test. While it’s a little heavier than the Specialized Hotrock A1 FS24 and comes in at a few pounds more than the Scott Scale RC JR, it’s still light and responsive enough for a child to really take to task on the trails.

When asked, our tester said that it “felt lighter” and “was a lot easier to move around underneath you” than the other bikes. He also added: “It was easier to corner on as well, because it took less strength to guide it on its line around the corner.”

This was picked as the most comfortable bike, too. “It didn’t seem as bumpy,” said our tester. We suspect that’s mostly due to the smooth and plush fork that eats up ripples rather than bouncing off bumps or floundering over them.

The bigger wheels also make a contribution to this smooth ride – they roll better and are more comfortable over bumps.

In addition, there were no issues with slower steering. The Creig 26 has a steeper head angle than the other bikes and has a comparable trail figure to 24in wheel bikes. Fork trail is dictated by head angle, fork offset and wheel size, and it’s a crucial element of bicycle steering. More trail gives a steadier bike with a tendency to go in a straight line, while less trail gives a bike with a more immediate steering response.

It’s hardly the cheapest child-specific bike you can buy, but if your kid enjoys mountain biking as much as you do, then this is the steed to put them on.

Frame: scaled down & light

The Creig is welded from traditional round tubes, with double-butted seat and down tubes. Tube diameters are modest, but they’re more than able to cope with kids’ weights and it keeps the frame light. There’s a plate gusset under the down tube to strengthen the vulnerable area behind the head tube and the bike’s fitted with a high-quality RockShox fork out front.

Proportionally the Creig 26 looks like it has unusually large wheels, because it fits a set of relatively large 26in wheels onto a child-size frame. The bottom bracket sits lower than on the Scott Scale, yet pedal strikes with the ground are less common because the Creig has shorter cranks.

The Creig has a lengthy top tube that completely eliminates toe overlap, but the bike’s short stem means this shouldn’t affect your kids’ ability to reach to the bars. Bar height is also good for youngsters due to the short head tube and low-rise bars.

The lightweight design of the Creig means that all extraneous eyelets and frame options are done away with, meaning that disc brake mounts, one set of bottle bosses and a pair of eyelets above the rear drop-outs are all it gets.

Equipment: standout fork eases growing pains

The standout component on the bike is the Rockshox Recon XC fork. Fitting an air fork on a kid’s bike makes sense because it’s easily and almost endlessly tunable for rider weight. Your child’s weight could increase by 50 percent over the lifespan of this bike (it’s designed for kids aged 9-13), so the facility to regularly tweak the fork is invaluable. You can also meaningfully adjust the Recon’s rebound and it’s damped as well.

We’ve no complaints with that SRAM X5 groupset either, and the fact that it pulls more cable than a Shimano drivetrain is useful because less finesse is required for accurate shifting, so it’ll take longer to get sloppy through ingressed grime or cable stretch. Another plus point is the cassette, which goes up to 34 teeth instead of 32. That makes hill climbing that bit easier for little legs.

Our tester rated the Juicy 3 hydraulic brakes the best on test here. Their responsive feel is coupled with levers that have been adjusted to bring them closer to the bars, meaning a child can grip and apply the brakes more easily.

The 26in wheels should roll better than the 24in offerings of other kids’ bikes because they’re bigger, while interchangeability with your own 26in wheels means that spares and upgrades are easier to sort out. The own-brand disc rims, hubs and Conti Explorer tyres are good, but you can go to town with weight-savings if you’ve got kit or cash to spare later.

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