Many big bike companies offer kids' bikes, and some of the better ones have improved the ergonomics of children's machines. But a company that focuses exclusively on kids' bikes is virtually unheard of. Enter Islabikes, a UK brand that has done exactly that for the last few years. The company will make its US debut next week, with 11 models ranging from a no-pedal balance bike up to junior road and mountain bikes.
Islabikes was founded by Isla Rowntree, one of the few female designers in the industry and an accomplished lifelong racer and rider. Rowntree's focus with Islabikes has been on ergonomics and light weight.
Every Islabike, including the tiny balance bikes, come with adjustable, micro-reach aluminum brake levers and pneumatic tires.
The CNOC 16 has a lightweight aluminum frame and wheels, plus micro-reach brake levers
The bikes also have narrow pedal width (Q factor) that is appropriate for smaller bodies.
"Not many people notice that," Rowntree said of the Q factor issue. "I had to open new molds for seven new crankset lengths to overcome that one."
Besides the Q factor, and appropriate-sized hand brakes, another hurdle common to kids bikes is the weight; children's machines often weigh nearly as much as the kid riding it. Islabikes addresses this with lightweight aluminum frames and wheels. The balance bike weighs 7.7lbs and the 20-inch Beinn weighs 17.3lbs, for example.
Pneumatic tires and a tiny brake lever? Check
The US and the UK have differing laws on kids bikes, so there are some differences in the product across the Atlantic.
"The Cnoc 14 and 16 will both have coaster brakes as the US standards require these on all sidewalk bicycles," said Tim Goodall of Islabikes. "The bikes will still have the front lever operated brake with our exclusive micro reach aluminum lever, as this will help familiarize children with hand brakes before moving onto a bike without a coaster brake."
Also, the Creig 24 and 26 won’t initially be available in the US.
The bikes range in price from $189 for the balance bike, up through $269 for the CNOC 16 singlespeed, to $600 for the LUATH 700 junior road bike. For now, at least, the bikes only come in red.
For a complete look at the Islabikes range, check out the company's website.