If you are thinking of buying your child a bike, you must read this. I know that sounds like an exaggeration but its true.
If you don’t know about bikes, you are likely to go to your local high street shop and buy a fun looking character bike, and why not?
Here are a few reasons why.
They are heavy. I don’t mean just for us as parents but for children to ride. They are quite hard to maneuverer, hard work to pedal and it’s unlikely that your child will be able to ride it on anything other than a good pavement. I’ve nannied for lots of children with just this type of bike and they are really hard work for them. Just getting them to be able to turn the pedals and get moving is a chore.
I spoke to Dave Burns of I Want To Ride My Bike, Harrogate, who teaches children and adults to ride and he confirmed that:
Some of the high street bikes are ridiculous… from high gearing, weight, grips, brake reach, weight!! Did I mention weight, chunky heavy tyres…it would be like us as adults riding a 100lb bike..crazy indeed. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule – lots of children have learnt to ride on these bikes but if you would like your child to be able to ride as soon as possible or to be able to manage grass, you need to look at different bikes.
A balance bike is the best place to start. I wrote about how I taught my son to ride a bike, without stabilisers at 3 years old (he never used them) and he started out on one at 2 years old.
Sarah, from Dunfries and Galloway, Scotland told me
we’ve just bought an Islabike Rothan for our daughter for Xmas she’s 2 1/2. Many of our friends have bought balance bikes and think we’re splashing out, but for us Islabike seemed the perfect choice. Main reason is that we are a family who are into bikes and have a love for the outdoors- therefore we want to start our girls off young with the best experience using the best kit we can afford. We have two girls (A 2 1/2 and B 10months) so see it as an investment as we will get double use out of it and the resale value should be pretty decent too. I also liked that the bike has added features, such as being super light, yet robust, no sharp bits (for when my little girl falls off- she will she’s the daring type), the back break, and anti jack knife which is a major plus.
One thing to remember, that a gentleman wrote in an Islabike Facebook group that I thought was such a god comparison:
I find it mildly comical how many people who describe an Islabike as “ridiculously expensive” will spend far more than I would on their cars, smartphones, big TVs and channels, games consoles and holidays.
There is a wonderful choice of really good bikes now that wasn’t available 5 or 10 years ago so the premium might be harder to justify for some but they are still the benchmark for children’s bikes.
After he had mastered his balance bike, I then bought Bear one of these character bikes that I’m talking about – a Fireman Sam one but I soon realised that compared to his friend, he had it much harder. His friend was cycling so effortlessly where as my little man was pedalling away like billio. Our street has ‘green’ area’s and Bear was just coming to a stall whereas his friend zoomed off. His friend had an IslaBike and I decided to invest and Bear (literally) never looked back.
Now, my son has outgrown his first Islabike, a Cnoc 14, and it’s time to move to a 20″ bike. I’m a single Mum and I don’t have a lot of money and the Yorkshire in me saw me on eBay, trying to buy a second hand bike. I was stuck in a quandary. I knew that I could sell the Islabike for a decent price which could then buy him a larger second hand Islabike (they have an excellent resell value which was a big part of the justification in buying one) but I couldn’t clean up and service the first one as he’s always on it, come rain or shine and I didn’t have enough spare cash to just buy one.
I decided that he could ride a bike so well that surely, he could now cope with a cheaper bike. Yes they are heavier but no matter, he was a strong boy.
The shape of the frame meant that the seat wouldn’t go low enough for him to put more than a toe or two down on the floor and be confident on it, despite being the ‘right’ size for it. He could ride it if I held him when he started and stopped but it was so hard for him to turn the pedals. It was like he was in slow motion. When he tried to turn on the grass, it was just so hard.
I just thought he needed to grow a little and so he stayed on his Cnoc 14. We kept trying but things weren’t changing despite everyone else’s opinion that he is a very strong boy.
It’s hard when your child is 4 years old but can ride a bike like a 6 or 7 year old, or if they want to keep up with their friend’s. I soon realised that I had to go back to an Islabike. They are just so good but don’t take it from just me.
Emmahw36 on Instagram commented on my picture of Bear and his new bike:
I have this bike for Erin, she couldn’t ride (high street) bikes, they were too heavy, but with 5 mins she was off on this!
I asked Dave Burns about his thoughts on Islabikes.
with regards Islabikes they are simply the best you can buy…some very good close copies out there but the kids just love the Islabikes…
..(I)..have got kids riding in minutes, sometimes seconds, on an Islabike where a parent has struggled for months even years…
….Islabikes for the win as they have been designed from the ground up by someone who has actually met a child.
It’s not a simple as it sounds – Islabikes have painstakingly researched and designed all of their bikes to be perfect for children and indeed adults. The founder, Isla Rowntree has researched children’s growth patterns and understands that as children grow, their proportions do not stay the same and so each bike is designed slightly differently, in order to match these changes / distributions in weight etc. Some of the details that make Islabikes different are:
Beinns come with some fantastic exclusive components. Pedals designed to contact the rider’s shoe at the perfect angle to set off. Lightweight aluminium size-specific chainsets custom-made for little legs. A two-sided chainguard to keep clothes safe and clean. All Beinns feature an ultra-narrow distance between the pedals known as a low Q-factor. This allows Beinn riders’ feet to touch the ground without fuss, pedal comfortably and lean over in a corner without clipping the pedal.
I had to face facts that no other bike would give him back his biking freedom and so with the help of Islabikes we decided on the Beinn 20 s. It seems like such a bigger bike, and it is, but when it arrived, I noticed that it’s seat, at the lowest height, is only a few cm’s higher than the cnoc14 at it’s highest. That was a big relief to me as Bear particularly needs to feel very stable in order to be confident.
It has 7 gears which worried me a little at first – what if he just messed about with them and had an accident but we chatted about them, I explained when and where to use them and how and he was really good. I also realised that if he couldn’t manage them straight away, as he is only 4, the he could just keep it in a middle gear and ignore them for now.
When the bike arrived, it came with the front wheel off and no pedals. I managed, on my own, with a camera in my hand, to put it all together, adjust settings and tighten it all up, in about 15 minutes. It could have been quicker. That’s not bad going if you ask me!
We have a small house but as it was pitch black on a December’s evening, I allowed Bear to have a go on it. He instantly climbed on and was off riding across the room. No messing, no issues.
It was a long week for him, waiting for Saturday morning so that we could take his bike up to the practice track at Sutton Bank, on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors.
Finally, the day arrived and as expected, we were up at the top of the bank as the sun rose. He started on the pavement and I told him to just try changing gears, one at a time, up and down and to just feel it. I don’t know if I did it right but I just gave lots of encouragement, a few tips and let him practice. He was very soon off and on to the skills track. It’s not the most testing of tracks but he really enjoys it, there are lots of different textures, steps, humps and turns.
He went round a few times in a hard gear- 7 I think and I reminded him to try a different number and see how it felt. He soon realised that he didn’t have to work so hard and tried other gears.
I was so impressed that he managed to get the hang of the bike. I know he has a way to go to really manage them and make the most of them but he completely overcame my worries about having a bike with gears and I am so glad that we chose this model. Islabikes say:
Children love changing gears, and the ability to spin at different speeds and efforts will allow them to do far more with their bike. We fit highly intuitive SRAM Grip Shift controls to the Beinn, so a rider just twists the grip to change gear. Meanwhile our modern wide-ratio cassettes provide a nicely-spaced and broad selection of gears.
There is nothing negative that I can think of to say about Islabikes. Of course, some people think Bloggers will say anything whether it’s true or not, but actually, no. I approached Islabikes. They, to my knowledge, have not worked with many non specialist cycling bloggers in the UK. They weren’t looking for advertising.
I am often asked about Bear’s bike. So many people are amazed at how well he can ride and when they see him racing over fields with our labrador at his side, they stop me to tell me how fabulous it is, that he’ll be in the next Olympics and where did his bike come from as their children / grandchildren struggle on the pavement? I wax lyrically about the company and wanted to share the secret with more people so that they and their children can experience the joy that we feel.
Watch this video to see the difference between my son on his high street bike and his new Islabike. He wasn’t wearing a helmet when I first began to film and I regret this very much. Wearing a helmet is of the upmost importance to me and as soon as I twigged, I rectified it immediately. Sorry for that. We all make mistakes and this one won’t happen again. I couldn’t not post the footage though and he honestly refused to get back on to the bike again. He was almost in tears at the thought of struggling on it and I couldn’t make him just for a youtube video.
This video shows him on our local skills track, using his gears for the very first time. Remember he’s only 4 years old.
And if you are considering an Islabike but are daunted by the fact that it won’t arrive fully assembled, here’s a video of Bear and I putting it together. It’s easy.
I hope that you’ve found this useful and can feel the passion I have for these bikes.
Disclosure: All thoughts and words are as always, my own