Islabikes are produced by former British national champion and medallist Isla Rowntree. With experience in all forms of cycling and extensive experience in bike design and frame building the brand is well known and respected. They offer a fantastic range of bikes from toddler to adulthood.
We have been lucky enough to have an Islabike Luath (meaning swift, quick, speedy in Gaelic) on long term test. At £549.99 the Luath is not the cheapest bike in its category so it needed to impress…..
After checking the detailed sizing chart on the website and an email exchange it was decided the small would be the best fit for both my 13 year old daughter and 11 year old son. This is an 18 inch frame with 700cc wheels. Islabikes also offer bikefits in their studio in Ludlow and tour around the country to various events (details on their website) so you can try before you buy if you are unsure of the size or model required.
The bike arrived well packaged and almost ready to ride. We all loved the beautiful red paintwork and I was delighted to find both the frame and wheels lighter than anticipated. (Official weight including pedals 9.9Kg).
The tyres were already inflated, the rear wheel in situ, brakes and gears adjusted perfectly so that all I needed to do was turn and tighten the handlebars, put on the pedals, insert the front wheel, fasten the front brake and adjust the saddle height. The brilliant instructions and good quality allen keys meant assembly was super easy and the bike ready to ride in less than 30 minutes! I am confident any parent would be able to safely follow the instructions with ease.
The frame is lightweight aluminium with proportional geometry specific to the young rider and the sloping top tube gives good stand over clearance. The fork is cro-moly with mudguard and rack eyes. This bike has been designed for both road and off road/touring use and would be more than suitable for cross racing with a change of tyres. This flexibility in a youth’s bike is fantastic and keeps their riding options open.
The Tektro cantilever brakes are ideal as they shouldn’t get as clogged up as caliper brakes and the additional top mount brakes are brilliant for safety and confidence and great for small hands.
There is good clearance for bigger cyclo-cross style tyres and mud and leaves collected on route.
Adjustable Shimano Claris STI levers provide the 8-speed transmission with an 11-32 cassette combined with a 46/34 crankset. The shifting is crisp and effortless, the range is great for young legs with a granny gear of 32 for the hills and the shifters can be adjusted for little hands. Flat Wellgo metal pedals are provided.
The 38cm handlebars are well proportioned with a shallow drop that is more comfortable and easy for small hands and the 60mm stem makes the reach comfortable, these are finished off with anti slip bar tape.
The quick release wheels are Islabikes-branded double-wall alloy rims, black anodised with machined sidewalls and integrated wear-indicator groove. The hubs are smooth and the wheels feel strong yet light for a child’s bike.
Lightweight 23mm Kenda Kontenders tyres are supplied; these have a light tread and are good all purpose tyres that should work all year round. In 6 months of use, on a variety of surfaces and in all weather conditions, we only had one puncture.
An Islabikes-branded saddle tops the aluminium seatpost, with a well portioned racy shape it is lightweight, looks good and there were no complaints from our young testers.
Both children jumped on the bike with no hesitation and felt both stable and fast. The ride to school was significantly quicker. They quickly grasped the gear changes and had no issues reaching the brakes. It took a few minutes to gain the confidence to look over their shoulder properly and relax enough that the bars didn’t turn too much as the front end is much lighter than their current mountain bikes, but once this was cracked one handed riding quickly followed as did expertly moving from the tops to hoods to drops. Riding in the park led to smiles and whoops of joy as they confidently descended in full control.
Being not much bigger than them myself I was keen to try it too, and although not comparable to my usual steed, it certainly didn’t feel like a typical, heavy child’s bike. It felt solid yet responsive, planted yet light, comfortable over the rough road surface and the tyres feel grippy and safe in the corners. The gear changes were smooth, braking was smooth and efficient and I struggled to find fault with anything.
Delivery is free; there is a 90 day free return policy and a 5 year guarantee. Every tiny detail has been well thought out resulting in a bike that is well designed, rides beautifully, looks good, is flexible, practical and built to last. The perfect bike for under the Christmas tree!