by Holly Seear | Dec 5, 2016
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!
by Holly Seear | Nov 3, 2016
Etixx started making sports nutrition products in 2009 and there are 23 different products including energy drinks, energy gels, energy bars, recovery shakes, recovery bars, vitamins and supplements such as HMB in the range.
The name Etixx comes from the word ethical and they test all batches of product against the WADA list and guarantee they do not contain any banned substances.
I tried the Etixx Energy Bar in Lemon Flavour with added magnesium and the Triple Action Energy Gel with electrolytes and vitamin C in Lime Flavour.
The energy bar contains 29g of carbohydrate in a 40g bar, so very similar to other bars on the market in terms of carbohydrate content, but also contains added magnesium (56mg per bar which is around 15% of recommended daily intake) shown to improve energy production and muscle function. The recommendation is 1-2 bars per hour of endurance sport, which is in line with British Cycling guidelines that suggest around 60g of carbohydrate per hour.
The bar has an oaty base with a lemon ‘yoghurt’ style topping. The base is quite dry and would be difficult to chew and swallow on its own I think, but the lemon top makes it much easier to digest and has a pleasant, but very sweet, lemon flavour.
The packaging was robust, but easy to open with teeth mid ride and the bars survived extremes of temperatures and didn’t crumble making them easy to hold and eat whilst riding.
The bars contain gluten, lactose and soya so may not be suitable for those with intolerances. They are also available in chocolate flavour.
They retail at £1.99 per bar or you can try all 3 bars Etixx offer in a trial pack for £5 or find some good deals in the combination packages with energy drinks and gels.
The gels are 40g with 24g of carbohydrate and can be taken without water, but if you consume with 350ml of water they effectively become an isotonic beverage according to Etixx. The electrolytes in the gel help replace those lost in sweat and vitamin C is also included (40 mg) to help support energy production and protect cells from oxidative damage. A variety of sugars are used in the gel therefore releasing energy at different speeds, so you get both the instant hit as well as the longer term energy supply. Again 2 per hour are recommended.
Having tried lots of gels over the years I would say these were average consistency, certainly not runny and super easy to swallow, but equally not ‘chewy’ and an effort to get down! On first taste they reminded me of cough mixture!
At £2.49 a gel they are towards the high end price point, but if you buy a mixed box of 18 you get 15% discount.
It is worth signing up for the Etixx newsletter which has some great offers and often contains useful nutritional advice. The website also contains specific advice for different sports and a great blog.
7/10 overall with 8/10 for the bar with the zingy lemon, but 6/10 for the slightly medicinal tasting gel
Does What it Says on the pack
8/10 great fuel for riding with the added benefits of magnesium and vitamin C
7/10 for buying individually, but some brilliant deals on the website and via the newsletter
9/10 Etixx have a superb range of products covering everything you will ever need for cycling and other sports
Easy to Eat
8/10 the products are a good size, easy to open and easy to eat on the move.
by Holly Seear | Jul 29, 2016
I only discovered this route this year. It is a 50 mile route originally used by Tudor shipbuilders to transport wood from Alice Holt Forest in North Hampshire to the Portsmouth Dockyards.
It is suitable for mountain bikes, cyclocross bikes or hybrids with off road tyres and is predominantly bridleway, cyclepath and permissive paths. The route begins next to Bentley station with an undulating path through Alice Holt Forest. Most the route is flat or gently undulating, but
there is a tough climb where the route joins the South Downs Way and climbs steeply up to Queen Elizabeth Country Park. On leaving the park you encounter another steep gravel climb, but once you descend from the South Downs Way the route is downhill or flat to the coast. (Total elevation gain for the complete route is 2200 ft).
Most the route is through beautiful Hampshire countryside, but the last section into Portsmouth is not as pleasant as predominantly cycle path next to, or under the main roads so if you chose to only do a shorter section pick the earlier sections.
There are plenty of options for refreshments on route and the route goes through Queen Elizabeth Country Park which has a bike friendly cafe with a track pump and tools available for use and if you have time to play there are some purpose built mountain bikes trails here too, ranging from an easy family trail to a technical and root covered red graded trail.
The route itself it a bit of a treasure trail with 20 Portland stone sculptures along the way for you to spot. Each sculpture tells a story about the local area and even has a QR code on it so you can read the history on your mobile.
We rode the length of the trail, stayed overnight in a B&B before riding back the next day, but you could chose to do part of the route or get the train back depending how far you wish to ride.
Hampshire County Council has a website dedicated to the trail here with interactive maps, breaking the trail down into sections and information about the sculptures so you can plan your trip.
by Holly Seear | Jun 30, 2016
With the summer finally arriving and the long school holidays on the horizon we asked Isla Rowntree, ex-national
cyclocross champion and founder of Islabikes how to approach teaching you child to ride a bike.
What are your thoughts on stabilisers?
For years children’s bikes have come fitted with stabilisers, but that doesn’t mean they’re the right thing to use. We encourage parents to avoid stabilisers as they prevent children from learning to balance naturally and actually make the process of learning to ride a bike trickier.
Far better is to let your child use a balance bike before starting to learn a pedal bike. A balance bike will teach them the basics of balancing on two wheels and make the transition to first pedal bike much easier.
How old should my child be?
Most children learn to ride their first pedal bike unaided between the ages of 3 1/2 and 4 1/2. But children develop their cycling skills at different times. If it seems that your child isn’t quite get the hang of it, don’t worry, let them keep enjoying their balance bike for a few more weeks and try again later.
How do I teach my child to ride?
Find a large, safe, flat open space to use as your learning zone. Something with tarmac or a fairly firm surface is perfect. Long grass is too tricky for new riders to pedal on.
Now adjust the height of your child’s saddle so they can get the balls of their feet on the floor.
Put your child on their bike and stand behind them, holding them under their armpits. Don’t hold any part of the bike. We want the new rider to feel how their bike naturally moves underneath them.
Push your child along and let the bike wander in any direction. You can help steer the bike by leaning your child right and left. Doing this will let your child learn that leaning is part of the steering process.
If your children have learnt to balance on a balance bike, they may take a little while to grasp the concept of forward pedalling. Encourage them while they practise pedalling forwards.
If your child is ready to cycle unaided they should quickly get a feel for balance and you can gradually let go, but stay close by to catch them if anything goes wrong.
For nervous riders, you may need to stay with them a bit longer. That’s fine. Just let them know that you’re there, but you’re very gradually going to loosen your hold on them. Eventually they’ll be cycling unaided without even knowing it. The look of delight when they realise you’re no longer holding them and they’re cycling all by themselves is a moment to treasure.
The final part of the jigsaw is learning how to set off from stationary unaided. For this, have your child put one of their pedals just past the top most part of the pedal circle. That means around the ‘5 to the hour’ position with the left leg, or ‘5 past the hour’ position with the right leg.
Now ask them to give a good push on this leg. With enough forward momentum they should be able to transfer both feet to the pedals, start pedalling and be a completely independent rider.
Islabikes build quality lightweight bikes that are gender neutral in their aesthetics, CyclingShorts.cc will be reviewing them shortly – so watch this space.
You can find more information at:
by Holly Seear | Jun 3, 2016
Style, Performance and Individuality from New UK Based Online Store OMNIUM
I met Claire Pepper on a Bike Ride with Brunch organised by Queen of the Mountains and was excited to hear of her plans to launch OMNIUM a brand new, UK based, online store bringing together some previously hard-to-buy or as yet undiscovered cycling apparel from independent designers. Their focus is high performance road cycling kit and accessories, bringing together lots of smaller brands who are doing really interesting stuff and making them more accessible, especially to the UK market.
Claire’s background is photography, specialising in fashion and sportswear in e-commerce, and as a runner, cyclist and triathlete, she found women’s cycling clothing to be much more limited in terms of choice than the rest of the active wear market and decided to do something about it! With her partner Jonathan, a creative director and active racer for Dulwich Paragon, they have launched OMNIUM.
Most of the OMNIUM brands are small companies with a bit of a cult following, and until now some have been hard to get hold of in the UK. OMNIUM solves the problems of buying internationally such as customs charges and complicated returns!
The products are stylish, high performance, individual brands which will only be stocked in limited runs, keeping the offering of fresh and current items in-demand.
Starting with 7 brands and with 2 more coming soon, the selection comprises mostly of men’s and women’s jerseys, shorts, socks and caps. There are some eye-catching full kits from Minneapolis brand Twin Six and graphic-patterned base layers from Good Cycling, a brand from the Netherlands. One of the most popular items is a cap by Canadian brand Forward, which features a pair of cat-eyes on the underside of the peak.
Well worth taking a look if you would like to stand out from the crowd this summer!
- Twin Six – USA – men’s & women’s jerseys with matching shorts, caps, socks, bidons
- Angeles Creative – USA – men’s and women’s jerseys, high performance and distinctive
- Queen of the Mountains – UK – high performance women’s jerseys, shorts and caps
- Forward – Canada – women’s jerseys and caps, fun, playful designs
- God & Famous – USA – caps and socks (apparel coming soon) urban styling
- The Wonderful Socks – Italy – socks and caps, Italian craft heritage with quirky designs
- Good Cycling – The Netherlands – men’s and women’s jerseys, base layers and gilets
WEBSITE : weareomnium.cc
by Holly Seear | May 14, 2016
The Matrix Fitness Grand Prix Series will enter its sixth season in 2016, running alongside the well-established Pearl Izumi Tour Series on spectator friendly town and city centre circuits and this year has grown to six rounds with 11 teams.
The series attracts a high calibre of rider, including previously Olympic Champions Joanna Rowsell and Dani King and double Junior World Champion Lucy Garner. Podium Ambition presented by Club La Santa have been champions for the past two editions with Paralympic Champion Dame Sarah Storey and World Champion Katie Archibald in their squad. Team Ford EcoBoost has last year’s individual champion Nikki Juniper and Commonwealth Games medallist Charline Joiner. This year Team Velo Schils Interbike are pitting themselves against some of the best teams in the UK.
The newly formed team consists of Nicola Soden, Sandra Mackay, Iona Sewell, Katherine Kimber, Caroline Guest, Natalie Hodson and Louise Collins and they are keen to both race and play hard.
Katherine Kimber said “As a team we are all about supporting each other, developing each other, enjoying our racing, trying new things, working for each other, and giving and receiving confidence. We will be entering a team into the Tour Series, experiencing some racing in Belgium and generally progressing positively throughout the season. We will be targeting 2/3/4 road races, some national road races, and the National Crit Champs.”
She goes on to say “Patrick Schils and his family are as crazy as we are, so it is a perfect fit – they don’t take things too seriously AND drink Cherry beer for recovery…. What more could you want from a sponsor?! Patrick is an extremely strong and experienced rider with a wealth of knowledge he can offer to the team. The team also enjoy joining in on their weekly shop rides, anyone can come along”. You can find details here.
Nicola says “I love racing with these girls – everyone is fun and friendly with no egos and up for having a good time in and out of racing”.
Back in 1948 Jef Schils was the founder of Schils frames and bikes, and a Belgian National Champion! The Director and Owner of Velo Schils Interbike, Patrick Schils, followed in his father’s footsteps as a Belgian Professional Rider and continued making the Schils bikes here in the UK.
I spoke to Patrick Schils and asked:
Why did you decide to sponsor a women’s team in 2016?
The women’s cycling scene is ever growing and we saw this as a fantastic opportunity to get even more ladies into it and also promote ourselves.
What are the targets for the team in 2016?
For them to enjoy and improve themselves, gaining valuable experience racing throughout the year, in the UK and Europe.
Our main goals for this year are:
The Tour Series
Racing in Belgium and Europe
Long term what are your hopes for the team?
We hope that the team will grow and succeed in races and have great experience of racing in different countries.
Sum up the team in three words?
Dedicated, Funny & Charming.
Who are the main sponsors for the team?
Doltcini cycle clothing
Luck Custom Cycling Shoes
Do you have a men’s team? Cycling club? Shop events/rides?
Yes, we have had a Velo Schils cycle team for racing and a club since 1997 when the retail shop first started. Back then it was only a handful of riders and now we have over 100 current members. Some of them race and some enjoy leisure, charity rides and sportives. We have club runs every weekend starting from the Velo Schils InterBike shop at 9.30am on Saturdays and Sundays and have also started a Tuesday evening ride now the better weather has started. The team also enjoy our Sportive in January and Majorca Training Camp in February, along with our race The Jef Schils Memorial in September and a few races and sportives in Belgium throughout the year.
Why do you think more shops are sponsoring teams generally?
I think it’s a great collaboration to have a team connected to a shop. It’s good advertisement for bikes, clothing and products and great to add a new dimension to a shop.
Do you think the traditional club structure is disappearing with more sponsored teams and shop rides? How will this impact on the sport?
I think that cycling within the UK over the past couple of years has grown massively and still is. From new riders wanting to get fit, cycle with friends and family or start racing or doing charity rides or sportives. It’s fantastic to see just how many people are getting the cycling bug and we will embrace it. Our club structure has pretty much stayed the same over the past few years, but just on a larger scale Schils are known for their custom cycles.
Why should a rider consider a custom build?
We have been building custom built Schils bikes since 1948 with Jef Schils who was Belgian Professional National Champion. As you can imagine his passion for cycling transpired into his bikes and now it has carried on throughout the Schils Family. Customers appreciate a personal service where you can come enjoy a coffee while choosing everything for your bike and the end result is a bike that fits you comfortably, is unique to you, you can choose your own colours and design of frame and have a great after service.
Is it true you can get your helmet hair done while having your bike serviced at Velo Schils?
Ha ha, yes the rumours are true. The trick is to be different, so yes you can have your hair cut and coloured at Velo Schils Interbike. Schils Hairdressing is based within the shop and it’s great to add something different and a new dimension to the shop. www.schilshairdressing.com
You can find the shop here:
Unit 5, 85 London Road
You can follow the team here:
Matrix Grand Prix Series Dates
Round One – Tuesday 17 May – Motherwell
Round Two – Thursday 26 May – Redditch
Round Three – Thursday 2 June – Stoke-on-Trent
Round Four – Monday 6 June – Stevenage
Round Five – Tuesday 7 June – Croydon
Round Six – Thursday 9 June – Portsmouth
Matrix Fitness Grand Prix Series Teams
Aprire HSS Hire
Drops Racing Team
Boot Out Breast Cancer Cycling Club
Podium Ambition p/b Club La Santa
Team Footon Velosport
Team Ford EcoBoost
Team Jadan Weldtite
Velo Schils Interbike
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