REVIEW: Islabikes Luath 26 - King of the Kids' Bikes
by Sean Lacey
|Size||Luath 26 (Age 9)|
Abby absolutely loves riding it, and from an adult's perspective the bike is great. The fit and finish is top notch... and with the additional personal service they offer too, you really can't go wrong.
REVIEW: Islabikes Luath 26 - King of the Kids' Bikes
Kids' bikes have come on leaps and bounds in the last few years, from poorly made and equipped lumps of iron weighing almost as much as a small car, to the complete opposite. Many different brands are producing children's bikes to really high standards now, and at the forefront of the movement was Isla Rowntree, founder of Islabikes in rural Shropshire.
My daughter, Abby, who is now 10 has been riding for a few years - following in her dad's footsteps (or pedal strokes). After mastering her first 'proper' bike, she wanted something more advanced. After searching for something suitable (she really wanted drop bars) she ended up with an end-of-line B'TWIN miniature road bike.
This wasn't a bad bit of kit, but had very basic gears with an awkward bar mounted shifter that required her to take her hands off the bars to change. And again, weight was a real issue. It did her OK though, and she progressed well at her Saturday morning sessions with my club, Newport Shropshire CC's kids coaching.
(Copyright: Mike Adams)
However, recently an opportunity popped up for her to test out one of Islabike's creations. A few of the kids at the club had them and she was pretty envious, so it didn't take long for her to jump at the chance to get her hands on one. With Islabikes based only 25 miles away near Ludlow, it seemed ideal to check out the full customer experience and visit the unit.
With arrangements made for a sunny Saturday morning, we met with sales advisor, Liz. Starting with the basics, Liz chatted with Abby about her riding and took full measurements to ensure the correct frame size. The showroom holds every available size of each model, so the correct bike - in our case the versatile Luath 26 - was available for Abby to be fitted to and take out for a ride on the little test track outside the unit.
With all of the finer details sorted, and nice touches such as Abby's name being made up as a transfer for the top tube, we were treated to a tour of the unit to see how the business functions. All of the bikes are designed in-house, with prototypes made up on the jigs, and once the final frames are shipped in from the manufacturer the bikes are built up by hand in the workshop. With the sales and customer care department upstairs, every step of the buying and aftercare process can be closely controlled.
There wasn't a brand new bike in stock in the size needed on the day, so Liz arranged for the next available frame to arrive in a couple of days to be reserved and built up, then shipped out to us. With regular email contact to keep up us to date, it arrived when stated and all that was needed was to straighten up the bars, set the seat height and fit the pedals. Easy.
Keen to get going, Abby rode locally most days following to get a feel for the bike and acquaint herself with the gearing - 'proper ones like yours' as she put it; the Luath having a Shimano Altus rear derailleur and modern standard STi shifter.
She found the bike easy to get to grips with and picked up the shifting easily. As we know, having the levers literally to hand is ideal, and not having to take her hand off the bar and eye off the road gave her great confidence to use the gears far more.
Saturday training was found to be more enjoyable and she was far more willing to tackle hills while out and about; the tall gears and ability to easily shift making short work of the steeper stuff too.
Braking was vastly improved over her previous bikes too, with a quality Tektro cantilever setup that also runs bar top levers for better versatility. The large clearance on the frame and brakes allows for running off-road Cyclocross tyres too. The 26" rims giving quite a few tyre options, these additional levers would be ideal for rough ground control - we'll be testing the off road credentials over the winter.
Over the last three months she has clocked up quite a few miles as she builds her strength and stamina, with a couple of sportives in there too. In August she rode the Tour De Mon family route, which is pretty hilly and took that with ease, and in late September took on her first 30k on the Tommy Godwin sportive with me accompanying her through the lanes of south Birmingham.
Here she was most impressed with her bike. We had the fit dialled in and the lack of weight (important on a longer ride) and child-specific geometry saw her through to the end without too much fatigue.
Abby absolutely loves riding it, and from an adult's perspective the bike is great. The fit and finish is top notch, the Shimano gears are light and well set up with an extremely useful 11-32 cassette and 32 tooth chainring. Most noticeable again is the weight, with a full aluminium frame, cro-moly fork and aluminium wheels it is no heavier than your average adult carbon bike.
They aren't the cheapest on the market, but I know of families that have passed down Islabikes through their kids and they are still as robust and functional now as when they were first purchased many years ago. Second hand values are extremely high too, showing their worth. With the additional personal service they offer too, you really can't go wrong.
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