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Designing the ultimate children’s bike

Islabikes founding mission was to kick-start a revolution in children’s cycling. Right from the beginning, Isla was clear that producing great children’s bikes was not a case of simply scaling down an adult bike. Islabikes are designed specifically for every growth stage.

The design of the Islabikes range is informed by a huge amount of data on children’s growth patterns. Painstaking work has gone into every aspect of bike design, from frame geometry to bespoke components, in our ongoing quest for perfection.

How a great children’s bike is different

Imagine taking an adult’s body and scaling it down. You wouldn’t have something that looked like a child’s body. For example, a small child’s head is much bigger relative to its body than an adult’s. A key challenge for Isla as a bike designer was that children’s bodies don’t grow evenly. As children grow their body proportions change. That means all Islabikes frames, from our balance bikes right up to our adult range, are designed differently.

The science of children’s growth

From around 6 or 7 up to their early teens children’s growth tends to happen more in their legs than their torso. Many children at this age end up with long legs and short bodies relative to their height. A tall 11 or 12-year-old child who is the same height as a small adult will have different proportions. A very small adult’s bike often doesn’t fit a child well because the reach is much too long, even if they are able to get the correct reach to the pedals.

Each bike in our range is ergonomically designed to meet the needs of riders at each growth stage, from toddlers to adults.

Making learning to ride easier

It is easier to learn to ride in an upright position than a bent over racy one. However, the geometry of many children’s bikes means that children have to lean too far forward. In young children some internal organs are quite large relative to the child’s overall size which is why toddlers tummies stick out – its crowded in there! As they grow up their tummies flatten so the riding position on larger Islabikes moves towards a slightly sportier position, sharing the weight distribution between the saddle and handlebars. The frame geometry of our starter Cnoc range seats children in the correct position for their size, resulting in more comfortable, efficient pedalling.

Diagram - Riding Position

Changing design for older riders

As children’s body shapes change so does their weight distribution on the bike. For example, if a rider is ten years old and sitting on one of our Beinn models, their long legs will require the saddle to be quite high to get the correct reach to the pedals. However, their short body is hardly going forward, so their weight distribution is towards the back of the bike. To remedy this we sit them further forward relative to the pedals, so that when they push down the reaction to pedaling force is not pushing them off the back of the saddle.

Why Islabikes are gender neutral

Until puberty there is very little gender variation in the measurements that affect bicycle fit. The average height for girls and boys differs slightly at certain ages but the body proportions for a given size do not so our bikes fit girls or boys just fine. This is one of the reasons that we don’t make gender specific bikes.

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