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Islabikes: celebrating a decade of innovation

2016 marked Islabikes’ 10th anniversary. Over the year we celebrated a decade of making high quality, proportionally-sized children’s bicycles. But what really makes Islabikes different from every other children’s bike manufacturer? Our continued commitment to innovation and holistic design. We’ve gone back over the last 10 years to pick our technological highlights and breakthroughs.

2006 — The very first Islabikes

Islabikes was born when former professional cyclist and triple British cyclo-cross champion Isla Rowntree rented a tiny workspace in a converted farm building. Professionally, Isla had worked as the head of sourcing and design for one of the UK’s biggest cycling retailers and had successfully created and hand built a highly regarded range of children’s trailer bikes. However, Isla noticed that due to a lack of choice a lot of her friends and family were buying bikes for their children that were of low quality resulting in a poor cycling experience. As a smaller rider herself, Isla also understood how difficult it was to find bicycle frames and components that were proportionally sized.

By focusing on lightweight, proportional sizing and ease of use, Isla designed the hugely innovative first range of Islabikes: The Rothan balance bike, the Cnoc 14 and 16, the Beinn 20, 24 and 26, and the Luath 26 and 700. Isla had two guiding philosophies when it came to those first Islabikes, intelligent design and exceptional quality. From the very beginning, Islabikes were designed to be light, strong, sized proportionally and a pleasure for young cyclists to ride. It was certainly noticed by the media, bike trade and general public, with Islabikes quickly being established as the byword for high quality children’s bicycles.

Islabikes: celebrating a decade of innovation

2008 — The micro reach brake lever

Although we could have frames manufactured to our exact specifications and design, the components fitted to early models were dependent on what manufacturers were already producing. That meant it was a case of finding parts that would provide the best fit, but not necessarily a perfect fit. At that time, asking a component manufacturer to make a part especially for a children’s bike brand was unheard of.

However, in 2008 we took the unique step of paying for the tooling to enable Tektro to produce a brand new micro reach brake lever. This component development took Islabikes to a new level. Not only did it demonstrate our attention to detail, but it also showed we were prepared to invest in innovation to produce the best children’s bikes possible. In practical terms, the new brake lever allowed smaller hands to better control the bike’s speed, providing young Islabike riders with an even safer and more comfortable ride.

Islabikes: celebrating a decade of innovation

2008 — New models and the Creig 26

Having established ourselves as the leading name in children’s bikes within the UK, we were able to expand the range in 2008. The Beinn 20, Beinn 26 and Luath 700 models were all divided into two options, each becoming available in either a small or large size. This not only gave potential riders more choice but it meant a smoother transition between sizes.

Developments in 2008 weren’t focused only on tweaking and augmenting our existing range. There was also the launch of a brand new model: the Creig 26. This was our take on the dedicated junior mountain bike, with hydraulic disc brakes and a RockShox air-sprung suspension fork. That Rockshox fork was purposely selected as it offered a low weight while effectively working beneath and reacting to the lighter bodyweight of a child rider. As a package, the Creig 26 represented the ultimate in off-road performance for young mountain bikers.

Islabikes: celebrating a decade of innovation

2009 — The move to Ludlow

In 2009 we moved to a dedicated headquarters on the edge of Ludlow in Shropshire. With a showroom, test track, workshop and warehouse all on one site, it allowed us to truly feel at home. It also provided the chance for us to employ a frame builder, Robert ‘Keen’ Burns. With Keen’s arrival, ‘Keen’s Corner’ was established where new frame designs and ideas could be prototyped. This allowed all our research and development to be brought in house.

In the constant search for cycling perfection, 2009 saw us introduce the Luath 24 a drop-bar road bike for even smaller riders, and the Rothan balance bike was fitted with the unique Islabikes micro reach brake lever.

Islabikes: celebrating a decade of innovation

2010 — The Beinn 29

While the main focus of Islabikes has always been children’s bicycles, after countless requests from parents wondering what bike they should ride, Isla and the team decided to produce the Beinn 29. A truly multi-purpose and future-proof adult’s bike, the Beinn 29’s lightweight aluminium frame has the capability to be fitted with mudguards, a rear rack or even disc brakes. Meanwhile, by fitting a single chainring with a wide-ratio cassette at the back, Islabikes pre-empted the popular trend for ‘1x’ gearing by half a decade.

2011 — Supporting World Bicycle Relief

Between 2011 and 2016 we took the step to help spread the benefits of cycling beyond the UK’s shores and supported World Bicycle Relief. In five years we contributed funds for more than 1,500 bicycles that will help people learn, work and live in the developing world.

Islabikes: celebrating a decade of innovation

2012 — Massive expansion of Islabikes’ size-specific componentry and lighter bikes

After the development of the micro reach brake lever in 2008, 2012 saw us commit to a flood of new and exclusive custom-made components throughout our range. These included exquisite size specific saddles shaped especially for children’s bodies, hugely important proportionally-sized cranks on every model to better help children’s pedaling comfort and new slimmer pedals that were specially designed to flip into place as a foot engages them. Together, the cranks and the pedals also played a part in helping make the bikes Q-factors narrower, enabling our young riders to again feel even safer and more comfortable.

The focus on custom made parts extended throughout the spec sheet, with new handlebars, grips, stems, seat posts, wheelsets and the use of high quality stainless steel bolts throughout the range. It wasn’t just a question of marginal gains in isolated areas but improving on a vast collection of small details across every model. The result was a new range of Islabikes that were lighter and more enjoyable to ride than than ever before.

Islabikes: celebrating a decade of innovation

2013 — Islabikes comes to America

By 2013 our place in the British bike industry was assured so it was time to spread the Islabikes brand further afield. The result of months of preparation and planning saw Tim Goodall, Islabikes very first employee, move to Portland, Oregon to establish Islabikes USA.

Meanwhile, back at home, Islabikes UK signed up to the Living Wage movement, which seeks to secure fair, liveable wages for workers of all ages and in all sectors across the UK.

2014 — Cnoc 14 and 16’s revolutionary chainguard

One wouldn’t necessarily think that a chainguard represents the height of innovation. After all, most small children’s bikes come with one. However, the chainguard on the Cnoc range is quite unlike any version seen before. Over the course of two years Isla and the product team worked with specialist chainguard manufacturer Hebie in Germany to develop a unique and fully enclosed chainguard.

The Islabikes Cnoc chainguard simply clips together for easy fitting and removal and is thin enough not to impinge on a small bike’s Q-factor or a young rider’s ability to cycle. Rather like the very first micro-reach brake lever back in 2008, it’s also an example of how we continue to spend a huge amount of time making each and every part as perfect as possible.

Islabikes: celebrating a decade of innovation

The future

As you can see, here at Islabikes we are committed to and excited by innovation. Our aim is to continually improve the cycling experiences of more and more children. With our ground-breaking future developments we’re determined that Islabikes will be showing the way with market-leading children’s bicycles in the next decade and beyond.

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