Revolutions often start in the most innocuous of ways. Back in 2006, our founder Isla Rowntree was asked by her sister to recommend the best children’s bike for her nieces. Competitive by nature, and as a 3 times British Cyclo-cross champion, someone who knows a thing or two about bikes, Isla took the challenge seriously.
Despite looking high and low for a suitable bike she found nothing worthy of recommendation. Children’s bikes then were often viewed as toys. Many were built for novelty value and tended to be heavy, poorly built and crucially not designed for the needs of growing children.
Born in a barn
Despite the advice of naysayers, Isla decided there must be a market for high-quality children’s bikes. She would design them herself.
Islabikes was literally born in a barn. The first bikes were designed in a converted cowshed in the tiny village of Claverley in Shropshire. Isla’s vision for the business was clear – to give children a better experience of cycling. This new generation of bikes would need to:
- be as lightweight as possible.
- be designed for the different needs of children at every growth stage.
- include bespoke componentry designed specifically for children.
- be built with the highest quality materials to deal with rough and tumble children put them through.
Months of painstaking work led to the creation of the first Islabikes. But how to sell them with a non-existent marketing budget?
A revolution is born
Isla sent the first bikes out to a number of journalists. The enthusiasm shown by the press was infectious and the bikes began to develop a small, cult following amongst clued up cycling enthusiasts, keen to get their children riding the best bikes available.
The growth of Islabikes was down to word of mouth recommendations. Seeing how easy their children found it to ride their Islabikes, and the enjoyment they had doing so, saw the bikes develop a passionate following across the UK and beyond.
There were no other bikes that came close to the design led quality these new bikes offered. The effect on children’s cycling was revolutionary and continues to grow with loyal customers across the UK and Europe.
An unrivalled focus on quality
Although the business has grown and the team now numbers 40 we remain a small, independent business, committed to quality above all else. Islabikes have always been sold direct to customers, not through third parties. No one knows our bikes better than our mechanics who hand prepare every bike for customers here at our base near Ludlow in Shropshire.
Buying from us online or on the telephone has always been risk free. Once we have a rider’s basic measurements, we guarantee that each bike will be a perfect fit, or we issue a full refund or exchange.
A new revolution for older riders
Isla’s vision for the business has always been about making great bikes accessible to groups who are not well catered for otherwise. Early 2019 sees the launch of our Icons range. A range of three bikes, an urban, road and mountain model.
The design expertise we developed on our original children’s bikes has found its natural progression with our Icons range. Older and younger riders alike benefit from bikes that are lightweight and designed holistically for their needs.
Named after three musical revolutionaries of the 60’s Janis (Joplin), Joni (Mitchell) and Jimi (Hendrix). These bikes are designed for one purpose – to give older riders many more years in the saddle.
A sustainable future
So here we are in 2019. Every day brings bad news about the impact of over-consumption on the planet. Doing our bit to overcome this challenge is in the DNA of the business. We’ve always built quality bikes to last. However, the next step is to create a fully sustainable range of bikes with a closed loop-supply chain. Discover more about our future plans with the Imagine Project.