I may as well get this out of the way up front. If you want your child to learn to ride quickly and be enthusiastic about getting out on the bike, whatever the weather, buy an Islabike.
Mini Grimpeur received his Islabike (the model is a CNOC 14) for his 4th birthday. Over the course of the next 2-3 weeks, and in spite of the terrible winter weather, we managed to get him out on it a number of times, mainly for the trip to pre-school (some 5-10 minutes walk from the house).And he pretty much learnt to ride, on his own and without stabilisers, in that time.
The bike is light, so he was able to get going easily and cycle at a speed that allowed him to balance. When he stopped, it wasn’t so heavy that he just fell in a heap.
The build quality seems good. The moving parts (pedals, sprockets, wheels etc) all go round smoothly, again helping him to maintain a speed necessary for balance.
The size is spot on. The saddle could be set sufficiently low for him to be able to put both feet down, giving him confidence that he would be able to stop and stand at any point whilst riding. Before he was pedalling solo, the low saddle position allowed him to ‘scoot’ on the bike: using his feet to propel himself forward (as you would on a balance bike) and coasting for a few metres at a time, thereby getting a feel for the balance position without taking his feet more than an inch or two off the ground.
As an aside, having the ability to ‘scoot’ is very helpful if there is a younger sibling that you’re either pushing in the buggy or pulling along on their own scooter – it just means you can integrate the bike-riding (and learning) immediately into your usual routine, without having to make a dedicated (and less frequent) trip each time you want the child to practice.
The sizing question does highlight the main downside of buying an Islabike. You can only buy them by dealing directly with the company over the telephone, rather than buying from a bike shop. This requires you to measure your child’s height and inside leg, and compare against a sizing chart to determine the appropriate model. You can’t try your child on an actual bike (unless you make a trip to Ludlow).
Our son was right on the border between the bike we got and the next model up. After a couple of phone calls and checking of measurements, the recommendation was to go for the smaller model. Whilst Mini Grimpeur was at the top of the range for that bike, he would still be able to ride it as he grew; if we bought the larger bike, for which he wasn’t quite in the range, the risk was that it would be too big and he would simply be turned off riding until he was taller. The advice appears to have been spot on – the CNOC 14 certainly doesn’t seem small for him and having less metal to propel and control appears to have accelerated the learning process.
The prices of Islabikes are higher than for some children’s bikes, and that will put some people off. But by paying that bit more, you get a well-designed bike, made from quality materials and components. I’d prefer to pay a bit more to get something that does the job right, rather than less for something that holds back the learning process and is easily broken (as Mini Grimpeur’s first toy bike was). Apparently Islabikes have a good resale value (though I admit I haven’t checked) and the company itself will part-exchange them, if you’re upgrading to a larger model.
In case you’re wondering, I’m not getting paid by Islabike (much as I’d like to be) and I believe there are other makes which are of a similar quality (Ridgeback?). Whichever you choose, my strong recommendation would be to buy a bike that is fit for purpose, even if it is ‘just’ for a pre-schooler. For us, Mini Grimpeur’s Islabike has performed that duty admirably.
What do you think? Do you own an Islabike or do you have an alternative recommendation? Let us know in the comments below. As always, please click a button to share or like this post!