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My son’s first (decent) bike: Islabike CNOC 14

Islabike CNOC 14

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!

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{ 9 comments… add one }

  • [...] If you read my earlier post, you’ll know I’m a massive fan of the Islabike that we got Mini Grimpeur for his birthday. If you want to know why a bike like this is conducive to learning to ride, take a look at my quasi-review. [...]

  • […] I should have done is take my son, on his Islabike, to Freecycle and revel in the safe and enjoyable cycling […]

  • Byron says:

    This bike sounds great; you’re so right going the “good bike” route with your son. We somehow managed to get both our kids riding bikes fairly young (more like 5-ish, though; not 4), and now as 11 and 13 year olds, both have progressed well past my bike handling skills. Their bikes also cost more than mine, which is probably reasonable but still somewhat upsetting…!

    Kids are riding at a much younger age than in my day (admittedly, a frightening number of decades ago). One interesting/worrying aspect to that trend is that they are now physically proficient riders well before they are mentally safe ones. You used to have to wait until you could manage an old steel “standard” bike before you hit the streets — so about 7 or 8 years old — and I think that made a difference to your awareness of cars, other riders, etc.

    I’m a recent discoverer of your blog; really enjoying it. Very well written.

    Cheers from North Vancouver, BC.

    • Thanks Byron. I agree – lighter bikes, as well as balance bikes and scooters, do allow young children to travel quickly without necessarily being sufficiently aware of potential hazards. My son is still at the age where he isn’t going too quickly and he is fine to ride on the pavement (sidewalk). I’m not looking forward to the transition to riding on the roads…

  • guy palmer says:

    My 4 and 6 year old have the 16 Cnoc and 20 Beinn Islabikes.
    They are really excellent. Well built and, most importantly, light. The gears on the Beinn are proper SRAM and perform faultlessly. The proportions are excellent with small brakes so that the kids can learn to always ride with a finger or two over the brakes for safety. My kids love them. They cost a bit more than other bikes but they are so good. And no, I don’t have shares in Islabikes either!

  • Tim Jasper says:

    My daughter was struggling on her toy bike (though it did have tassels and a seat for teddy). Her first proper bike was a Cnoc 16. She was off like a rocket, perfectly poised. She’s on a Beinn 20 now. No I don’t have shares either. I hear Frog bikes are pretty good, but we’ll continue to support Islabikes – nice company, great advice and great products. Check out the CTC For Sale forum to see how fast 2nd Islas are snapped up – or to try to get one…

  • miles267 says:

    Thanks for the review. I just ordered a CNOC 14 for our 4+ yr old son. His first bike. I was leaning towards the CNOC 16, but after contacting Islabike, they talked me down to the 14″. Our son is approx. 40 in. in height and his inseam is 16-16.5 in. Islabike CSR mentioned that 16.5 is the minimum height of the inseam. They stressed the comfort is most important, otherwise he would need to wait and grow until he could start riding a CNOC 16. Also, we intend to get 2X the use out of the bike since our youngest daughter is almost 2 yrs old. Looking forward to receiving our CNOC 14!

    • Andrew Montgomery says:

      Hi Miles. I support going for the smaller bike. Our son is now getting on for 5 and a half and he is still absolutely fine on the CNOC 14. The most important thing is the weight (or lack of it). He knows he can easily manoeuvre it, carry it, slow to a stop and put his feet down, without the weight of the bike just causing him to fall over unexpectedly. This breeds confidence, which leads to progress. My take is that grown adults ride what look like kids BMXs, so kids can last ages on a ‘too small’ bike. Buying a bike that they’ll ‘grow into’ is a false economy.

      We have a daughter as well, who stands to inherit the bike in a year or so (although she wants a pink one…).

      Oh, and I can ride the CNOC 14 – if I can fit on it, then a child can!

      Enjoy the bike!

  • miles267 says:

    Hi Andrew, good news I’ve received and just assembled my son’s CNOC 14 — we intend to give to him tomorrow on Easter. I use the word assemble loosely as it was only necessary to 1.) straight the handlebars from shipping, 2.) attach the pedals and 3.) add the optional training wheels. I debated whether to get the training wheels at all but did to be safe (and because Islabike has a special no-tool kit which is nice). Also, the CNOC 14 certainly looks small, but I trust from both your and Islabike’s recommendations that it was better to err on the small side and get the right fit rather than opting for the CNOC 16 under the false impression that he’ll “grow into it.”

    All-in-all the Islabike quality was apparent from the moment I unpacked the bike from the shipping carton. Everything from the design, finish, paint and durability of parts used. I won’t lie, I even took the bike for a quick spin around the garage to “test” it out! Needless to say, it passed. We only hope our son is excited to receive his new bike as I was! Now I just need to size him for seat height and hit the road. More first impressions to follow…

  • Bert Vds says:

    I bought my son a cnoc 14 after he rode his balance bike for a year. After 5 minutes he knew how to ride. He handles his bike also very easily. My son was 2 years and 10 months. Great bike!

  • Byron November 27, 2013, 8:51 pm

    This bike sounds great; you’re so right going the “good bike” route with your son. We somehow managed to get both our kids riding bikes fairly young (more like 5-ish, though; not 4), and now as 11 and 13 year olds, both have progressed well past my bike handling skills. Their bikes also cost more than mine, which is probably reasonable but still somewhat upsetting…!

    Kids are riding at a much younger age than in my day (admittedly, a frightening number of decades ago). One interesting/worrying aspect to that trend is that they are now physically proficient riders well before they are mentally safe ones. You used to have to wait until you could manage an old steel “standard” bike before you hit the streets — so about 7 or 8 years old — and I think that made a difference to your awareness of cars, other riders, etc.

    I’m a recent discoverer of your blog; really enjoying it. Very well written.

    Cheers from North Vancouver, BC.

    • Andrew Montgomery December 9, 2013, 3:43 pm

      Thanks Byron. I agree – lighter bikes, as well as balance bikes and scooters, do allow young children to travel quickly without necessarily being sufficiently aware of potential hazards. My son is still at the age where he isn’t going too quickly and he is fine to ride on the pavement (sidewalk). I’m not looking forward to the transition to riding on the roads…

  • guy palmer February 21, 2014, 9:20 am

    My 4 and 6 year old have the 16 Cnoc and 20 Beinn Islabikes.
    They are really excellent. Well built and, most importantly, light. The gears on the Beinn are proper SRAM and perform faultlessly. The proportions are excellent with small brakes so that the kids can learn to always ride with a finger or two over the brakes for safety. My kids love them. They cost a bit more than other bikes but they are so good. And no, I don’t have shares in Islabikes either!

    • Andrew Montgomery February 24, 2014, 7:36 pm

      Thanks for your comment Guy. I continue to be a bit of an Islabike evangelist. My daughter is 3 in April and I’m wondering if it’s too early to get her one…

  • Tim Jasper March 3, 2014, 8:32 pm

    My daughter was struggling on her toy bike (though it did have tassels and a seat for teddy). Her first proper bike was a Cnoc 16. She was off like a rocket, perfectly poised. She’s on a Beinn 20 now. No I don’t have shares either. I hear Frog bikes are pretty good, but we’ll continue to support Islabikes – nice company, great advice and great products. Check out the CTC For Sale forum to see how fast 2nd Islas are snapped up – or to try to get one…

  • miles267 March 26, 2014, 12:33 am

    Thanks for the review. I just ordered a CNOC 14 for our 4+ yr old son. His first bike. I was leaning towards the CNOC 16, but after contacting Islabike, they talked me down to the 14″. Our son is approx. 40 in. in height and his inseam is 16-16.5 in. Islabike CSR mentioned that 16.5 is the minimum height of the inseam. They stressed the comfort is most important, otherwise he would need to wait and grow until he could start riding a CNOC 16. Also, we intend to get 2X the use out of the bike since our youngest daughter is almost 2 yrs old. Looking forward to receiving our CNOC 14!

    • Andrew Montgomery March 31, 2014, 10:36 am

      Hi Miles. I support going for the smaller bike. Our son is now getting on for 5 and a half and he is still absolutely fine on the CNOC 14. The most important thing is the weight (or lack of it). He knows he can easily manoeuvre it, carry it, slow to a stop and put his feet down, without the weight of the bike just causing him to fall over unexpectedly. This breeds confidence, which leads to progress. My take is that grown adults ride what look like kids BMXs, so kids can last ages on a ‘too small’ bike. Buying a bike that they’ll ‘grow into’ is a false economy.

      We have a daughter as well, who stands to inherit the bike in a year or so (although she wants a pink one…).

      Oh, and I can ride the CNOC 14 – if I can fit on it, then a child can!

      Enjoy the bike!

  • miles267 April 19, 2014, 2:32 pm

    Hi Andrew, good news I’ve received and just assembled my son’s CNOC 14 — we intend to give to him tomorrow on Easter. I use the word assemble loosely as it was only necessary to 1.) straight the handlebars from shipping, 2.) attach the pedals and 3.) add the optional training wheels. I debated whether to get the training wheels at all but did to be safe (and because Islabike has a special no-tool kit which is nice). Also, the CNOC 14 certainly looks small, but I trust from both your and Islabike’s recommendations that it was better to err on the small side and get the right fit rather than opting for the CNOC 16 under the false impression that he’ll “grow into it.”

    All-in-all the Islabike quality was apparent from the moment I unpacked the bike from the shipping carton. Everything from the design, finish, paint and durability of parts used. I won’t lie, I even took the bike for a quick spin around the garage to “test” it out! Needless to say, it passed. We only hope our son is excited to receive his new bike as I was! Now I just need to size him for seat height and hit the road. More first impressions to follow…

  • Bert Vds August 26, 2014, 6:01 am

    I bought my son a cnoc 14 after he rode his balance bike for a year. After 5 minutes he knew how to ride. He handles his bike also very easily. My son was 2 years and 10 months. Great bike!

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