I’ve been much taken by the Islabike Rothan, and now the Cnoc 14. These are small bikes for small people. They are much lighter than other equivalents and have tiny finishing kit, like small levers for little hands. The bikes are made by Isla Rowntree, a fairly well-known name in bike racing. She was responding to the palpable lack of suitable machinery for children.
Penny loves her bike. She is also able to ride it. Since hitting up the balance bike at 18 months her confidence and enjoyment has been a delight to behold and she has been riding without stabilisers since a few weeks shy of her third birthday. I’ll qualify that – with the first adventure being on an Rothan balance bike, Penny doesn’t actually know what stabilisers or for. She looks askance at others using them and asks why and what they are. If you want parent points in the playground arms-race, just roll your hyper-mobile two and a bit year old along past some lumpen school-age beast limping around in decreasing circles on a wonky stabiliser. Knocks them for six. That’s what it’s all about these days, getting my self-esteem from the poor bike-parenting skills of other Bristolians, especially now I’m about as fast as a small child at actually riding my bike.
The only drawback of the islabike is the drawback of all well-made bicycles: the cost. For many, the idea that you might pay over £100 for an adult’s bicycle is anathema. This factor is magnified when the same rules apply to the purchasing of smaller bicycles. For these people there is the Emelle Concept Store. Nevertheless, Islabikes are expensive. In fact, they are probably the most expensive bike brand for small people.
Yesterday, our neighbours returned from Centre Parcs. Upon disembarking they had their fleet of Apollo Mountain Bikes lined up outside the house, ready to be returned to cold storage in the shed until next year’s woodland half-term trailshredding. I was faintly amused to realise that the three bikes outside the house in all likelihood cost less in total than Penny’s Cnoc 14. The second smallest bike made by Isla Rowntree will set you back the best part of £249 if bought new. It’s a hefty sum. However, there is a silver lining to this fiscal cloud: the bikes are durable. They can be handed on to the next child in line, thus halving their cost. More than this, they do not seem to have any depreciable value. The cost of a second hand Islabike is usually about the same price as a new one. Over the lifespan of the bike you’ll be unlucky to be £50 out of pocket. In comparison, you’ll be paying someone to take that Halfrauds Apollo piece of pudlocked buffoonery away after 2 abortive rides.
All of which is rational in monetary terms. The true value of the Islabike range is the rapidity with which tiny children pick up the basics of cycling – the unabashed joy of hurtling along under their own steam, the freedom and excitement of the onrushing breeze and the vicarious excitement of Mum and Dad. It’s a joy.