Small-Scale Pro

Small-Scale Pro

Children face significant hurdles in learning to ride a bike. Sure, there are sizing issues; most bikes for kids each have about a magic six-month window in which their fit—and as a result, handling—are great. The rest of the time the kid is on the bike is sub-optimal. Beyond sizing, there are big problems with weight. While there’s no crime in a bike weighing 25 lbs., there’s something cruel about putting someone who weighs 50 lbs. on a machine that weighs half of what they do. Let’s not forget rolling resistance either.

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Remember what a revelation it was when you first road a 29er mountain bike after all those years on 26-inch mountain bikes? Well the jump from 12-inch wheels to 16-inch wheels is even more dramatic and amazing.

img_3403The attention to detail on these bikes is extraordinary.

Earlier this year I reviewed two different kids’ bikes from Islabikes. Compared to the pot-metal crap coming out of the big box stores, the Beinn and the Rothan are extravagances, but I would argue that those Huffys and Pacifics are largely a disservice to young riders. The point, I think we can agree, is that when we buy a kid a bike, we want them to like cycling and stick with it for years to come. Buying a quality bike seems to be an integral part of that equation.

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But what if you have a kid who really takes to cycling, maybe even wants to race. What do you do?

img_3428The weld quality is first-rate.

Well Islabikes has just introduced a new line of bikes called Pro. These bikes are lighter, better spec’d and feature a number of parts designed just for smaller riders. They cost what many adult bikes go for. However, before anyone has a meltdown in the comments about what these bikes cost, I’m just going to go ahead and say save it. If all you have to say about these bikes is that they are too expensive, I think there’s a forum on Craigslist for that. These bikes exist for parents who want to give their kids the best cycling experience they can. We support that.  
img_3427Hydraulic disc brakes and Gripshift gives kid the control adults enjoy.

There are four bikes in the new Pro line: the 16-inch wheel Cnoc Pro, the 20-inch wheel Beinn Pro and the Creig Pro, which is available in either 24- or 26-inch wheels. The Luath Pro is a cyclocross bike that comes with 24- or 26-inch or 700C wheels. They go for $1199, $1499, $2299 and $2399, respectively. Again, if all you’re going to do in the comments is criticize the expense of these bikes, please consider a better use of your energy.

img_3404They sourced good tires and rims, and while the bikes are shipped with tubes,  the wheels can be run tubeless.

img_3426Islabikes went to great lengths to source size-appropriate components like bars, stems, seatposts and saddles.

I got to check out the Beinn Pro and the Creig Pro. Better yet, I got to put a friend’s child on the Creig Pro and get her take on the bike. Unfortunately, Mini-Shred was at school during my meeting and didn’t get a chance to ride the Beinn Pro, which maybe was a good thing because the kid has a taste for quality and I’m sure he would have wanted to keep it.

img_3421Wide-ranging cassettes help the kids ride real-world terrain.

My proof: When my friend’s daughter Jasmine started riding the Creig Pro around, she was amazed by its low weight, easy shifting and the presence of front suspension that actually moved.

img_3398No coaster brakes here.

While she couldn’t articulate what she liked about the handling, it was evident that she enjoyed the bike’s design as she began to swoop and carve through turns. She even tried to pop a wheelie, er, manual, or three. When a bike is right the body knows.


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7 comments

  1. Lyford

    The pricing seems fair for the quality you’re getting.

    In most sports, there seems to be a range of gear: from the crap that actually impedes progress to the diminishing-returns unobtanium. There haven’t been many options other than the low-end stuff for kids.

    As you said, the issue with kids’ bikes is that they only fit for a short time, and the depreciation hit on new bikes is substantial. Some enterprising person needs to figure out a leasing program…..

  2. Dave King

    Those are some pretty sweet bikes for a kid. Seems like there’s a bit of room in the middle for something more affordable. Always good to have more choices.

    My first bike was a BMX bike that I loved tearing around the neighborhood. My next bike was your typical 1986 10 speed that I used to ride to play tennis. Soon, however, I fell in love with just riding it and when I happened to see Paris Roubaix on ABC in 1987 I was hooked and it was all over.

    I don’t recall either bike being heavy although I’m certain that they were. What I remember and what I think I experienced at the time was the feeling of movement, freedom and timelessness. I didn’t know it at the time but this was the flow state you write so well about.

    I too get tired of the complaints about the price of bikes, wheels, etc. Especially on this site which is pretty cleared focused on higher end products and experiences and reviews of same that usually teach me something about the type of product (e.g., winter gloves and not just the brand). I’m well aware of how many bikes a set of Enve’s or Zipp carbon wheels will buy and I don’t need a reminder of that. These top end products eventually trickle down to lower price points and generally, IMO, improve one’s riding experience. No, you don’t need suspension or disc brakes on a mtb to ride on the dirt. But these things can open up trails that were previously unrideable and improve “flow.”

    And I get that you don’t need a blingy bike or to spend a lot of money to enjoy your cycling experience. My current bikes (road and mtb) I have had for about 5 years. Prior to that, I’d ridden my bikes for 8 years. The 8 year old mtb was a 26er full suspension mtb that rode fine but the suspension was going and you couldn’t get some of the replacement parts anymore. The road bike was fine too. but in that 5 – 8 year time period, I really do believe there is a change in product and experience that isn’t noticeable year to year. And for me, it’s worthwhile to make that upgrade (usually to the Dura Ace experience) and then wait another 5 – 8 years. I’m already looking forward to my next new road bike which will have an even wider gear range with more gears, better wheels (faster, lighter, more comfy, stiffer, better handling) and possibly disc brakes. Still undecided if my new bike will have full suspension as where I live in the Bay Area a 29er hardtail is more than sufficient and it’s where I do 90% of my riding.

    1. Lyford

      Regarding weight, I think the critical threshold is “easy to handle by yourself”. That’s the difference between feeling independent and feeling tethered. If you can pick it up when it falls over, carry it up a few steps, and push it up the steep bits, you can venture out into the wide world without worrying about physical obstacles.

      I’m sure my first bikes were heavy, but they were light enough.

      The old Schwinn Varsity — now that was a tank. Yikes. I was a teen in the 80’s riding an entry-level Motobecane, and I was astonished at how heavy the Schwinns were. Everything was steel, including the rims and crank.

  3. mrt2

    Clearly a product for a family of cycling enthusiasts, and I don’t say that with any malice, as I count myself and my family in that cohort. Because right now, the choices are between marginally acceptable “kids bikes” from a bike shop to really low quality big box store bikes. And if you want your kid to appreciate cycling, you need to get him or her started on the right foot, or pedal. And that means spending a fair amount for bike shop quality bikes, which aren’t all that great, and modding these bikes by stripping off the cheap, entry level components and replacing them with something half way decent, or paying a bike mechanic to do it.

    When my son was little, my goal was to teach him to ride and to get him to enjoy cycling with short to medium length rides. While equipment was important, it only needed to be good enough to get him to the park, or pizza place or ice cream shop, 3 to 5 miles away, and later when my son was 10 or 11, good enough to handle 25 or 30 mile day rides with myself and my wife riding alongside him. The bike didn’t need to be good enough for aggressive single track, or durable enough for loaded touring, or light enough to race or complete a century in 5 or 6 hours. None of those things were on order when my son was 4 to 11 years old.

    Unfortunately, I would have a hard time justifying spending that kind of money on a bike a kid will outgrow in a year or two. I think such an expense might make more sense for a family of cycling enthusiasts with more ambitious cycling goals for their children.

  4. Adam

    This past Christmas I bought an Islabikes Cnoc 16 for my daughter (4.5 years old at the time). It was expensive for a first bike, in the low $400s. Islabikes will buy it back for 1/3 the price, but told me that customers sell on craigslist/ebay for around 3/4 the price so not may people take them up on the offer. (that appeared accurate based on my research). Ideally this means the outgrowing is less an issue…

    Back to the bike – my experience with Islabikes seconds the quality comments of the review. It is made surprisingly well and is a super nice little bike! Islabikes seem to know their stuff too; they advised the 20 based on my daughter’s height & inseam, but commented that she’s right in the middle of the size range on the 16 and would likely just get on and ride although outgrow it quick. I bought the 16 and she’ll likely outgrow it within a year…but I think that is worth it because she did just hopped on and ride. Despite going over the bars pretty hard once, she loves it and prefers “practicing” in a church parking lot over going to the playground. I’ve been totally impressed with the quality of the bike, how well it works for a child and how happy it makes her. A bigger Cnoc (single speed bmx like bike) is in her future and I suspect one of the above bikes when she’s much older.

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