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Review: ISLABIKES Luath 26

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Right Out of the Box


The ISLABIKE Luath 26 is a sharp looking bike that will bring a lot of joy to your son or daughter. It has a very bright red chilli paint job with simple graphics. ISLABIKES makes a variety of bikes that are specifically tailoredand fit to your child. They size their bikes on a minimum and maximum inseam andyour child's height. The Luath 26 will typically fit a child that is about 9 years old or older; although you should consult their sizing chart for your child. This is a great bike that only took my daughter a few minutes to get used to (coming from a much smaller bmx style bike). If your looking for a serious bike that has a lot offlexibility, willlast a long time and your child will love to ride . . . . then read on!

We Liked

I have been an active cyclist for many years. Over the last few years, I’ve used that passion and joy for some competitive fun; and as such, started researching, testing and buying higher end bicycles. Unfortunately, the first few bikes I bought my kids before I did that research were the cheap department store kinds. As anyone who has children knows, raising children can be an expensive endeavor and so I reveled in my savings. My kids did enjoy riding them, but there were occasions when they struggled a little bit. They didn’t want to ride for very long, they got tired easily, and at times they were tentative and unsure. This was not going according to my master plan. It was after I bought a set of road tires for $120 that it dawned on me that maybe I should spend at least as much for one of my kid’s bikes. So I got to work; did a lot of research and found that even when you got away from department store bikes, other well-known pedigreed bikes turned out to be just “really small” adult bikes. Sure, the componentry and fabrication were a lot better, but the brakes were still hard to reach, the shifting was hard for smaller hands and muscles, and there were just too many gears for them to get the hang of.

Enter ISLABIKES. They were the first manufacturer I found that actually designed with a child’s geometry and proportions from the beginning. Here are some of the many features that I liked, and more importantly, some of the things that my kids noticed right away. The brakes were easy to reach and use, no more having to work out with a forearm handgrip just to apply the brakes (The bike also comes with a supplementary set of brakes on top so kids can slow down from any position on the handlebars). Furthermore, my daughter got the shifting right away, and without having to worry about two chainrings up front, she was able to focus on what made peddling easier and what made her go faster. Simple. Usable. Nice! Another child specific feature is the reach adjustable Shimano STI shift lever – which allows the bike to be customized for your child’s reach capability. As many of you may know, multiple chainrings add a lot of redundant gear ratios – on ISLABIKES their wide ratio gear cassette means less non-essential stuff which equals less weight. Speaking of weight, another advantage of the ISLABIKES is its 7005 T6 butted aluminum frame which comes in at a scant 21.3 lbs (9.64kg). My daughter’s old bike came in at over 33 lbs and was half the size, yikes!! (Yes, I know, now it’s easy to see what a horrible purchase her first bike was). Another aspect of the ISLABIKE that my daughter really liked was the stability and control that it gave her. In part, this is due to the handlebars narrower profile and very shallow drop – fit specifically for kids (which helps them avoid feeling overextended). When I first showed her the bike; she was tentative about trying the “bigger” bike. Her old bike had 20” wheels while the Luath had 26” wheels and “looked” a lot bigger. She told me after riding the ISLABIKE that she didn’t realize how unstable and difficult it was to control the old bike even though it was much smaller and was closer to the ground – she thought all bikes were “just that way”. After watching me compete in several cyclocross and road races, she wanted to join in on the fun as well. The Luath 26 made that possible because it is really versatile. It is built with many different uses in mind. We bought it for her to ride on the road; but the bike is designed such that it can be easily converted to a cross bike. Knobby tires and a wide fork, which allows for plenty of mud clearance, makes it really affordable and convenient to switch between the two uses. The only thing I needed to buy was the tire because the wheel, fork and brake system were designed for both road and cross uses. The bike can be fitted with fenders, a rear rack and bottle cage. Everything your child might need for a ride to school. It’s nice to see a manufacturer care about keeping costs down for parents while allowing for kids to wander with their varying interests.

We Didn't Like

This bike has been so thoughtfully put together I could only had few ideas for improvement. The first idea has to do with the handlebars. Because the handlebars are narrower (specifically designed for the shoulder width of a child) and include top mounted brake levers; there wasn’t a lot of room to add a bike light. Not impossible mind you, just more effort and consideration was necessary to buy a light with a narrow mount. The other area for improvement I would have liked to have seen was having a quick release on the seat post. They use quick releases for the wheels but not the seat. While this is common on adult cyclocross bikes; I’m not sure that it was necessary to leave that out on this bike. It’s nice being able to quickly adjust the saddle height when switching between uses without having to grab the wrench. A few color choices would also be nice. That’s it, those were the only ideas I had on how to improve the bike.

The Final Say

ISLABIKES sets the standards for what an authentic child’s bike should be. It starts with the geometry, the fit, the feel and the componentry. Everything is made with the child in mind. The Luath 26, as with all ISLABIKES, is extremely versatile and can be configured in a number of ways. It can be setup and used as a road bike, a cyclocross bike, a touring bike or even a very competent kids triathlon bike (yes they even have kids triathlons now!) all without having to spend a lot of money – you just need the tires. They have a sizing chart which is very informative in helping you get the right bike for your child and it’s a bike that your child will use for a long time. It’s lightweight, features a simple chainring which makes it easy to use and understand and has brakes that are intended to be used and manipulated by a child’s hand. If you really want your child to experience the joy of riding a bike; whether it’s a race or an outing with the family, it’s hard to imagine finding a better bike than an ISLABIKE.

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