Bike Check: Two Custom UK-Made Steel Hardtails From Islabikes

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The 2018 Pivot TwentyFour12 was held over the weekend down at the historic Newnham Park venue in Plymouth, and despite the wild weather that rolled in through Sunday morning (and the resulting early finish for the race!), the event proved to be a roaring success for all who came down for the weekend’s racing and festivities.

Islabikes is one of the event supporters that has been on board for the past three years, specifically as a headline sponsor for the kids races throughout the weekend. Though the main event may indeed be the full 24-hour endurance race, with so many families and groups coming along to Newnham Park for a weekend of camping and riding good vibes, there are plenty of other events for folks to get stuck into, including numerous kids events.

On Friday afternoon we had the Time Trial, which was followed by some proper heart-in-mouth racing during the Dirt Criterium. Then on Saturday morning before the start of the 12/24-hour event, the little rippers had the chance to enter a 12-minute or 24-minute race, which played out on a squiggly race course in the main event village.

islabikes pivot twentyfour12
Kids racing kicked off on Friday afternoon with a time trial no less!
islabikes pivot twentyfour12 kids racing
Concentration & anticipation.

During the Pivot TwentyFour12, we had the chance to catch up with Isla Rowntree of Islabikes, where we chatted with her about Islabikes’ involvement with the event, and what it’s like to see kids darting around on bikes that you’ve personally designed and helped to create. Check out the interview above, or if you can’t see the video, click here to watch it.

During our interview with Isla Rowntree, we also ended up chatting with some of the other team members from Islabikes, including Steve Chapman and Ben Yarnold, who were racing the 24-hour race in a mixed 5-person team. Both were racing aboard custom steel singlespeed hardtails – the frames of which have actually been handmade in the UK, in Islabikes’ Ludlow factory.

islabikes jib framebuilding steel weld
Steve’s bike in the jig. Islabikes builds all its prototypes in-house at the Ludlow factory.

The frames are manufactured out of a combination of Reynolds 853 and 4130 chromoly tubing, and they’re made to measure to the rider to their specifications. It’s one of the perks of the job for Islabikes employees. The frames are handmade by Ben, who came on board as a fabricator two years ago, and has been honing his skills ever since. As well as making sweet custom frames for his colleagues, Ben helps to fabricate the prototypes of new Islabikes models, which are made in-house before they’re put out into the field for testing. Longer term, Islabikes hopes to bring full production back to the UK, which is part of the wider Imagine Project where kids bikes will be rented rather than purchased.

The bikes had only just come together before the Pivot TwentyFour12, with Ben having built the wheels two days beforehand. The bikes were actually built out of necessity, as they’re actually replacements for Ben, Steve & Rob’s own bikes that had been cruelly stolen out of the van on their way up to take part in the Highland 550 back in late May. For anyone who’s had a bike stolen from them in the past, you’ll understand the anguish that comes with it – anguish that has been well documented in Steve’s blog post from the Highland 550. It’s worth reading that story and how one bike has so far been recovered, though with two bikes still out there somewhere, Steve is hoping some eagle-eyed Singletrack readers may be able to help with finding them – drop them a line via the Islabikes Facebook page if you’ve got any hot tips on the missing bikes!

islabikes steel hardtail singlespeed
Steve Chapman of Islabikes with his custom-built singlespeed hardtail.

Right, so back to the lovely new steel numbers that Ben and Steve were racing on at the TwentyFour12. Both were setup as singlespeed 29ers for the event, though they’re also designed to double-duty as off-road bikepacking rigs, with clearance for 27.5+ tyres and the option to run gears at a later date.

Here’s the specs on Steve’s ride (note: geometry measured with fork at 25% sag):

  • Rider height: 5ft 7in
  • Rider weight: 67kg
  • Complete bike weight: 10.00kg (w/out pedals)
  • Head angle: 68°
  • Seat angle: 74.2°
  • Reach: 451mm
  • Chainstay length: 442mm (sliding dropouts so this varies slightly)
  • Handlebar width: 720mm
  • Stem length: 60mm
  • Tyre width and pressure: Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.25in front (17psi) & rear (19psi)
  • Fork setup: 90psi, Rebound 7 clicks from bottom
islabikes steel hardtail singlespeed hope crank chainring
Steve’s got a Hope crankset and narrow-wide chainring on his bike. The magic ratio is 32:17 for his bike.
islabikes steel hardtail singlespeed
Sliding Paragon dropouts allow for easy chain tensioning, and Steve can fit a hanger version to allow the bike to run gears.
islabikes steel hardtail singlespeed
Steve apologised for the stick-on frame protection that’s there for mudguard mounting.
islabikes steel hardtail singlespeed sid fork mudguard
100mm travel RockShox SID RCT3 fork on the front offers huge clearance for running 29in or 27.5+ tyres.
islabikes steel hardtail singlespeed sid hope headset
Steve went for UK-made Hope components throughout the build, including that lovely headset…
islabikes steel hardtail singlespeed hope brakes
…and Race brakes too. Neat!
islabikes steel hardtail singlespeed ergon grip bar end
Ergon grips and bar ends might look a little old-school, but they’re damn comfy for long distance riding and racing.
islabikes uk made hardtail steel
Ben Yarnold and his trail-ready 29er hardtail.

With Ben being broader and taller than Steve, his bike features a few key differences in both the frame and the build kit. He’s got a much wider 800mm handlebar up front, along with a burlier RockShox Pike fork instead of the SID. Ben has also fitted an externally-routed dropper post, since he really dislikes internal cable routing (us too Ben!). The frame itself is quite a bit longer and slacker too, and along with the different parts selection, results in an extra 2kg over Steve’s bike.

  • Rider height: 6ft
  • Rider weight: 93kg
  • Complete bike weight: 12.00kg (w/out pedals)
  • Head angle: 66.5°
  • Seat angle: 73°
  • Reach: 475mm
  • Chainstay length: 442mm (sliding dropouts so this varies slightly)
  • Handlebar width: 800mm
  • Stem length: 50mm
  • Tyre setup: Schwalbe Rocket Ron 2.25in front (20psi) & Racing Ralph rear (23psi)
  • Fork setup: 110psi, 5 Bottomless Tokens, rebound 7 clicks from zero, low-speed compression 8 clicks from zero
islabikes steel hardtail singlespeed
Ben’s running a shorter 50mm stem and big 800mm wide handlebars.
islabikes steel hardtail singlespeed
Ben is fit and fast, but he’s built his bike with fun in mind. DMR Deathgrips and a KS dropper post bookend the wide cockpit.
islabikes steel hardtail singlespeed brooks cambium ks dropper post
There’s something you don’t always see – carbon rails on a Brooks Cambium saddle.
islabikes steel hardtail singlespeed
Oodles of tyre and mud clearance through those stays!
islabikes steel hardtail singlespeed hope calliper brake dropout
Ben went for more powerful 4-piston brake callipers on his build, which mount directly to the Paragon bolt-on dropout.
islabikes steel hardtail singlespeed
The external surface of the dropouts is sanded back to provide stable purchase for the main tension bolts.
islabikes steel hardtail singlespeed race face turbine crank chainring
Ben went for lower gearing on his build, with a 30:18 ratio on his singlespeed drivetrain.
islabikes steel hardtail singlespeed mallet crank brothers pedals
Chunky Crank Brothers Mallet E pedals with the pins wound down all the way.
islabikes steel hardtail singlespeed hope headset
And of course – a Hope headset atop the RockShox Pike RCT3 fork.
islabikes steel hardtail singlespeed hope headset
Digging that minimalist head badge. Clean!

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