Islabikes Creig 26 review

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Islabikes. The brand almost single-handedly invented the concept of performance bicycles for children. Bikes where the handling was actually thought about. Bikes that had controls that children could actually operate. Bikes that didn’t weigh as much as a Reliant Robin. Or were similarly unstable.

  • Price: £1,099.99
  • From:
  • Tested by: Ted

The complete legend and can’t-be-praised-enough titular Isla (Rowntree) herself may no longer be at the company in a day-to-day sense, but Islabikes are still very much designed with the same principles as they’ve always been.

What are these principles exactly? Fundamentally, it’s treating the child with the same level of regard as you would an adult. A bit like being a parent, it’s about thanklessly doing the things that will benefit the child without them even realising it – let alone asking for it.

In many ways, this bike test you’re reading now wouldn’t even have been a thing before Islabikes came along. No one, not even parents, would have read a review of a kid’s bike. Now there are adults without children who like reading about kids’ bikes. Because they are as good, as interesting, as innovative as any other bicycle out there. So, thanks Isla.

Easy going gearing

The Bike

The Creig 26 has been in Islabikes’ range for approximately yonks. It’s one of its iconic, mainstay offerings in fact. The frame saw a big refresh a couple of years ago which, somewhat typically for the brand, saw some weight savings and some handling improvements. Essentially the Creig 26 got a bit of the ol’ longer, lower, slacker treatment that we’re all very much familiar with on modern adult mountain bikes.

Did we mention that it has 26 inch wheels? Well, it has. The clue’s in the name, but sometimes it’s easy to miss the obvious. Starting with these hoops, let’s chat rubber. The tyres on the Islabikes Creig 26 are Vee Crown Gem 2.25in and sport a nice Goldilock casing (90TPI) while also offering tubeless compatibility.

The skinniest of grips

Talking of tubeless, the 24-spoke Stan’s Crest Mk3 rims are tubeless compatible too. The whole wheel and tyre package is really excellent and in no small way contributes to the bike’s low weight and overall lively character on the trail.

Time was, the quality of the frame on an Islabike would be the thing to be banging on about. The Creig 26 frame is very well made, but so too are many other brand’s kid frames these days. Islabikes only has itself to blame for driving up standards.

Loving these tyres

The next key thing of note is the suspension fork. This is always the component that raises most mountain biking parents’ eyebrows. “What is the fork and is it any good?” The fork on the Islabikes Creig 26 is an 80mm travel RockShox 30 Gold RL Solo air. Which is pretty much an adult fork. What effect this non-child specific spec fork has, we’ll go into shortly.

The drivetrain is 8-speed SRAM X4 with 11-40T cassette and 26T chainring, all operated by trigger shifters. Crank length is 150mm. Tektro takes care of the hydraulic disc braking with 160/140mm rotors. The cockpit comprises an excellently short stem (40mm) holding a generously wide (650mm) but strikingly rise-free (AKA flat) handlebar. The grips are skinny push-on affairs with big bulbous ends to help protect the ends of the bar from damage (there are also anti-core sampling bar plugs installed in the ends of the bar too – we checked). The own brand saddle may well be called ‘ergonomic’, but that didn’t really offset its firmness. Chamois required!

Air sprung fork

All in all though, a pretty premium performance minded set of finishing kit. With perhaps a slight bias towards the cross-country race-y end of things that will please as many parents/pilots as it puts off. (I’d probably slap a riser bar on there and a comfier saddle and grips for my kids, but that’s about it).

Rounding off the spec-fest we have a complaint. WTF is a bolted seat collar doing on a kid’s bike? Yes, it’s such a small thing. Which is why it should be a QR.

The Ride

First off, this bike is frequently first off at the front. This is one speedy little kid’s bike. Sure, it’s to do with the weight, but it’s almost entirely due to one aspect of the weight. Namely, the wheels. This bike is fast because it has light wheels, not because it only registers 10.76kg on the digital scales.

There’s a definite sense of urgency and forward self-propulsion on the Islabikes Creig 26. You can see riders finally understanding the point of putting effort in. Especially when it comes to going up gradients. With the nippy wheelset, fast rolling tyres and a gearing range most excellently placed towards the easy-as-possible end of the spectrum, the Creig 26 helps the rider battle gravity.

Pleasingly, despite the bike’s clear and present ascending prowess, it isn’t useless at downhill. OK, so the flat bar asks rather a lot of riders at the upper end of the height range (a relatively easy swap-out fix) but the frame’s generous standover, lowish bottom bracket height and not-steep head angle all help contribute to a surprising degree of descending confidence.

The parts spec also plays a big part in the bike’s capable handling too. The tyres are great: grippy yet nippy. The Tektro brakes were great. Once again, any armchair fears about disc brakes being too strong(!) for kids proved to be totally unfounded. Less-strong riders need more-strong brakes.

And finally, the RockShox fork was helpful. Now then, the RockShox fork is not without fault. Essentially it is not really tuned to lighter riders: i.e. a lot of kids. If the pressure is set to achieve a traditional amount of sag (15–20%) – or to access a suitable amount of travel out of the fork considering the roughness of terrain that it is being ridden on – the fork then doesn’t really work very well. It doesn’t extend once compressed. It packs down. It gets harsh and leads to sketchy, steep front-end handling. For lighter riders, we had the best results by putting the minimum recommended amount of pressure in (written on the usual sticker on the back of the fork lower) and then just accepting not being able to access anywhere near the full amount of travel (80mm), but at least having a modicum of suspension that actually goes up and down in an effective albeit not-full-stroke control-improving manner.

Although the three aforementioned components are the main factors in the ride experience, there’s no denying that the whole spec sheet has a positive effect. That short stem puts rider weight in a great place relative to the front tyre contact patch. All the controls were intuitive and the riders were all one-finger braking and single-thumb shifting on autopilot remarkably quickly, in every sense.

Aside from the aforementioned flat bar and skinny grips being not quite right for taller-end riders, the main niggle we had was that gosh darned Allen bolt seat collar and the needlessly firm saddle.


So then, does Islabikes still have ‘it’? Or have they been caught up – possibly even surpassed – by Johnny-come-lately copycat kid’s bike brands? The answer is almost entirely in the amazing wheelset that comes specced on the Creig 26. It is the wheels that utterly dictate the swiftness – in both acceleration and turning direction – of this machine.

Similar geometry can be found on rival bikes. Similarly good – if not better – components are seen on other kid’s mountain bikes.

Is the great wheelset worth the high price tag? Erm. Well, being totally honest, it totally depends on the child and/or parents. I’d probably save £300 ish and go for a Frog MTB 69. But if you’re more of a speedy family than us, you may well wish to stump up the extra cash for the Creig 26.

Specification Islabikes Creig 26

  • Frame // Aluminium
  • Fork // RockShox 30 Gold RL Solo Air, 80mm travel
  • Wheels // Aluminium hubs w/ 24H Stan’s Crest MK3 rims
  • Front tyre // Vee Crown Gem, 26 x 2.25in
  • Rear tyre // Vee Crown Gem, 26 x 2.25in
  • Chainset // Islabikes 150mm w/ 26T
  • Drivetrain // SRAM X4 8-speed w/ SunRace 11-40T
  • Brakes // Tektro hydraulic w/ 160/140mm rotors
  • Stem // Islabikes, 40mm length
  • Bars // Islabikes, 650mm flat bar
  • Grips // Islabikes Ultra Slim
  • Seatpost // Aluminium, 27.2 x 300mm
  • Saddle // Islabikes Ergonomic Junior
  • Bottom Bracket // Islabikes BB30 external
  • Size tested // 26in wheel
  • Sizes available // 20in, 24in, 26in, 27.5in
  • Weight // 10.76kg

Geometry of Islabikes Creig 26

  • Head angle // 66.5°
  • Effective seat angle // 75°
  • Seat tube length // 340mm
  • Head tube length // 90mm
  • Chainstay // 420mm
  • Wheelbase // 1,060mm
  • Effective top tube // 545mm
  • BB height // 295mm
  • Reach // N/A

Story tags

Review Info

Brand: Islabikes
Product: Creig 26
From: Islabikes
Price: £1,099.99
Tested: by Ted for Issue 145

Orange Switch 6er. Stif Squatcher. Schwalbe Magic Mary Purple Addix front. Maxxis DHR II 3C MaxxTerra rear. Coil fan. Ebikes are not evil. I have been a writer for nigh on 20 years, a photographer for 25 years and a mountain biker for 30 years. I have written countless magazine and website features and route guides for the UK mountain bike press, most notably for the esteemed and highly regarded Singletrackworld. Although I am a Lancastrian, I freely admit that West Yorkshire is my favourite place to ride. Rarely a week goes by without me riding and exploring the South Pennines.

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