Words by Jeff Lockwood and Kaya Lockwood
Photos by Jeff Lockwood.
Size Tested: small
While cyclocross development programs for kids are starting to emerge (such as the Philadelphia Cyclocross School profiled on page 26), the choices of ’cross-specific bikes for this more diminutive demographic are rather thin. Buying such a bike is a difficult investment for parents, due to the fact that children grow fast and can find the bike from last season is suddenly too small for this season. Thus, unless a family has a deep pool of very disposable income, such slick race rigs for kids don’t make much sense.
Enter Islabikes. Founded by British bicycle designer Isla Rowntree, this UK-based bicycle company is dedicated to making bikes for the littlest of children, up to older kids who are ready to take the leap to a full-size rig. A few adult-sized bikes are also available. The company offers a range of products including crankless balance bikes for toddlers, mountain bikes for middle-schoolers, and road/cyclocross rigs for kids aged eight years and up.
If your daughter or son is looking to get into the very family-friendly sport of cyclocross (or any other form of drop bar bike riding), you’d be wise to check out the Luath 700 from Islabikes. Built around a 7005 T6 aluminum frame, the Luath can be ordered with a cyclocross-specific configuration. Its standard top-mounted levers offer kids a confidence-inspiring option for slowing down, and ’cross-specific tyres make it ready for days between the tape or other off-road adventures. The Luath also features standard top-routed cables, making things easier on little shoulders.
As testament to Islabike’s focus on developing the love of cycling in children, the Luath is an incredibly adaptable bike, making it extremely suitable for ’cross, road, adventure and even commuting. It can be ordered with slicks instead of the cyclocross tyres, and the ChroMo fork includes mounts for a fender. It also has rack and fender mounts on the rear triangle.
The Shimano drivetrain includes 16-speed gearing with a compact 34/46 up front and reach-adjustable levers – great for dialing in the fit for your son or daughter. The bars are made for littler bodies, with a shorter reach and shallower drop. Tektro cantilever brakes handle deceleration, while offering the added benefit of giving your young ’un some proper ’cross cred.
The size of the Luath delivered to us was chosen for my 12-year-old daughter Kaya – it’s a ‘small’ model, and is made for kids 11 and older. Out of the four sizes in the Luath range, it’s the first one on the scale that features 700c wheels. The Luath 24 features 24-inch wheels, and is made for kids about eight years old, and the Luath 26, with 26-inch wheels, is for nine-year-olds.
But how does it appeal to a 12-year-old girl? Let’s consult with an expert: “The bike is perfect for beginners and kids starting to get serious about riding because it has two sets of brake levers that make transitions and stopping easy. When I ride, it makes me feel like it was built for me because the bike isn’t too big or too small,” says Kaya Lockwood.
Sounds like a proper gateway vehicle to get your kid into riding and racing, and have his or her bike sitting right next to yours.