Tag Archives: bikes

Isla bikes

Six years ago, I wrote about children learning to cycle. Whilst researching the piece, I spoke to someone from the CTC.

He told me about a new company that was starting up, run by someone called Isla. I rang her and we had a chat and I mentioned the company in my piece. It was so nice to actually speak to someone who ran her own company and not a PR representative of a huge cycle manufacturing chain.

My eldest was then about three and I was looking for a bike for her, so decided to buy a balance bike. I’d seen loads of the wooden versions around London but they really annoyed me for some reason and, at the time, Isla’s Rothan was much cheaper than the other metal versions around (I think she vastly underpriced her bikes in the early months).

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The reason Isla bikes are so good, but also what makes them not the cheapest you can buy, is that they are made with components that are specially made for children’s bikes, not scaled down versions of adult bikes.  Hence brakes are easy to apply: they’re not stiff, but have a lovely, easy, action. I think this is really important for little folk with their tiny hands. IBs also hold their value incredibly well. Look on eBay and you’ll see what I mean.  And they look great. Our bike man said that my daughter’s Isla bikes were the best quality children’s bikes he’d ever seen. You can read more about what makes them so good here.

You can of course buy cheaper children’s bikes and if that’s what you want to do, go right ahead. I learned to ride on a bike far too small for me, up and down the corridor at my aunt’s house in Italy. The moment I got my own bike (I was TWELVE), I was able to ride it straight away.

Both of my girls have always had Isla bikes (it helps with the value for money thing if you can pass them down the sibling chain), from the Rothan, through the Cnoc and the Beinn. Because my children have unfeasibly long legs, I always ring up for advice before purchasing and you should too if your children have very long or short arms, of if you’re not sure of sizing. And although my eldest learned to ride on the balance bike, Rothan, she still decided she needed stabilisers on her pedal bike when she graduated to one.

Today Isla bikes launches in the US. So all of my readers in the US can also buy one.

*Disclaimer. I bought all of our bikes at full price for years, but the last two years Isla has, exceptionally, given me a discount on my children’s bikes (I think I’ve bought two with a discount) as she credits me with helping her launch her business. Of course she would have done it all by herself.

Tagalong bikes or trailer bikes

The Roland Add-a-Bike


I ride a Nihola trike and have done for about four years now. It’s what I do the school run on and, aside from the harshest day in winter, I use it instead of the car for around town.

I will do a review on the Nihola soon, just haven’t yet. I don’t know why I just never seem to get down to it even though I love my Nihola more than is decent.

When my eldest got to eight years old, I thought it was about time she started to ride her own bike to school. Except. I wasn’t really ready for her to ride her own bike to school. I mean, she can ride, beautifully (we are Islabike fans) but we tend to let her ride mostly off road or just meander along. As a parent I realise you take all sorts of risks you’re comfortable with. I co-sleep with my children, which some consider a risk. I pick them up when they cry, which some consider a risk (that they will turn into monsters and be forever crying just to be picked up). I let them feed themselves, which some would worry about (the choking). I don’t Dettox everything and let them eat things that have fallen onto the floor (at home) and don’t always insist they wash their hands. I let them climb walls and trees. And I let my children use screens: iPads, computers etc. All of which some parents consider risky, irresponsible behaviour.

But I’m comfortable with all of that.

I’m not, however, comfortable with letting my eldest cycle to school, yet. So I thought a trailer bike was in order. You know the things? They hook up to the back of a normal bike, so the child gets a sense of being in traffic, she cycles, so gets valuable exercise (and believe me, this is a help when you’re cycling a Nihola with another child already in the box trailer up front) but is totally attached to the adult.

I’d written about tagalongs a while ago and done a lot of research. So I knew that the tagalong bike I wanted had to fit onto the pannier rack at the back of the adult bike, not onto the seat-post (the people I really listen to in cycling, none of them recommend that latter sort of fixing tagalong as it compromises the stability of the adult bike). The problem was that the only tagalong that did this was the Burley Piccolo which had gone out of production and second hand ones were fetching silly money on eBay.

The fabulous Islabikes used to do a trailer bike (I use the term tagalong and trailer bike interchangeably, they are the same thing), but I rang and spoke to Isla herself who told me that although she would probably do them again, there was a problem with sourcing one of the components and for the moment, she wasn’t making any new ones. A visit to eBay showed me that her trailer bikes were also exchanging hands for about the price of what they’d cost new.

So I was stuck. Then I rang Brixton Cycles and spoke to the fabulous Barnaby who has always been super  helpful and straight down the line honest with what he recommends, even if he doesn’t sell it. And he told me about Roland add-a-bikes which fix onto the back rack and are sold by Bikes and Trailers.

I think it was Sean I spoke to and the service was excellent.

So I got one and it is brilliant. I can’t comment too much on the stability because of course, my Nihola is a trike. But it comes with its own pannier back rack (so if you already have one, you’ll have to take it off) and the actual bike slots into the back quite easily. You can take it off if you do the school run and leave it there and then re-fix it when you pick up in the afternoon.

I umm-ed and ahh-ed about getting one with gears (it comes in 3 or 7 gear versions), or not. In the end I decided not to to keep the cost down. The one extra I did get (retrospectively, but wish I’d got it before) was the kick (two-legged) stand. It’s really useful if you regularly taken the trailer bike off and it has to stand on its own, because it can’t stand on its own otherwise…I hesitated because it’s not cheap at £34 but some things are just really useful and you have to bite the bullet.

If you were to transfer this bike from one adult bike to the other regularly, then you’d really need to also get the extra back rack. You can’t use the Add a Bike without it.

Just to add to this: I spoke to Isla last week to ascertain what was happening with her trailer bike, before I wrote this blog post. She told me she had no immediate plans to re-introduce it but it’s something she would think about doing in the future. She did however tell me that the Burley Piccolo is going back into production. I’ll keep you posted.

In the  meantime, we cycle to school now looking like a giant cycle crocodile. My youngest in the front in the Nihola box, me on the Nihola and my eldest on the back. The Nihola box allows me space for one more child and lots of shopping…who needs the gym.

One important point to add (thanks Claire), it’s not relevant for me with all the passenger space, but you can still use this tagalong and fit a child seat on the back of the adult bike. If you look at the Bikes and Trailers website you can see.