I don’t know about you, but as a keen cyclist I was perhaps a little over enthusiastic about buying our firstborn her own set of wheels. The dilemma however, was for a two year old, what was the best option and do I really need to spend over £100!?
So I set about doing some research (aka browsing even more cycling sites) in the hope of making some sense of the world of children’s bikes.
Balance bikes have been around a while now, and without a shred of actual evidence at the time around whether they truly eliminate the dreaded stabilsers, I was still happy to buy into the theory that if toddlers can learn to balance and steer without the hassle of peddling, that when pedals arrive the transition becomes a whole lot easier.
A quick scan of our local Tescos or Halfords revealed all manner of brightly coloured steeds, usually with stabilisers and priced around the £50 mark. Seeing nothing comparable with an actual balance bike I dismissed most of these fairly swiftly.
They tended to be very cheap in all aspects; heavy steel frame, plastic or cheap metal components and little in the way of well thought out functionality. I moved on.
There were established balance bike brands that appealed. Many people saw the wooden Kiddimoto range on Dragons Den, and while I liked their simplicity I didn’t like the lack of adjustability, with no way to allow the bike to grow with your child. They are fun and well designed however and for a less fussy customer would be great, and good value also at around £50.
The Strider running bike looked great for younger children, and I am convinced it gives a great upright position for them which is great initially, but when I got my hands on one the cheap feel to the materials put me off slightly for the £85 I would be parting with. A shame.
The Adventure Zooom is a well made balance bike, with a rear brake, 6061 aluminium frame, alloy rims with kenda tyres and proper bearings throughout. This felt like it had been designed with children in mind and was definitely under consideration.
Moving up the price points, I had to consider a brand I had heard a lot about: Islabikes. Their Unique selling point is that the whole bike is designed from the ground up and specced according to the age of the child. As they are predominantly mail order only I read plenty of reviews and even emailed them to check a few bits. I was certainly impressed with the attention to detail on display; the Rothan is their model of choice, which sports a lightweight 7005 T6 aluminium frame, rear brake, super slim bars and grips, micro reach brake lever, alloy rims, pneumatic tyres and rounded Allen key bolts for extra clearance.
In my mind the Islabikes Rothan was the class leader, but the cost (£129.99 at the time) definitely put me off. Being some what fortunate at this point grandparents jumped in to contribute which made it a no brainier and the Rothan was ordered.
2 years on and we couldn’t be happier with our experience of the bike. It’s light, it’s easy to use, it’s well made and has stood up to all sorts of use and abuse. It’s also a purists bike: a miniature version of a great quality bike. It sports decent bearings, lightweight purpose designed and built components such as the micro reach brake lever which has such a smooth action and response. I found myself almost jealous that I had never enjoyed such quality as a kid! Everywhere you look on the bike it just exudes class. It also looks fantastic too. And don’t forget, resale value on Islabikes is also excellent.
So does anyone need to spend over £100 for a decent balance bike? Well no, I think there are good options under or around that mark such as the Adventure Zooom, the Bikestar range and some of the big boys like Specialized with their Hotwalk at £110. But if you can stretch to the Rothan I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The standard by which others are judged.