Islabikes successfully carved out a niche in the quality childrens bike market when it set up back in 2006. Ten years on and plenty of brands are aspiring to knock the brand off its perch. Founder Isla Rowntree tells BikeBiz how the brand aims to retain its forefront position…
How’s business? How did 2015 compare with 2014?
2015 has been a challenging and exciting year for the business in an increasingly competitive market. We are continuing to grow the profile of the brand by increased participation at events and by creating engaging content aimed at the family cycling market. Christmas is always our busiest time so we have just had a very exciting time ensuring lots of children’s bikes were supplied in time.
What do you think of all the interest in the quality junior bike market? And the growing number of competitors? Is there room for everyone?
I established Islabikes with the aim of providing a better cycling experience for children. I see the growing number of companies specialising in better quality children’s bikes as a huge success because more children are able to experience the benefits of a correctly fitted lighter weight bike. I think the market will settle down in the coming year and develop three sectors; the good, the better and the best. As the pioneers of this movement our goal is to remain positioned as the best childrens bikes on the market.
Do you have a perspective on balance bikes starting to hit stabiliser sales? Have you seen that to be the case? Are you seeing any other trends?
We have seen a steady decline in stabilisers sales since the business was launched in 2006.
In our opinion this is very satisfying as balance bikes are a much better way of teaching children to ride.
Our customer service team actually discourage customers from purchasing stabilisers as we feel they are a poor way for children to learn. A bicycle steers by leaning and stabilisers prevent this, so the child learns to steer in a way that doesn’t work once the stabilisers are removed; a confusing situation that often leads to them overbalancing and becoming quite frightened, which unfortunately reinforces the fear associated with removing the stabilisers.
How long have you been offering cyclo-cross bikes for juniors and is that a growing or stable market?
Cyclo-cross bikes have featured in our range since the launch of the brand in 2006. It is also a discipline that Islabikes is particularly passionate about with many top level riders being part of our workforce. We have found that participation in the sport has grown incredibly in recent years and with it the demand for good quality bikes. As a form of racing it is fantastic for young riders as it is safe, accessible and encourages good bike handling skills from an early age.
What are the latest technology developments from Islabikes?
Following years of research and development, we now fit all our lightweight starter bikes with a revolutionary chain guard. The patented ChainGlider chain cover has been specifically designed to enhance safety for very young children. We worked with Hebie, a German bicycle accessory company, to develop a guard that fully encloses the chain and it is now featured on all our Cnoc models. To my knowledge we are the only children’s bike manufacturer in the world to replace the industry standard chain guards. It was very satisfying for me to develop this innovation in collaboration with our customers and as a direct response to parent feedback.
As a business we take a continuous development approach to our design. This means when we see an area of the product we can improve we make the change immediately ensuring children can benefit much sooner.
What are your expectations for 2016 and for the junior bike market in general?
As more competitor entrants come to market with better quality bikes for children, we are expecting a challenging year. Our aim is to cement our position as market leaders in the industry and look to raise the bar further in what is considered to be an acceptable standard for children’s bikes.