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Well, the past two days have certainly been interesting! Yesterday Islabikes announced a new range of performance kids bikes, aimed at children who take their cycling very seriously, and parents with very deep pockets. This has lead to an online debate about whether parents would or should fork out £800 on a bike for a 4 year old.
When we got sent the Islabikes Pro Series specifications and pictures through, we all started drooling over the bikes - they're so well designed, with a specification that you'd normally associate with an adult's bike. We've been very excited about the new frame design, and the components - carbon fibre forks and seat posts, titanium pedal axles, redesigned aluminium frames and handlebars..... the list goes on and on.
Of course, this attention to detail isn't going to come cheap, and the smallest bike in the range, a Cnoc 16, which has caught the media's eye, is £799. For those of you who aren't fluent in Islabike speak, a Cnoc 16 is designed for 4 year olds. OMG - would you spend £800 on a kids bike (complete with carbon fibre and titanium components) for a 4 year old????
The prices go up proportionally, so by the time you get to the Luath Pro Series 700, you're looking at £1,599.99 for a bike for an 11 year old. This is serious cash for a very serious kids bike, which is designed for serious racing. Thankfully my 10 year old is a frugal type, and his jaw hit the ground when he saw the price tag. He said "I think I'll stick with the normal range" - phew!!
It's been really amusing reading the comments on social media about the new Islabikes Pro Series. They basically fall into a number of camps. Which one do you fit?
There were a significant number of negative, or disbelieving, posts on Facebook and Twitter - perhaps not surprising, as £800 for a bike for a 4 year old is eye wateringly expensive. However, if people have the money to spend, then who can blame Islabikes for plugging that gap in the market? Plus, Islabikes are continuing with their standard range of kids bikes for the vast majority of their customers, whilst the Pro Series is aimed very much at the junior cycle racing community. I'm hoping that over time the standard range will benefit from the research and development being put into the Pro Series, but only time will tell. The general consensus amongst parents seemed to be that you'd be mad to pay £800 for a bike for a 4 year old. Some parents were worried about the risk of mugging and theft from playgrounds, and there was a general feeling that the standard range was pricey enough thank you! However, as kids get older, and cycling becomes an obsession, the £1,600 price tag drew a more diverse range of comments.
There were loads of people (myself included), wishing back the years. Oh to be a 10 year old with rich parents! For lots of families, the Islabikes Pro Series has just gone on the "When we win the lottery" list. There was a lot of drooling over the specification, and recommendations for further improvements. I wouldn't be surprised if some people have been checking their savings accounts and getting the calculator out.
trying to play it cool that both my girls want mtbs... eyeing up this beauty and figuring out which organ to sell: https://t.co/ihM8jXOOlc
— marni brewster (@marnibrewster) May 25, 2016
There were a vocal minority of people concerned about the increasing commercialisation and expense of competitive junior cycling. When some kids are racing on bikes with an unmodified price of £1,600, cycling risks becoming the preserve of the wealthy, rather something that should be accessible to all. This is a serious concern, as cycling organisations have been doing a lot of work to encourage participation in the sport. However, I know that already there are loads of kids out there riding bikes that have had sigificant modifications made to them to make them lighter and more responsive. It's this demand that Isla Rowntree has been responding to with this latest design, and means more people can access this level of technical specification, without having to have a Cytec bike mechanic for a parent.
Some commentors harked back to the good ol'days of everyone riding heavy steel penny farthings. That never stopped them winning the junior world cup, so why does the young generation need this new fangled carbon fibre anyway? Personally, I'd bring back National Service and the cane too while we're at it.
On the other side of the argument, many parents involved in the sport were very supportive, stating that anything that helps encourage the sport and raise standards is very welcome. Kids are already riding expensive bikes, and Islabikes have just taken things to the next level, and this should have a knock on effect throughout the kids bike market. It's the elite of junior racing that the Islabikes Pro Series is aimed at - with Isla Rowntree her self stating that " These are serious bikes for children who are serious about their cycling. I hope we see some of their names crop up as Olympians in the future.”
If you're buying an Islabikes Pro Series bike and your kid is entering road competitions, you need to be very clear on whether the bike is race legal or not. This is the one debate coming out of yesterday's announcement that will continue for some time. Islabikes have confirmed that the bikes are designed for Cyclocross and Mountain Biking, and not road racing.
@graywoodhouse Pro Series Luaths are dedicated cyclocross race bikes where disc brakes are allowed
— Islabikes (@Islabikes) May 26, 2016
Islabikes have obviously done their market research, and there will be some very lucky kids out there. I hope they appreciate the quality of the bike they are riding.
One of the attractions of Islabikes is that they have such a strong resale value when your kid has finished riding them. Some parents are concerned that the introduction of the new Pro Series range will force down second hand prices of the standard Islabikes range, as the new range will make the standard range look mediocre. Personally I doubt there will much impact (in the short term at least), as the Pro Series is aimed at a very niche market of racers (albeit there will be a subsection of cycling parents, who ride £7k carbon fibre bikes themselves who won't think twice about buying the Islabikes Pro Series for their kids to ride around the park).
Virtually all adult bike manufacturers produce various ranges of bikes to cater for different price points and requirements of cyclists. Personally, I think that the new Pro Series will just continue to associate the Islabikes name with innovation and quality in the kids bike market.
How would I answer the question myself? Would I spend £800 on a bike for my 4 year old? No way!!! But then I can't afford it, and wouldn't want to if I could. However, I suspect I'd make most of the price back selling second hand when they'd outgrown it. Then again, if I was going to spend £800 on a bike for a 4 year old, then I'd probably just hand it on to my housekeeper's child, or leave it languising in an outbuilding on my estate for years!
Would I spend £1,600 on a bike for my 10 year old? You know, if I could afford it, I probably would. Does he NEED it? NO!! But do I NEED the disc brakes and carbon fibre frame on my Liv road bike? No! Do I feel fabulous every time I ride it? YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! Do I really appreciate the female specific design that has gone into the geometry and the saddle, meaning I no longer ache when I get off? You bet I do!
So, if money was no object I'd be very very very tempted. I'd love my kids to know how that attention to every aspect of the design of the bike feels when you're riding it. How you can ride for hours without aches and pains. How you smile when you look at the bike. How you feel fabulous when you're riding it. How you ache to get out and cycle.
However, I'd have to ensure I could afford to keep investing, as once he'd ridden something that good, I'd suspect it would be difficult to go backwards again (and how would I choose between the Luath and the Creig?!). Islabikes are creating a new generation of carbon obsessives!
I'd love to know what you're thoughts are - which group do you most identify with? Leave your comments below, or on our Facebook page.
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