A bike for a young female rider is a tricky choice. It has to ride well, look good, encourage riding and be just a bit ‘cool’ too. My 13 year old, Vita, tried the Islabikes Luath with me probing her with questions throughout the experience. At one point, she wrinkled her forehead and said “Look Dad, it’s just nice to ride, OK”. If the review was just seven words, those would be the ones, but here’s the long version…
Out of the box
First impressions of any new bike start straight out of the box are important. I’ve opened a fair few in my time and so had a particular eye for detail that comes only when a cycle-enthusiast parent first surveys his offspring’s new steed.
- Luath 700c Spec
- Price: £549.99
- Weight: 10.42 kg
- Aluminium frame. Cro-moly forks with mudguard rack eyes.
- Adjustable Shimano Claris STI levers
- Tektro cantilever brakes
In this respect, the Luath made a strong start. It arrived very well-packed with excellent shipping protection for the wheels and frame, and the set up instructions were clear and easy to follow.
Extra brownie points came from the inclusion of three excellent quality Allen keys required to complete the job. They’re the kind that any discerning rider would squirrel straight into their own collection. Using them we added the pedals, straightened the handlebars, set the saddle height correctly and made tiny tweaks to the brakes.
The bike was ready to ride in under 30 minutes – although there was extra pressure with a teenager wanting near immediate access. I made her wait and then asked what she thought.
Vita’s enthusiasm was directed immediately to the clean lines and lovely orangey red of the frame. My eye was drawn to the finer details that make the Luath such a great bike for young riders during that transition from kids to adult bikes.
First, cantilever brakes. Kids make bikes mucky – they ride in parks. They go out in the woods with friends. Calipers are good for road but can get clogged easily when taken off-piste or cross-country so cantilevers are a great choice.
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Second, the Luath came with supplementary ‘interrupter’ brake levers mounted so kids riding with little hands on the tops don’t have to change position just to stop. That’s a lovely touch and one that gave my daughter extra confidence when out and about in the park.
Next, the frame. The Luath has a strong aluminium frame with all the joins and lugs beautifully finished before the paint job has been applied with obvious care. It looks like beauty but will be tough as a beast and able to absorb all kinds of action. Not the lightest but toughness trumps everything available for this age group.
The handlebars are well proportioned with a shallow drop that is much more comfortable and easy for small hands. Mounted on them, STI Shimano Claris gears that are ‘exactly like Dad’s’ – meaning that the gear shifting mechanics are the same as 105, Ultegra and Dura-Ace… only with eight cogs on the back. However, the gearing ratios have also been well thought out and adapted for the age group with a range from a good ‘dinner plate’ granny gear to a 12 tooth highest gear. The reach of the shifters is also adjustable.