Cycling, Environment, Health & wellbeing, Life and style, Older people -

The right bike for the right person: a lesson from Isla Rowntree

The Islabikes founder’s new range of bikes for those aged 65-plus shows how different people can often have very different cycling needs

On the Bike Blog we do wang on quite a lot about the vital importance of safe infrastructure to get more people cycling, and with very good reason. But there’s another aspect also worth considering: having people on a suitable bike.

Why did this occur to me? Because of a chat with Isla Rowntree, the eponymous founder, head and design supremo for Islabikes, who has spent 13 years thinking about how bikes can be made easier and more fun for children to ride, and is now branching into intended bikes for older people.

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At that point in time, I think children’s bikes had reached an all-time low in terms of their functionality and the riding experience. They were really heavy, because they had great big fat tubes to make them look like adult mountain bikes, but made of steel, and very often some kind of faux-suspension that added another couple of kilos, huge numbers of gears that young children couldn’t understand.

They seemed to have gone away from the shapes that fit an actual child – huge, long cranks, brakes that they couldn’t reach and with springs so heavy they couldn’t pull on them.

I thought: again, there’s a group of people here to whom cycling is a really important thing, but are struggling because they can’t get the most appropriate bikes for their currents needs. It was really as simple as that.

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That’s the beauty of living next door to my parents. They won’t go out too far any more on their own because they can’t get the tyres off if they have a puncture to change of inner tube. I say to them, ‘Call me if it happens, I’ll come and fetch you,’ but they’re too proud.

It’s that practical detail that you only get to think about if you’re around people who are actually at that stage and struggling with it. And that’s the kind of thing I get really excited about. It might seem a bit obscure, a bit techy, but I know it’ll make a real difference to those enthusiast cyclists who are still going off on rides.”

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