Pros & Cons
- Top-notch quality from top to bottom
- Narrow build to easily fit the smallest frames and provide more power with each pedal stroke
- Easy-reach and easy-pull dual-hand brakes
- The only 12"/14" bike with a 100% enclosed chain guard
- No freewheel option (to get rid of coaster brake)
**Islabikes are no longer available in the US**
This review was completed with the CNOC 14″ Large. Islabikes now offers a smaller CNOC 14 with a seat range of 13″ – 16.5″ for younger/shorter kids who are ready to ride. Both CNOC 14 sizes also come with dual-hand brakes as well as a coaster brake.
*If your child is in size 5 pants, or close to moving up, be sure to read our CNOC 16 review.**
The Trouble with Most Kids Pedal Bikes
One afternoon, while chasing my two-year-old around the neighborhood on his balance bike, I witnessed a common argument between a parent and child. Eager to ride a bike without training wheels, the eight-year-old bravely told her father she was ready to try. Upon mounting the bike, she got scared, Dad got mad and within minutes the bike was put away. Her father was upset that she didn’t “try”, but the problem wasn’t with his daughter, it was her bike. A cheap big-box store bike, that weighed more than half of her weight and clearly too small for her, it would take one brave girl to get on and ride it the first time (or even second or third time). So as it is with most parents, they are quick to blame their child and rarely, if ever, the bike.
A week later story the repeated, but with a five-year-old who, much to his mother’s frustration, was too scared to ride his Huffy Rock It without training wheels. Riding by, I stopped to ask her if she would be interested in letting him try out a balance bike, she was. One week later, I traded the balance bike for the Islabikes CNOC 14″ and then watched as her son got on the bike and rode away. Within a week, he was keeping up with his older siblings on their family rides to the park.
Sometime later, I had the opportunity to try the bike out on a three-year-old (shown below), who was having trouble transitioning to his 14″ Diego bike from his balance bike. Upon convincing him to give the Islabikes a try, he reluctantly got on the bike, starting running, then balancing, and was soon riding off down the street. It was easy, tearless and only took minutes for him to confidently ride on his own. Best yet, instead of his parents marching off in frustration, they were screaming with delight, “I can’t believe it, he’s riding!!”
In most cases, it’s not the child, it’s the bike. Given the right bike (and preferably a balance bike beforehand and never training wheels), kids as young as three, or even two, can easily and quickly learn to ride a pedal bike tear and frustration free. The lightest and narrowest pedal bike on the market (to our knowledge anyway), the Islabikes 14″ is an amazing first pedal bike on the market. For taller kids, the bikes is also available in a 16″.
Islabike CNOC Series
Perfected from top to bottom, the Islabikes CNOC series is finely tuned to specifically fit the frame and physical abilities of preschoolers. As a result, they are easier to ride, easier to balance and allow kids to ride earlier and more confidently as compared to their 12″ bike counterparts. From personal experience with our kids, we also found that our kids were able to ride for longer distances as they don’t tire as easily.
When transitioning to a pedal bike, the first step to riding is determined the correct size bike for your child. Due to the gap between the pedal on the bottom stroke and the ground, a child can technically ride a pedal bike with a minimum seat height that is about 3.5″ taller than their inseam. The problem is that they won’t be able to touch the ground to start or stop. As a result, we recommend purchasing a bike with a minimum seat height which is similar to your child’s inseam.
For kids who are confident with a handbrake, an inseam slightly less than 18.5″ could be manageable on the CNOC 14″ Large as they wouldn’t have to rely on their feet in order to brake. Considering the handbrake is on the front tire, however, it is not recommended to use it when riding very fast or downhill as quickly stopping the front tire could cause the bike to endo. Both bikes, however, do have a coaster brake (pedal backwards to brake), as required by law, but they can confuse some kids when first learning to ride.
Since the maximum seat height on a lot of balance bikes is 18″, the Islabikes 14″ is a great bike to transition to. As a point of reference, Islabikes’ balance bike, the Rothan, when used with an extended seat post option, maxes out at 18.5″.
Islabikes vs. other 12″ Bikes
Although technically a 14″ bike, the Islabikes CNOC 14″ is sized the same as other 12″ bikes. In fact, although it is much larger than the $40 Huffy Rock It, its minimum seat height is only 0.5″ less. It is also a lot lighter than both the Specialized Hotrock and the Huffy Rock It.
One of the most significant differences we found between the three bikes was the wheelbase length. The longer the wheelbase, the more stable the bike is, the lower the center-of-gravity and more room a child has for their knees when turning. The additional six inches of wheelbase on the Islabikes is clearly evident in side-by-side comparisons.
When seen in action, the longer wheelbase clearly makes a big difference in the body position of the rider. The stretched out frame causes the rider to learn forward on the bike, which lowers the center-of-gravity of the rider and creates a much for favorable body position for the rider.
In addition to being longer, Islabikes are also narrower. While other bikes use adult-sized components to build their bikes, Islabikes redesigned all theirs to specifically fit a child’s body. As a result, when riding their bikes, kids only have to splay their legs out slightly, while on others it is quite significant.
The quality of the Islabikes is also clearly superior to lower-end bikes. The required chain guard on the Huffy Rock It is extremely flimsy and is known to break within a couple weeks of use. The chain guard on the Specialized is made of rigid plastic and is quite durable, but the sleek, removable chain-guard on the Islabikes in superior in both style and function.
Lastly, rather than settling for the standard width handlebars (which are sized for adults), the Islabikes have narrower handlebars and corresponding grips to better fit smaller hands. The micro-reach brake levers are also appropriately sized for preschoolers hands. To improve the safety of small fingers, the large rubber bumper at the end of the handlebars protect hands when accidentally running into walls or gates (when passing through) as well as during falls.
The Islabikes CNOC 14″ Series is everything a child’s bike should be, lightweight, easy to use and a joy to ride. Although they come with a heftier price tag, if they are in your budget, they are worth every penny. In addition, due to their high-quality and rarity, Islabikes tend to have a very high resale value.