Islabikes CNOC 20 Review
Lightweight, nimble, and great for the road or basic trails, the Islabike CNOC 20 is perfect for kids ready for a real bike without the complexity of shifting gears. Read our review!
Pros & Cons
- Impeccably designed geometry allows for maximum balance and maneuverability
- Lightest 20" bike on the market
- Dual hand brakes
- Super fast and easy to ride - kids LOVE it
- High-quality hand brakes take some getting used to
- Forward leaning body position not ideal for laid-back riders
Islabikes CNOC 20 Review – Results of our Test Rides
**Islabikes are no longer available in the US**
The Islabikes CNOC 20″ is an impeccably designed, ultra-lightweight kid’s bike that your young rider will be begging you to take out for a spin. Perfectly suited for paved trails, light off-roading, moderate hills, and long rides, the CNOC 20″ is versatile, comfortable, fast, and just plain fun to ride!
One of the best things about the CNOC 20″ is that it is designed with a fairly low minimum seat height to allow kids as young as 5 to be able to ride a 20″ bike. Why do you care if your 5 year old is on a 16″ or 20″ bike? Two reasons. First, if you can get them on a 20″ bike early, they can get years of use out of this bike as they grow. Second, as wheel sizes get larger, maneuverability and stability of the bike increase. So a well-designed 20″ bike is going to be an easier and more enjoyable ride than a similar 16″ bike.
Islabikes is actually so passionate about making sure that your child’s bike fits them properly that they don’t even publish minimum and maximum seat heights. They size everything by your child’s inseam, forcing you to measure your child before you buy to ensure a proper fit. The CNOC 20″ fits a minimum inseam of 18.5″ through a maximum inseam of 22.5″.
Keeping in mind the height of the top tube (standover height) is just as important as seat height. In the inevitable event of a crash where the child shifts forward off the seat, if the top tube is too high, they can get a swift and painful hit to the groin. As you can see from the pictures below, there is sufficient clearance on the CNOC 20″ for both small and larger riders.
The lightweight nature of the CNOC 20″ is hands-down one of the best features of the bike. Weighing in at only 15 lbs., the CNOC is the lightest 20″ bike we’ve seen or tested. With a frame made from aluminum, even the rims of the wheels are aluminum (most bikes are steel)!
While Islabikes really does everything right when it comes to designing bikes specifically for kids, the geometry (or the proportions) of a bike is often where even well-meaning bike companies go wrong. Islabikes excels in this department – it’s obvious that a ton of focus went into designing the CNOC 20″ with proportional geometry for the kid rider. The first day we had a tester ride the CNOC, we thought he looked a little strange on the bike. We quickly realized it was because he looked like an adult on an adult bike. None of this bulky, these-parts-are-too-big-but-we’ll-try-to-make-it-work bike features. He looked in proportion to the bike, which sadly, wasn’t something we were used to!
Many kids’ bikes, from low-end to mid-range, have high handlebars that push a child into an upright position. This raises their center of gravity and decreases their ability to balance. High handlebars also don’t allow kids to properly extend their arms and can lead to twitchy steering. On the CNOC 20″, the handlebars are placed lower on the body to help lower the center-of-gravity as well as provide for proper arm extension, leading to better overall control of the bike.
CNOC’s Lower Handlebars Allow for Better Control of the Bike
With Islabikes, it’s all about the details. An additional small, but differentiating feature is that the diameter of the handlebar is smaller than traditional kids’ bikes and has ultra slim grips for small hands to hold more easily. The easier a child can hold onto the bike, the more control and comfort they’re going to have. It may seem minor, but all of the small details that make up the design of the CNOC are a huge part of what makes it a superior kid’s bike.
CNOC’s Small Grip Handlebars Are Better Suited for Kids’ Hands
Rider’s Position on Bike
The low handlebars and proportionate wheelbase create a more “aggressive” body position on the CNOC 20″ as compared to most 16″ bikes that your child has probably been riding. Essentially, this bike is not meant to be a beach cruiser on which a kid is going to sit straight up and meander slowly through the neighborhood. The CNOC was built to perform for confident kids who want to ride fast, long distances, and on varied terrain. Timid kids are often more comfortable on bikes with higher handlebars that allow them to sit more upright.
One of our testers usually rides a beach cruiser-style bike with handlebars that swoop back for casual riding – the CNOC made her a little nervous. Even though she rode with great control (it was her first time on a 20″ bike), and she actually looked much more stable and confident on the CNOC than on her normal bike, she simply wasn’t used to the forward body position and didn’t find a need for it.
Depending on your child’s current skill and confidence on a bike, or if you see that they probably won’t evolve into a confident, aggressive rider, you might want to look at bikes that are designed for a more upright body position, like ByK E-450. (See the red lines in the images below.) Keep in mind that while the CNOC may be more aggressive than most 16″ bikes, we wouldn’t technically classify it as an aggressive bike in the 20″ category. Most 20″ geared bikes are more aggressive than this single-speed!
CNOC 20″ Forward Body Position vs. ByK E-450 More Upright
The bottom bracket of the bike is also a key contributor to the rider’s body position and comfort. In the images below, you can see how much lower the bottom bracket and therefore the bottom stroke of the pedal is on the CNOC as compared to not only cheap bikes like Huffy, but popular bike shop bikes like the Specialized Hotrock. Because the bottom bracket is lower (which also lowers the pedal), it’s easier for a child to pedal because they get better leverage on the pedals with every stroke. While our tester that usually rides the Hotrock often has to pedal standing up on his bike to get it going from slow speeds, I never once saw him do this on the CNOC. The lower bottom bracket also lowers the child’s center of balance on the bike which allows for a feeling of better control and stability.
Lower Bottom Bracket on CNOC = Easier Pedaling, Control, and Stability
Bike Width (Q-Factor)
Many kids’ bikes are made at least partially with adult components, which can lead to less than ideal geometry. One common problem with these bikes is that the pedals are placed wide, which requires a child to splay their legs out to pedal, thereby making the bike less comfortable and their pedaling less efficient. Islabikes of course only uses components specifically manufactured for kids, and with a Q-factor of just 5.5 inches, fairs much better than cheap bikes like the Huffy Sea Star (6.75 inches), and also better than the highly popular Specialized Hotrock at 6.25 inches.
The saddle is designed so that kids will sit in the correct position on the bike for maximum comfort and efficiency for pedaling. One of our testers complained on the first day that the saddle bothered him, but never mentioned it again. The saddle is more narrow than most seats on kids’ bikes, so this may be a feature that just takes a little getting used to.
The CNOC 20″ boasts dual handbrakes, which is not very common for a 20″ bike. And these aluminum mini V-brakes, are, well, legit. They’re as nice as any brakes on a quality adult bike. Unless you’ve seen the hand brakes some bike companies put on kids’ bikes, you probably won’t appreciate how nice these brakes are, so just trust us. They are easy to reach and easy to engage for kids’ hands.
Two words of caution. First, this will most likely be your child’s first experience with dual hand brakes. Be sure to help them understand how to properly brake with two brakes – NEVER with the left hand only. Not to worry, though. These brakes are really easy to use. One of our testers had only used a coaster brake previously and had no problem with the hand brake system after we spent just a few minutes explaining to her how to use it.
Second, because these are really nice brakes, they work really well. Our 6-year-old tester has been riding a Specialized Hotrock 20″ for about a year with a single hand brake. On his first ride out with the CNOC, he engaged the brakes and took a pretty bad tumble. Quite simply, he wasn’t used to how fast and hard the CNOC brakes would stop the bike. He braked too hard and fell over because he wasn’t expecting the bike to stop so quickly. This only happened once and he was able to adjust easily, but we recommend (as does Islabikes!) to have your child test out the brakes while walking next to it and then while riding at slow speeds to understand the brakes’ strength.
Gearing (Gain Ratio)
With a gain ratio of 3.98, the CNOC 20″ is geared just right for kids who will be riding up and down moderate hills, doing a little light off-roading, or just sticking to flat paved trails. Riders are able to start pedaling quickly and maintain great speed. Our 6-year-old tester who normally rides a Specialized Hotrock had no difficulty with small hills he can typically struggle on. Keep in mind though, if your child will regularly be tackling steeper hills, you should definitely look into geared bikes (like the woom 4 or Islabikes BEINN 20″), which are much more suited for hilly riding.
Ease of Assembly
Five minutes. That’s how long it took me to assemble the CNOC 20″. So. Easy. Islabikes arrive at your door essentially assembled. They are never shipped to you directly from the factory, but instead stop at the Islabikes headquarters first where they are assembled and adjusted as much as possible for a bike that then has to be shipped through the mail. I only had to do three things. 1) tighten the headset, 2) attach the pedals, and 3) adjust the seat height. THAT’S IT. The bike even came with three Allen wrenches to complete these tasks.
For those of you that are serious bike people, this thing comes decked out with premium components that will definitely impress you. From its completely enclosed chain ring (so you don’t have to worry about getting pants caught in it), to its threadless headset, aluminum micro brake levers, and adult-like saddle.
If you’re in the market for a durable single speed 20″ bike, the Islabikes CNOC 20″ is one of the best money can buy. We know the price tag is steep, but if you can swing it, the ease and joy of each ride definitely merit the cost. This bike is also built to last, so you can hand it down from kid to kid and really get your money’s worth.
If you’re looking for a bike that can tackle serious hills, you should take a look at Islabike’s geared bike, the BEINN 20″. If your kid really just wants to cruise around and doesn’t need a performance bike, the ByK e-450 is one of our favorites. But if you’re looking for a top-quality, everyday bike that can tackle moderate terrain, hills, and distances, you won’t find better than the CNOC 20″.