Sinner Mango Velomobile
Speed Ross recumbent
Home made child's recumbent
English three speed
Bob Yak trailer
The Dutch Bike Bits blog includes comparisons and reviews of cycling components.
The Hembrow Cycling Holidays blog has stories about cycle routes in Drenthe.
We organize Study Tours to show off the best cycling infrastructure in the world.
This web page is about the older model of Islabikes trailerbike which was produced back in the 1990s. When I originally wrote this web page, Isla Rowntree had restarted her Islabikes business and was selling a range of new good quality childrens' bicycles including an improved trailerbike design. Unfortunately, Islabikes range now seems to consist only of sports style bicycles with exposed chains, no mudguards and no lights. For practical children's bicycles as ridden to school by every Dutch child you now need to look to Dutch manufacturers.
Anyway, on with the description of the old trailerbikes...
These are really great, hand made in the UK by a proper bicycle company. They are not at all like the cheap imports which have now flooded the market. I've not yet had a chance to see the new Islabikes design, but at the time I originally wrote this web page, the only comparable product was the Burley Piccolo, which costs somewhat over £300.
For a reliable connection to the adult bike, it is important to have a connection to a rack, not a cheapo pivot behind the adult bike's seat. Sadly, these days all too many trailerbikes can be seen going along the road leaning to one side or another, or worse flicking suddenly due to the child moving on the trailerbike, due to their lack of a decent pivot on the leading bicycle. Weakness of these pivots has even been the reason for product recalls. This can't happen with a sensibly engineered trailerbike using a rack. The Islabikes trailerbikes were the best engineered. Good enough to last many children and always work as well as when they were first built. They use a specially made rack which as well as being very sturdy to take your luggage has what are in effect an upside down pair of fork ends at the top on to which the trailerbike fits.
The builder of these trailerbikes, Isla Rowntree, has gone on to considerable success in cycle racing.
I originally put this web page together as I was trying to sell both our trailerbikes as the children have outgrown them. Now that they have both sold, I'm leaving this hear as there is sadly little information on the web about these excellent devices. I still recommend them highly. They simply work much better than the cheapo copies. Also, if you buy one of these second hand now, you're still likely to be able to recoup most of its value when you pass it on to another family.
If you want to buy one now, second hand is the only option. Both the CTC magazine and Cycling+ tend to have ads for these.
There are further details about trailerbikes in general below, but first of all a few photos.
Using the special rack made for the trailerbikes:
Showing how a trailerbike attaches to the rack.
Close up of the rack showing how attachment is by using track nuts. All the parts in the pivot are standard components, it is basically a headset and an axle. These are properly made, with ball bearings. So, they are easily maintained, not that they tend to need much maintenance, as each of the parts has a much easier job doing this than they usually have on a bike. If any play should develop, that can be adjusted out exactly as you adjust a headset for play.
The one flaw of the use of a rack is that if your bike is stolen, you lose the rack. My wife's bike was stolen and we lost the rack as a result. That's why we ended up with one trailerbike without a rack for a while. I made a bracket to fit my wife's recumbent bike as shown below.
Using a rack that I made for the rear of a Flevobike Oke-Ja recumbent:
Our two trailerbikes had slightly different shape frames. I think the white one was a little older:
A close up of the special bracket for the Flevobike. It is just one piece of bent steel. Quite a heavy gauge so that it is sturdy enough. As you can see, it's pretty easy to make something to attach these trailerbikes to an unusual bike. The clever bit with the bearings in it is a part of the trailerbike itself.
Trailerbikes in general
You may have noticed that I'm not at all a fan of the sort of trailerbike that fits on to a seat post. The reason why is that I think they are unsafe due to the insubstantial nature of the seat post fitting, and also that they don't last. We used to be a rarity in Cambridge with our trailerbikes, but now the cheap versions have swamped the place. While ours are still working perfectly, any number of those which have come since are wobblying around behind the adult's bikes. I've seen parents happily riding along with their kids leaning at 30o from the vertical behind them, or kids who wobble from one side to another as they go around corners. Scary. Anyway, this simply doesn't happen with the Islabikes design.
Sturdy designs such as the Islabikes can be passed on to another family after your children have outgrown them. No-one's going to be interested in a wibbly wobbly seat post mounted trailerbike.
It's important to note that if you should decide to make a bracket for the rackless trailerbike, you should have the pivot point in front of the centre of the rear wheel of the adult bike. If it is not like this, then you have a positive feedback mechanism which amplifies any wobbles induced by the child or the adult as they're riding along. How do I know this ? I have tried out a couple of other trailerbikes which were designed without realising this. Do these people actually ride the bikes they make ?
There are a number of other things to look out for if you are in the market for a trailerbike. Gears are not much use to children as they usually don't know what gear to be in. They are, however, a cheap thing to put on a bike to make it seem more valuable, so virtually all kids bikes have umpteen multiple gears (in the UK at least - on the continent they're a bit more sensible than us). If you have gears on a trailerbike, it'll just be one more reason to have to tell your child what to do while they're riding along rather than let them get on and enjoy the ride. Typically they will either be in a gear that is too high or too low, and as a result they won't be able to pedal usefully. Or, the cheap gear mechanism will result in the chain hopping off. The Islabikes trailerbikes were made as single speed, and with 3 or 5 speed Sturmey Archer hub gears. If you're going to have gears on a child's bike, then I think hub gears are much more sensible. For a while I had the intention of retrofitting a 3 speed SA hub to our trailerbikes. I never got around to this, and never regretted not doing so. The gear chosen is quite sensible, about 50". It's low enough for kids to be able to help out when you're going up hills and when starting. These are the most important times for them to be able to pedal. It's also low enough to be able to help out for fairly slow touring, which is what you'll be doing with a child. The trailerbike is very stable, and will let you ride fast, but at that point it's up to you.
One manufacturer has started putting a brake on their trailerbike. I'm sure it serves to make their product look more full featured than some competitors, but it's not a safety feature. How does it help for a child to discover their brake when you're half way across a busy street ?
On the other hand, few trailerbikes are delivered with toe clips. These are a safety feature. When on a trailerbike, or on the back of a tandem, it is not neccesary to be able to put your feet down. That's for the captain to do. Having toe clips on a trailerbike helps to stop your child falling off the bike. They don't need to be done up tight.
Crank length is worth looking at. The cheapest cranks are the 170mm size fitted to adult bikes. These are much too long for children's legs. Islabikes fitted the more expensive, shorter, cranks so children can actually use the trailerbikes.
Products for cycling with children
There are more reviews of bikes and ride stories on the bicycle page.
I also have a webpage about how to teach cycling.
I make baskets for a living, including bicycle baskets. There are pictures of some of them here and here.
There is nowhere better for cycling with children (or without them) than in the Netherlands. We also now organise cycling holidays in Holland.
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