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First look: 2014 Islabikes Creig 26 MTB

03 June 2014

Product

Islabikes Creig 26 MTB

Price

£699.99

Weight

10.5 kg / 23.1 lbs (without pedals)

Supplier

Islabikes – www.islabikes.co.uk
“Not cheap and not for everyone, but a super-effective mini MTB. Lighter than ever and with improved spec for 2014. And really, really green.”

The £700 Islabikes Creig 26 is a serious junior MTB aimed at skilled children who ride a lot of technical terrain. Islabikes themselves will tell you that it’s not aimed at the majority of young off-road riders who would find a much cheaper hybrid like their Beinn 26 model more suitable.

We had a Creig on long-term test earlier this year and found it very effective. Now Islabikes has updated the bike to reduce its overall weight further and to take advantage of certain new components being released.

You don’t need to look carefully to identify the updated model – its frame is a very vivid green compared to the previous model’s very vivid mango colour…

We’ve had the updated Creig for several weeks and have been testing it hard – perhaps a little harder than Islabikes expected! Watch our video to see it in action with top trail dog Lucas for company.

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What’s new?

SRAM’s new 10 speed twist-grip gear shifter replaces trigger shifters. Quality twist-grips have become popular this year on high-end cross-country MTBs raced by elite senior riders. All of our test riders loved it, even though they were already very used to trigger shifters on their usual MTBs. As before, the Creig’s 1×10 transmission has a very small single chainring and a super-wide ratio cassette, and that gives all the gear ratios that a rider would ever need, without the complexity and added weight of multiple chainrings and a front derailleur.

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The fork is now a Rockshox 30 Gold TK. This air-sprung fork was released in 2013 and retails for around £200. It’s more expensive and considerably lighter than the Rockshox XC 32 fork that was fitted previously. Like all quality forks the air pressure can be tuned for the rider’s weight and riding conditions. Islabikes had sensibly set the pressure low for a typical young rider’s weight, but in fact we found that the fork needed a bit more pressure for the hard use that the bike has had in testing.

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The brakes are now SRAM DB1 instead of the previous Avid Elixir 3 brakes. The DB1 is actually slightly lower in SRAM/Avid’s range than the Elixir 3. The new bike has a 140mm rear rotor instead of the previous 160mm – that saves a little weight and is more than adequate for a young rider who might weigh 30kg instead of the 80kg weight of a senior rider. The frame has been redesigned slightly to take account of the smaller rear rotor.

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The bike has lost about 400g in overall weight – that’s about a pound. Islabikes itself quotes 11.1 kg for the new model but we actually weighed it at 10.5 kg (excluding pedals of course). All riders appreciate light weight but it’s proportionately even more valuable to children than adults.

So is it any good?

The bike itself is very agile, due to its low weight and its components being properly proportioned to the size of a child. On all types of surface and technical features it did a good job – a skilled rider on a Creig can tackle anything you’d typically find at a trail centre.

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We had no breakages or mechanical problems, despite the bike being jumped around quite aggressively. Like the previous model, our testers found the riding position and bike control very natural on the Creig.

Shifting with the new twist-grip was great – very accurate and reliable, somewhat to our surprise perhaps. If you buy a new Creig make sure the rider wears good gloves or mitts though, because the shape and material of the twist-grip itself is very “grippy”, and our test riders found that it abraded their hands otherwise. The super-slim left hand grip would benefit from a hand-stop in the same way that the twist-grip itself forms a stop for the right hand – that would help position the rider’s left hand better and give it something to butt up against.

The forks worked well, absorbing a lot of punishment. But make the effort to tune them to your rider and the conditions.

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Is it worth it?

£700 is without doubt a lot of money for a child’s bike – even though it’s pretty good value for a low production volume MTB with the Creig’s specification and low weight.

At £300/£350 a good hybrid from Islabikes or Frog Bikes will suit most children, as discussed right at the start of this review. But for those riders who would exploit a proper MTB’s abilities and make good use of it, what other competition is there? Well, there’s not much really:-

  • You could buy an XXS or XS 14” frame version of a quality adult 26” wheel MTB. But these are often much heavier than the Creig, rarely have short enough cranks for children of this size (the Creig has custom-made 152mm cranks). And if you go down this route make sure the bike’s forks can be set up for a child’s weight, not a typical adult’s weight.
  • Most other junior MTBs are much heavier, have transmissions with two or three chainrings (instead of the Creig’s 1×10 set-up), and their forks are often heavy and coil-sprung (not air).
  • A self-build MTB could match the Creig’s low weight and its 1×10 transmission, and you could probably use short enough single-speed BMX cranks if you take care with the spec. Building your own junior bike is very satisfying but you obviously need the time and skill to do it, and you need to keep an eye on the costs if you’re buying its components new at retail prices.

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Should I buy one then?

Our testers liked the updated Creig. It’s a great little MTB which they could ride instinctively without thinking about anything apart from the trail in front of them. If your child spends a lot of time doing challenging mountain-biking then it would probably suit them well. But consider first whether a good hybrid fitted with MTB tyres would do 95% of the job at half the price for your particular rider.

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First look: 2014 Islabikes Creig 26 MTB

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