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First look: three great junior road/cyclocross bikes

20 October 2013

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For several years the market for quality junior road/cyclocross bikes with full-size 700c wheels has been dominated by Islabikes with its iconic Luath model. With a change of tyres bikes like this can be used perfectly well for circuit racing as well as cyclocross. They’re popular for junior triathlons too. With its versatility, light weight and proportional sizing the Luath has had few serious competitors.

Now, though, the Luath finds itself with tough competition as specialist brands have entered the market. We’re testing the latest Luath 700S alongside two of its strongest competitors: the brand new Juniorworx JA700 and the interesting Scatto J-Cross. We’ll publish a full review in a few weeks’ time but, in the meantime, this is an introduction to the three bikes.

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Our experienced testers have been riding the three bikes at cyclocross races and coaching sessions. Wherever the bikes have been they’ve attracted a lot of attention: children and parents alike seem to love the Luath’s (very) bright green finish; the Juniorworx is quite exotic and looks very modern; and the Scatto looks very focused with its carbon forks.

The three bikes are all sized for typically-sized Under 12 and smaller Under 14 riders. The Scatto has the smallest frame and the shortest cranks and suits smaller riders best. The Luath is the middle sized bike of the three, while the Juniorworx is sized for slightly larger riders and is just a little too big for our smallest Under 12s.

Islabikes Luath 700S (£500, 9.8 kg)

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Islabikes has already carried out a major update of its entire range twelve months ago, introducing some lighter components of its own design and reducing the overall weight of its bikes considerably. Our test bike is the very latest iteration of the Luath which has a few more recent updates to its specification. The 700S fits into the range above the 24” and 26” wheel variants, and below the slightly larger-framed 700L.

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Islabikes has always been the master of proportional sizing and thoughtful design for children. Our testers immediately felt comfortable on the Luath. There are no fancy features about the frame or specification – everything is simply designed and built to do its job properly.

The sky-high demand and resale prices of second-hand Luaths show how good the bike is and how well-respected it is.

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Juniorworx JA700 (£750, 9.6 kg)

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Oxfordshire-based Worx Bikes launched recently with an impressive range of adult bikes and it has developed quite a cult following. It’s immediately apparent that its brand-new Juniorworx models are not careless spin-offs from the adult range – they share the same impressive attention to detail and the high specification of Worx adult frames and bikes.

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The JA700 is a serious bike which has clearly been designed with thought and purpose. It has cutting-edge features which are not usually seen on junior bikes. For example, the top-tube has a flat underside for comfortable shouldering of the bike. The cables for the front and rear derailleurs as well as the rear brake are routed above the top tube to avoid the clogging with mud and long-term corrosion that ordinary routing can suffer from. Those are proper cyclocross features. Each of the aluminium frame’s tubes is carefully shaped for its purpose – it’s hard to find a traditional cylindrically-shaped section anywhere! The strong, tapered head tube is right on-trend too.

The frame construction helps justify the Worx bike’s price premium over the Luath and the Scatto. It uses good branded components and is the only bike with a 9-speed cassette. The bearings in its own brand Worx hubs are noticeably smoother than the other two bikes.

This model fits into Worx’s range above a 24” wheel and 26” wheel versions, and below their adult bikes.

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Scatto J-Cross (£600, 9.6 kg)

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The Scatto takes a different approach: the Belgian brand is supplied by Paul Milnes Cycles in Bradford. The frame is built up into three standard bike specifications ranging from £600 (as tested) to £1000. Alternatively, it can be supplied as frame-and-forks only for £295, or built up to a customer’s individual specification on request.

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It’s the only bike here with carbon forks (including the steerer tube too). It’s configured well with plenty of cyclocross-oriented equipment. Gearing looks particularly well chosen for cyclocross with a smaller outer chainring than the others, giving what is likely to be a more usable range of gears off-road. We’ll be interested to see whether it can also easily be adapted to meet Under 12 and Under 14 gear restrictions for circuit racing.

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First look: three great junior road/cyclocross bikes

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