Islabikes are a common sight at local schoolyard bike racks. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)
It’s been a tough year for Portland’s bike industry.
In May, local cargo bike maker Metrofiets called it quits. Then in July, bike shop and community gathering spot Velo Cult announced it would no longer have a retail location. And on Tuesday of this week we reported that UK-based Islabikes decided to close the local office and warehouse that housed their North American headquarters. And yesterday we shared the messy road that led to the end of Renovo Hardwood Bicycles.
I don’t enjoy reporting these type of stories, but I do think the community deserves to know a reasonable amount of detail about them. Given Islabikes’ popularity and large role in our community (as a sponsor and partner of many local events), I felt like their official statement wasn’t enough. Earlier this week, I reached out to Islabikes General Manager Tim Goodall and asked him to share more about why they’ve decided to leave.
Goodall cited Brexit (the UK’s decision to leave the European Union) and a pesky US federal government regulation as two of the main reasons. [Read more…]
The busy warehouse as seen in June 2017. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)
Portland will no longer be the U.S. headquarters of Islabikes. In an announcement made this afternoon, the children’s bike company said they will close their southeast Portland office, showroom and warehouse.[Read more…]
Islabikes (L) and Go Box are ready to roll thanks to new cargo bikes. (Photos courtesy of the companies)
When you do business in a city, electric cargo bikes are often a much better solution for deliveries and service calls than cars or trucks. There are many companies in Portland that understand this fact, and two of them recently added new bikes to their fleet. [Read more…]
Isla Rowntree at her Portland facility in June 2017. (Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)
“Shops are typically run by conservative, not that young — and dare I say male — shop owners in the industry. That would be the profile who just thought I was mad. So I wouldn’t have persuaded them to buy anything from me.” — Isla Rowntree on why she decided to sell customer-direct
You’ve probably seen them: Young kids zipping around on great-looking (usually red) bikes with the Islabikes name on the downtube. Isla Rowntree is the woman behind this business. She founded the company in 2005 in the picturesque town of Ludlow in the United Kingdom, about 155 miles northwest of London. In 2013 Islabikes came to North America and planted their headquarters in Portland’s Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood.
Last summer Rowntree paid a visit to her bustling U.S. outpost and I met up with her for a chat. We sat in the upper floor of their warehouse and showroom on SE 7th Avenue and she shared a brief history of children’s bikes, her passion for making good ones, the challenges she faced as a start-up, and how Islabikes almost never ended up in Portland.
The Q & A is below, edited slightly for clarity (for full effect, read her words in a proper British accent)…
I was intrigued to learn you started a children’s bike company, but that children weren’t your inspiration?
“No. It wasn’t through my own children. I’ve been in the bike industry pretty much all my working life. I started in a bike shop when I was still in school and experienced my own personal challenges with fit and ergonomics because I’m fairly physically small. I came up with some solutions for those challenges and tinkered about with them throughout my twenties. Then, 11 or 12 years ago, I got to an age when my friends — and my sister in particular — had started families. They were all asking me what bikes to get for their kids. And that really drew my attention to the details of children’s bikes as they were available at the time. I was expecting to make a recommendation, do a bit of research and say, “OK get this one for your child.” But they were all so awful.
When a kid has the confidence to do little tricks, it’s a good sign they trust their bike. (Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)
When he was finally ready, his bike was more than up to the task. That’s how I think about my five-year-old son Everett’s evolution to becoming a confident bike rider.
It wasn’t easy. He first learned to ride a regular pedal-bike (after learning on a balance bike) over two years ago. But for some reason he didn’t keep it up. He parked the bike and seemed afraid or nervous about it whenever we urged him to get back on the saddle. Even getting a shiny new red bike didn’t inspire him! I was completely at a loss. I was so frustrated that I just stepped back and stopped even talking about riding (absent dropping a few hints here and there).
Then one day while I was out of town, I got a text from Juli. It was a video of Everett riding his bike. “This just happened,” she wrote.
He got his bike out and just started riding it. All on his own. I guess he was finally ready.
Serious bikes for kids who are ready to go fast. (Photos: Islabikes)
Islabikes has just taken kids bikes to a whole new level.
The UK-based company that opened their North American headquarters in southeast Portland three years ago has just launched the new ‘Pro Series’ range. They call it “the pinnacle of performance for youth that really want to push limits in regards to stealth and handling.” [Read more…]
There are two events today you won’t want to miss (actually three, but we’ll share the third one in a separate post later today).
Islabikes, the UK-based purveyor of fine children’s bicycles is hosting an Open House event at their new store in southeast Portland (which we visited back in May). Islabikes established their North American headquarters at SE 7th and Lincoln in March and they’ve found a healthy business niche so far.
Islabikes North American GM Tim Goodall will open up his shop for a day of fun (a unicycling juggler), sweet treats (“farm fresh ice cream” from Salt & Straw) and test rides. The founder of the company, noted bicycle designer Isla Rowntree, will also be in attendance. [Read more…]