Van Bikeradar: Islabikes releases the Joni, a bike for people with dwarfism

Islabikes might be best known for making kids’ bikes, but it has just released the Joni, a bike designed specifically for riders with disproportionate dwarfism.

Islabikes began investigating how to support riders with restricted growth in 2020. In part, this was due to dwarfs contacting Islabikes to enquire about the brand’s range of kids’ bikes, trying to find bikes that would fit them.

However, these bikes are a compromise for dwarfs, and don’t fit their needs.

As a result, Islabikes was aware there were people who wanted a bike but couldn’t find one that was right for them.

Dave Bowater, director at Islabikes, says as a result people were either not enjoying cycling as much as they could, or weren’t cycling at all.

“This is one of the fundamental reasons that drove us to design our children’s bikes when we started Islabikes,” Bowater explains, “and has also driven us to launch our more accessible range of adult bikes over the last few years.”

The result of this project and drive is the Joni, which comes in two sizes and has a number of features informed by conversations Islabikes has had over the last two years with the Dwarf Sports Association UK (DSAUK).

Not a kids’ bike

Islabikes Joni bike lifestyle shot on towpath

The bike’s design was informed by feedback from the Dwarf Sports Association UK.
Islabikes

Having to resort to buying a kids’ bike as opposed to a bike designed specifically for people with dwarfism meant that many were not getting a bike that was right for them.

Bowater explains this comes down to some very practical factors to do with fit and usability.

“Children’s proportions are different to people with disproportionate dwarfism, and so it’s important the bike is designed specifically for their body proportions to ensure they are comfortable and able to control the bike, plus they need a very low step over to allow them to get on and off.”

The DSAUK’s involvement became key in Islabikes developing the Joni and establishing the correct design.

Having met the DSAUK at one of its events a couple of years ago, and seeing the challenges members faced with riding bikes that hadn’t been tailored to their needs, Islabikes began developing prototypes.

These prototypes were given to the DSAUK. Bowater says the riders then provided Islabikes with feedback, which informed the design process.

Bowater says the Joni’s geometry is totally different to its children’s bikes and has a step-through design to make it easier to get on and off.

The bike differs from kids’ bikes when it comes to wheel size, with larger 20in or 24in wheels.

It also has proportionally designed components. These include a narrow handlebar, short-reach brake levers, 102mm cranks on the 20in-wheel version and 117mm cranks on the 24in-wheel version, and a 7-speed drivetrain with a wide spread of gears.

Another apparently minor but significant difference between Islabikes’ kids’ bikes and the Joni is appearance. The riders who spoke to Islabikes said they wanted a bike that was clearly an adult bike rather than a kids’ design. Bowater says changing the colour of the Joni was one way to make this distinction clear.

“Even though our bikes aren’t ‘kiddified’, they still have colours that are relevant to children,” he says.

But changing the colour makes the distinction between the two types of bike clear.

In Bowater’s eyes, it comes down to a simple message: “It’s not a kids’ bike. It’s an adult bike designed for adults, using all the references we use for our other adult bikes.”

“Would I want to ride around on a kids’ bike?” Bowater asks. “Not really. So why would they have to do that?”

Having explained this, Bowater says the Joni does take some cues from the brand’s kids’ bikes, most notably around simplicity, functionality and ease of maintenance, to make using the Joni straightforward.

Made in the UK

Islabikes Joni close up

The Joni has a number of proportional features, including a narrow handlebar and short-reach brakes.
Islabikes

Another issue that appeared, Bowater explains, is that riders wanted to access cycling in a way that others would find totally normal.

“They just want to be able to go to a website or pick the phone up and buy a bike. They could get a custom bike, but they actually don’t want that – they want it to be ordinary.”

“That sounds odd because it’s not an ordinary bike,” Bowater says. “But they just want that experience that others have, where they can go to a website, click buy, and it arrives.”

This might sound straightforward enough, but Bowater says it poses problems in terms of production.

“Our children’s bikes and adult bikes are made in our factory in Vietnam. The orders for those bikes are massive because of the number of people out there.”

However, the Joni is for a select audience and there isn’t the market to manufacture it in the same way Islabikes would for other models.

The solution Islabikes hit upon is to manufacture the bikes at its headquarters in the English town of Ludlow, Shropshire.

“Over the years,” Bowater says, “we’ve done quite a lot of custom builds for the internal team, and for friends of the business, to try things out. But in terms of bikes people can buy on the website, this is the first one.”

Tim Goodall, Islabikes’ managing director, sums it up: ​​“To mass produce, you need a mass market, and mass markets are usually average; average height, average weight, average arms, average legs – you name it, it’s average. That’s great if you’re average, but dreadful if you’re not.”

Bowater says despite the market for these bikes being comparatively small compared to its other bikes “it’s just something we really wanted to do because these people just weren’t getting a very good experience of cycling, and if we can change that, all the better.”

The Joni bike has only officially been available for a few days, so Bowater says it’s too soon to gauge its reception and how well it will do, but he said Islabikes already has a customer coming for a fitting for the bike next week.

Isla Bikes Joni specs and pricing

The Joni is available to order now from the Islabikes website or over the phone for delivery in the UK and Europe. It costs £899.99.

The bike comes in two sizes, either with 20in or 24in wheels. The 20in wheel size suits riders with an inside leg of 40-52cm and 115cm+ tall. The 24in wheel size suits riders with an inside leg of 52-63cm and 125cm+ tall.

Islabikes also has a number of accessories available for the Joni bike, including mudguards and a rack.

Joni 20

Islabikes Joni 20in wheel

Islabikes Joni with 20in wheels.
Islabikes

  • Frame: T45 steel frame with chromoly forks
  • Rear derailleur: SRAM X4 7-speed
  • Shifter: SRAM X3 trigger shifter
  • Cassette: SunRace 7-speed, 11-34
  • Cranks: Islabikes 102mm aluminium
  • Brakes: Aluminium mini V-brakes
  • Wheels: Islabikes aluminium 20-hole with quick release
  • Tyres: Islabikes Mixte 20 × 11.4in
  • Handlebar: Ergotec aluminium 54cm
  • Saddle: Islabikes ergonomic adult
  • Colour: Gloss Ash Grey
  • Size: 40-52cm inside leg and 115cm+ tall
  • Weight: 9.2kg
  • Price: £899.99

Joni 24

Islabikes Joni 24in wheel

Islabikes Joni with 24in wheels.
Islabikes

  • Frame: T45 steel frame with chromoly forks
  • Rear derailleur: SRAM X4 7-speed
  • Shifter:  SRAM X3 trigger shifter
  • Cassette: SunRace 7-speed, 11-34
  • Cranks: Islabikes 102mm aluminium
  • Brakes: Aluminium mini V-brakes
  • Wheels: Islabikes aluminium 24-hole with quick release
  • Tyres: Islabikes Mixte 24 × 1.45in
  • Handlebar: Ergotec aluminium 57cm
  • Saddle: Islabikes ergonomic adult
  • Colour: Gloss Ash Grey
  • Size: 52-63cm inside leg and 125cm+ tall
  • Weight: 10.1kg
  • Price: £899.99

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