Isla Rowntree: Generation game...


Brilliant and innovative, Isla Rowntree is changing the way bicycles will be made and supplied in the future...

When Isla Rowntree retired from her career as one of Britain’s greatest cyclo-cross riders, she turned her attention to children’s bikes, producing the first Islabike in 2005. Lightweight, beautifully built and with components specially sized for smaller bodies, Islabikes changed the way we think about kids' bicycles.

Now she's innovating again with the Imagine Project, a total rethink of the way bicycles will be made and supplied in the future. By designing and developing a range of sustainable bikes, manufactured in the UK and available on a rental basis (the bikes will be returned to the factory for refurbishment when their rider outgrows them), Islabikes is throwing open high-quality bike ownership to everyone and addressing the issue of sustainability while it does it.

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It is a risk, but we are doing something we believe must be done. Someone has to take the plunge

“Future raw material scarcity can seem like a distant threat. Then you consider that over the past 50 years the world’s population has increased by over 50 per cent, but our resource utilisation over the same period has increased by over 1,000 per cent,” says Isla.

“We reckon it will take us three-to-five years to solve the technical and practical challenges in order to offer a workable circular rental model for bicycles. And we need to get on with it before it is too late.”

Doing it for the kids
Isla has long been concerned with the consumption and wastage of raw materials. But what motivated the decision to set up the Imagine Project now?

“It was the thought that new bicycles made from virgin raw materials may become too expensive for most families to afford,” she explains. “That would mean children can’t cycle and would miss out on the diverse range of benefits cycling offers.”

Isla has long been a passionate advocate for children’s cycling, driving change in the way we think about children’s bicycles. But surely there’s a concern parents will now choose to rent rather than buy an Islabike?

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“It is a long-term investment commitment for us,” Isla tells us. “Even if we manage to make a success of it, it will be a long time before we see any financial benefit.
It is a risk, but we are doing something we believe must be done. Someone has to take the plunge.”

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