Words and photos: Nigel Wynn
The perfect kids’ bike is the holy grail of cycling. Kids, you see, are a fickle bunch. And don’t get us started on the parents. A checklist of what makes a great kids’ bike looks something like this: lightweight, robust, looks good, works well, is comfortable, has some size adjustment to cope with growing limbs and requires little maintenance. And, of course, we want all of that for a great price. With the moon on a stick thrown in for free, please.
Thankfully, the children’s bike market is undergoing a sea change right now. When mum and dad have matching £5,000 featherweight carbon-fibre bikes, it just doesn’t seem fair to palm off little Lily and Harry with a £49 special made of solid lead. And you no longer have to.
In my personal quest to buy my son a ‘decent bike’, I made a slight mistake in buying him a perfectly formed mini-mountain bike from a well-known manufacturer that featured 21 gears, suspension forks and the same hubs, gears, brakes and shifters as an adult bike. It looks great, and it is great, but for one factor that we didn’t assess when we saw it hanging in the shop window — it weighs a ton. In fact, it weighs more than my big, hairy, adult-size hardtail mountain bike. Asking a nine year old to ride such a lump up a hill is like watching an ant carry a Ford Fiesta up the shed roof. It’s putting him off cycling, the opposite of what I’d hoped it would do.
Frog is one of a small number of relatively new companies that have scrapped the conventional thinking on kids’ bikes, and started from scratch. The Frog 62 model we have here is part of a nine-model range that naturally enough starts with the Tadpole balance bike for two to three year olds and goes up to the Frog 73 for 12-14 year olds. The number in the name refers to the recommended minimum inside leg measurement for that bike. Each model features a frame size, wheel size and gearing selection to suit its intended age range — and to please the fussy little ones and parents alike, each one is available in a variety of colour options.
You can buy Frog bikes either direct from the manufacturer’s bright and cheerful website, or from a select list of retailers around the UK.
Function over flash
Starting with the frame, the Frog 62 utilises aluminium alloy tubing and alloy forks rather than heavier steel. The tubing is slimmer than you’d find on an adult bike, and everything is very neatly welded together and coated with a tough lick of paint. Both frame and fork have rack/mudguard eyelets. Speaking of mudguards, the bike came complete with a front and rear set, which is a thoughtful touch. The rear derailleur hanger is replaceable so that if it gets bent or broken in the inevitable stack, then it’s easy changed.
The frameset as a whole looks good and is a contributing factor in getting the bike’s overall weight down to an impressive 9.68kg (21.3lb). Our young tester really appreciated the drop in weight over his regular bike and found it easier to ride up hills as well as being quicker on the flat.
Frog’s unfussy use of a single 36-tooth chainring up front and a seven-speed 14-28 cassette at the back gave a decent spread of gears that were far less confusing and less weighty than having a front derailleur too. The temptation is for manufacturers to pander to playground gear boasting — “Mine’s got 27 gears, what’s yours got?” — rather than what functions best. Frog has got it right. The single Shimano rotational Revoshifter is easy to use and clearly displays the selected gear. It may lack a bit of finesse, but the Revoshift and Tourney rear derailleur combination offered light action and trouble-free gear changes.
Tried and tested Tektro V-brakes worked well too, inspiring confidence and easy adjustment for the reach of small hands.
Twenty-four inch wheels have been selected for the Frog 62. The unbranded hubs, spokes and rims are all finished in black and look good. We had no problem with them in use, and the quick releases came in handy when putting the bike into the back of the car. The Kenda Cosmos tyres are a good choice, offering a tight tread pattern that didn’t present the rolling resistance of more knobbly pure mountain bike tyres on the road but coped with off-road dirt and gravel.
There’s a quick-release on the seatpost clamp for ease of adjustment, and there are plenty of spacers on the headset to move the bars up or down. The seatpost is 22cm long and provides plenty of growing room.
Like the wheels, the majority of the finishing kit is black and unbranded — bars, stem, seatpost and saddle. All are good quality, thoughtfully selected pieces of kit. The saddle was a particular high point — well padded without being an overweight armchair with plastic scuff guards on each side — usually one of the first parts of a bike to get damaged.
At £260, the Frog may be more expensive than inferior kids’ bikes, but it’s a really small price to pay for a well-considered machine that should have a strong resale value.
Final word has to come from our tester, Ollie, aged nine. “I really liked the bike. It’s much lighter than my other one and goes a lot faster. It’s easier to pedal up hills and looks good,” he said before disappearing up the road. Result.
Frog 62 £260
Gears Shimano Tourney/Revoshift 7spd, 14-28 cassette
Chainset Alloy cranks with 36t steel chainring,
Brakes Tektro 836AL V-brake
Wheels Unbranded alloy hubs and rims
Tyres Kenda Cosmos 24×1.5in
Bars Frog Bikes aluminium
Stem Frog Bikes aluminium
Saddle Frog Bikes
Seatpost Frog Bikes aluminium
Size range One size (for 8-10 year olds)
Islabikes Beinn 24 £349.99
Shropshire-based Islabikes has set the standard for quality kids’ bikes. The Beinn 24 is the direct equivalent of the Frog 62 with its 24-inch wheels and aluminium frame. The majority of the components have been specced by Islabikes to
suit small hands and to keep weight down. The Beinn uses slightly better quality SRAM X4 gears than the Frog’s more basic Shimano components but otherwise shares many of the same features. The main difference is that it weighs over a kilogram less than the Frog, but costs more.