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Family Biking: Frog Bikes are a quality, lightweight option for young riders

Posted by on September 24th, 2019 at 8:24 am

Putting the Frog through its paces at Clever Cycles.
(Photo: Eva Frazier)

I recently visited Clever Cycles to see what they recommend for kid bikes and I really liked what I saw in Frog Bikes

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

My kids successfully learned to pedal on used and borrowed bikes, but those bikes were heavy. I eventually discovered lightweight Islabikes and my kids have grown through three sizes, conveniently settling into their largest sizes shortly before Islabikes closed their Portland warehouse. I assumed there weren’t comparable bikes available in the U.S. and that the pool of used Islabikes would keep everyone happy for a while. But I was wrong. With Islabikes’ departure, there’s a void in the local market for high-quality, new kids bikes.

I’m all for kids and adults tapping into the great used bike scene here and have written about where to buy used kids bikes in Portland. But I was curious about a good brand for new kids bikes and I’m happy to report I found it.

Clever has Frogs of all sizes and three colors on the showroom floor, but they come in many more colors including: black, green, orange, purple, red, spotty, Team Sky, Union Jack, and USA. They’re aluminum and pleasantly light. The 26-inch (that’s the wheel size) Frog 69 (that’s the inseam length in centimeters) fits 10-12 year olds and weighs 22 pounds; the 14-inch Frog 43 fits 3-4 year olds and weighs 14.24 pounds. That’s light!

Kids tend to enjoy riding light bikes for longer distances and have an easier time maneuvering them around obstacles. Light kid bikes are also nice for bike-toting adults.

Kids tend to enjoy riding light bikes for longer distances and have an easier time maneuvering them around obstacles. Light kid bikes are also nice for bike-toting adults: I was more keen to bring kids bikes with us everywhere when they were easy to lift into my trailer, cargo bike, and car trunk.

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Check out those brake levers. Two hand brakes come standard.

Weight isn’t the only thing that makes for a nice kid bike. Frog Bikes also have small brake levers that are easy to reach with little kid hands and appropriately short cranks that are not splayed far from the bottom bracket (that’s the Q-factor) for efficient and comfortable pedal strokes.

The Frog Bikes at Clever Cycles are all built with fenders (because this is the Pacific Northwest). I doubt all Frog dealers send their bikes out the door clad with fenders, but I love that that’s how they come here. The bikes feature real fender mounts, too, so one could even swap out the Frog brand fenders for any other make.

Even the littlest Frog Bikes have hand brakes. I didn’t know one could buy a bike smaller than 20 inches with front and rear hand brakes in America. Lots of 12- and 16-inch kid bikes come with only a coaster (backpedal) brake and per U.S. regulations, Frog ships them from the UK with the requisite coaster brake rear wheel, but also with a freewheel. Clever Cycles builds them up with the freewheel which is a lot easier for kids to learn on (having one’s bike suddenly stop moving when backpedaling is disconcerting to a learning pedaler and can derail bike lessons).

From size 20-inch (or 52- and 55cm) and up, the bikes come with gears with trigger shifters. This requires reaching a finger forward to shift up that might be difficult for the smallest of hands, but they’re sized for small hands and very easy to use. Our Islabikes have twist shifters that my kids sometimes have trouble with in gloves so I’m a big fan of trigger shifters for kids.

Price-wise, people used to heavy and used kids bikes may experience some sticker shock. The aforementioned Frog 43 Single-Speed 14-Inch Kids’ Bike is $360 and the Frog 69 Multi-Speed 26-Inch Kids’ Bike is $590. Keep in mind these are quality bikes that are fully serviceable, have replaceable and repairable parts, and retain their value for resale even after passing down to younger siblings.

I thought my next kid bike purchase (which is still a couple kid height inches away) would be an adult bike, but now that I’ve discovered the Frog 73 Multi-Speed 26-Inch Kids’ Bike for ages 13 and up there’s a good chance that will be the next bike my kids grow into. And yes, I think $600 sounds like a lot of money, but I know it will be worth it to keep them pedaling on an easy-to-use light bike.

Frog Bikes aren’t the only good option out there. I admired the Cleary Bikes at Clever Cycles, though they felt a lot heavier (they’re steel) and they don’t come with fenders. I’ve seen a lot of happy kids on Cleary Bikes though I’ve noticed the more aggressive, bent forward body position versus Frog Bikes and Islabikes. I know one of my kids would find it uncomfortable.

I’m also quite curious about Woom Bikes, though those are available only by ordering from the Austin, Texas warehouse (just like non-Portlanders ordering Islabikes from here). If you have a Woom and would like to write a guest post, get in touch!

Please share any your thoughts about any brands of kids bikes in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Remember, we’re always looking for people to profile. Get in touch at madidotcom [at] gmail [dot] com if it sounds like fun to you.

— Madi Carlson, @familyride on Instagram and Twitter

Browse past Family Biking posts here.

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Gary B
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Gary B

My almost-4 yo is graduating from a Woom 2 (14″) soon. I’m proud to say he pedaled it on his own the first day he tried, on only his third effort, 1 week after he turned 3. Now he’s a little terror on it. Great bike, built well, very light, dual hand brakes (ships with a coaster too, but they sell a freewheel that I put on).

As I’m ready to upsize soon, I’ve started looking around again. My default was the Woom 3 (ships freewheel only, BTW) since we’ve been so happy with the 2, but I also like the idea of buying from an LBS. Thanks for the new info, I will compare.

GlowBoy
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GlowBoy

I don’t disagree that many department-store bikes are obscenely heavy for little kids, but the alternative isn’t necessarily a $600 bike. Several of the “better” mass-market bike makers, like Trek and Specialized, make very nice kids’ bikes for around $200 that weigh many pounds less than the heavy cheap bikes. They may not be quite as nice as the Frog ones, but that difference is incremental.

Mike Quigley
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Mike Quigley

Lots of money (unless money is no object) for a bike that will be outgrown, lost, stolen or needing repair almost immediately. I found many good kids bikes at thrift stores for around 20 bucks.

captnhaddock
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captnhaddock

Cleary bikes are also quite good. my little kiddo is rocking his like a pro! To Mikes point, sure if you by at retail, it’s a spendy proposition. I scored his on CL for a quarter of retail. I will strongly disagree with Mikes other point about needing repair, as these bikes are designed to be knocked around by little kids and are largely repairable with ikea level tools.

Johnny Bye Carter
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Johnny Bye Carter

I had the dilemma of an outgrown kids bike when Islabikes shut down leaving us with a 24″ (Beinn24) bike and no place to get a good 26″ to replace it. So the kid rode a smaller bike for another year. I bought an XS sized adult bike instead because I couldn’t find a kids bike with disc brakes and an internally geared hub.

The US is lacking in good city features for it’s bicycles. It seems that everybody still wants to ride racing bikes on the street for their commute. I thought at least River City Bicycles would have a modern city bike but they don’t. You have to go to Clever Cycles and get a European bike if you want to ride comfortably in the city.

So it’s no surprise that Clever Cycles is also a great place to get kids and family bicycles since they seem to be the only store focused on riding a bicycle in the city.

Rider
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Rider

My 2.5 year old daughter was pedaling away on her Soon within 10 minutes. Took about two weeks to use the handbrakes and about a year to really get brake modulation. In comparison to the Raleigh we got for our son and the Isla we test ride the Woom was much nicer. All good bikes though and just happy my kids love to ride.

ADD
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ADD

Kids’ bikes…one of my very favorite rabbit holes!
Our little one started on a 14in Isla at 3.5 y/o. It’s a great bike, but we did have to finagle a freewheel kit from another manufacturer in order to ditch the coaster brake. Woom has an in-house kit for their smallest bikes, which is nice.
Another manufacturer that we have been super impressed with is Guardian Bikes. My older one started on their 20 inch original model and it is a sweet bike. Their lower cost steel line is also very high quality and really not that heavy (16in bike is 17.5 lbs vs 16lbs for the more expensive aluminum version). Their single-hand braking system is way cool.
I haven’t seen one in person yet but I’m really interested in the Priority Cycles kids’ bikes. They are light, have a nice easy body position, have carbon belt drives instead of chains, and are oh so pretty.
Somewhat surprisingly, Raleigh makes really decent bargain kids’ bikes! Older one is now on their 24in Cadent and while it’s no ultralight Isla/Woom, it is a real bike with real components, weighs 22lbs, and cost us less than $200 on sale.
I have never seen a Trek or Specialized kids’ bike I have been remotely impressed with. They are way heavier than any of the above options, include coaster brakes when they don’t have to, and are ridiculously, comparatively overpriced.