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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.


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 September 24, 2019 at 8:53 am

    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.

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    GlowBoy September 24, 2019 at 9:22 am

    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.

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      BradWagon September 24, 2019 at 10:05 am

      Got any examples to back that up? The 26″ wheel Trek Wahoo is also a 1×8 gearing, hand brakes, same derailluer, aluminum frame, also 22lbs… $490. Specialized doesn’t seem to offer a fully rigid 26″ bike but their 24″ wheel front suspension bikes range from $400 to $1100. Most comparable Giant brand bikes are $575 – $700. Cannondale 24″ wheel bikes are $400 – $800. Cleary, also a smaller kids specific brand has a 26″ wheel 10 speed bike for $860.

      Good quality bikes cost real money and kids deserve to ride something reliable, capable and nice. Beating this drum again but… KIDS BIKES ARE NOT TOYS. Buy them cheap junk and they will learn to treat them like cheap junk.

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        Austin September 24, 2019 at 11:31 am

        We recently got a Raleigh Lily 20 for our daughter, it was around $200 new.
        21.5 lbs, 6-speed, hand brakes, nice components, well put together.
        It’s a smooth ride, my daughter absolutely loves it.

        It may “only” be $200, but I’m telling you – it sure isn’t a toy.

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          ADD September 24, 2019 at 1:27 pm

          Raleigh seems to be the exception when it comes to large manufacturer kids’ bikes. Their bikes are a really nice value, my 9-year-old is rocking the 24in Cadent and we got it new for under $200. I have two issues with them and they aren’t issues for everyone: geometry-wise they are pretty aggressively leaned forward which can be uncomfortable for newer/more timid riders, and their standover heights are higher than other high quality kids’ bikes.

          These things really do make a difference when you’re trying to get a kid to fall in love with riding. However, if the Raleighs fit your kid well, they are a great buy.

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      GlowBoy September 25, 2019 at 9:31 am

      I was talking more about single-speed kids’ bikes in the 12, 16 and 20 inch sizes. Looks like Trek’s and Specialized’s prices have crept above the $200 mark since we bought bikes like this for our kids, but they are still well under $300. And as mentioned, Raleigh’s prices for bikes like this are still about $200. They even offer a 24″ singlespeed for $200.

      Our kids have had bikes from all 3 brands (some of them purchased used), and we have been pleased with the quality, and the reasonable weight compared with cheaper bikes.

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    Mike Quigley September 24, 2019 at 9:36 am

    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.

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      Dave September 24, 2019 at 10:25 am

      IF (really big if) they are bikes made at a quality level that can be repaired and put back in working, safe order. Department stores sell deathtrap-quality bicycle shaped objects for childrens’ bikes; some of them can be turned into working bikes, some can’t. Yes, I was a privileged kid–came of age in the 60’s when Sears and White Front sold real bikes. But really, the cars don’t go any slower and the pavement isn’t any softer because you are riding a cheap bike–every bike has to be up for helping it’s rider cope with our cyclist-hostile environment.

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      Dave September 24, 2019 at 10:26 am

      And remember, with so many US-market bikes made in China, pricing may be affected by the tariffs imposed by the thing in the White House.

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      Johnny Bye Carter September 24, 2019 at 10:31 am

      You’ll get half the retail price back when you resell it in a few years after they outgrow it. So maybe it costs you $600 to buy, that’s $100 each year to use and then you get $300 selling it.

      Your “almost immediately” statement makes no sense to me. A kid won’t outgrow a bike in a year. I’ve never known anyone that lost a bike. Everything gets stolen, especially cars which cost a lot more and are often discarded for a new model long before a bicycle is. We’re 3 years into riding an Islabikes and it’s still new looking and hasn’t needed any repairs at all.

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        Chris I September 25, 2019 at 8:20 am

        He’s wrong on basically all accounts. My kids have been getting two years out of each bike we get. So I buy a bike for $400, they use it for 4 years collectively, and then I sell it used for $300.

        My oldest was riding a pedal bike without training wheels just before her 3rd birthday. That would not be possible with a $20 thrift store bike.

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      BradWagon September 24, 2019 at 10:44 am

      You’re right, those $20 bikes you buy are going to become obsolete pretty quick.

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    captnhaddock September 24, 2019 at 9:56 am

    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.

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    Johnny Bye Carter September 24, 2019 at 10:20 am

    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.

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      Shuppatsu September 25, 2019 at 9:11 am

      I’ve seen city bikes at River City. That said, there is tremendous overlap between the city bike and the ubiquitous hybrid bike. Hybrids are…not cool I guess? They check all the boxes though. They have comfortable riding positions, have eyelets for racks, and sturdy wheels. They’re typically a little overgeared and too many of them have crappy suspension forks, but there’s plenty of great options available.

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      Shuppatsu September 25, 2019 at 9:31 am

      My daughter has an Isla Beinn 20, which has been great. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with heavy bikes for kids. We picked up a 90s-era Novara for free to give to a friend, but my son liked the bike and we ended up keeping it and giving his old bike away. Despite seemingly being made from depleted uranium, he really enjoyed it and could ride very quickly with it. He finally grew into a cross bike that I had bought for him a couple years prior (Redline Conquest 24 with Tiagra/105 parts). While that bike was significantly lighter, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

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    Rider September 24, 2019 at 11:34 am

    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.

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    ADD September 24, 2019 at 11:49 am

    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.

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