i'm sure i'm not the only local cyclist who is regularly approached to assemble bikes for little people. the parents of these about-to-be-fortunate kids seem not to have realised that their bargain purchases do not arrive ready-assembled, but rather inside cardboard boxes, wrapped in several miles of bubble wrap. though the purist in me would prefer that they chose cycles for the little darlings from a reputable cycle store, in the absence of anything resembling the latter on islay, it seems more prudent to swallow my pride and agree to some spanner wielding.
this is a procedure that usually results in the purchase of several packets of ibuprofen to cure the resultant backache. modern day children's bicycles seem wholly intent on providing both front and rear suspension attached to an agglomeration of plain gauge and very heavy steel tubes. this results in a machine that is not only well nigh impossible to lift, but presumably every bit as hard to pedal. it is surely no wonder that today's offspring prefer their x-boxes and playstations to expending serious effort in the car park or public roads.
kid's bicycles were not always conceived thus, and in a commendable effort to remind us all of those halcyon days, frog bikes offer a comprehensive range of superbly built, lightweight bicycles. having engaged the services of a five and threequarter year-old, frog were kind enough to send a frog 55 from their hybrid range for review. the 55 in the name refers to the nominal inside leg measurement judged most appropriate for this particular model. frog recommend the 55 as suitable for six to seven year olds, but kids vary dramatically in size relative to their age, so it's worth checking the measurements.
the 55 is available in several colours including the white with coloured spots of the review model, the pink and purple spots proving particularly popular. it's also remarkably light, particularly in comparison to those dual suspension nightmares that scarcely fit the description of bicycle shaped object. if junior decides he/she is too tired to pedal anymore, it's less onerous on mum or dad to have to carry the bike home.
the sloping top tube frame is constructed from welded aluminium, as is the fork, the latter being home to a quick-release equipped 20" wheel. in a pleasantly surprising move, the rear eight-speed cassette equipped wheel is also retained by a quick-release skewer. the art of the quick-release is extended to the seatpost clamp (27.2mm seatpost diameter), meaning that when my reviewer's four year-old little brother demanded a shot, it was simplicity to drop the saddle to the correct height (aside from the bars being just a smidgeon too far away for comfort, the frog 55 fitted him rather well too).
i was once told that the cost of manufacturing a quality kids bike was not that much less than a similar adults' version. there was simply less material used. continuing their craft of offering effectively a scaled model of one intended for big people, the 55 has two bottle cage bolts on the down tube, as well as a windowed eight speed shimano alivio rapid-fire gear lever on the handlebar. the tektro linear-pull brakes are operated by a pair of closely fitted levers with substantial adjustment for reach, allowing little hands to effect a stop comfortably.
though the frog 55 also arrived in a box, cocooned in endless lengths of bubble wrap, it was the enclosed mudguards that promised impending doom for thewashingmachinepost mechanic (me). however, for a very refreshing change, fitting the guards was simplicity itself. there are one or two adult versions that could learn from such simplicity.
the tyres are comfortably wide kenda 20" x 1.5" fitted on properly spoked wheels each featuring a couple of bright green spokes to keep the kids happy. everything that truly ought to have bearings, does have bearings; including the headset and bottom bracket. basically, this is a bike that will still be in working order long after its first occupant has graduated from university.
this is the hardest part of the review to quantify, since the frog 55 is way too small for me to sit on, let alone pedal. and since my five and threequarter year-old's current steed is a pink, my little pony princess model with a dolly seat on the back, there really seemed little point in quizzing her about vertical compliance and lateral stiffness. as if a professed lack of junior technical knowledge were not enough, my prima donna in the saddle refused point blank to be photographed when riding the bike. she was more than happy to stand and pose with it, but any surreptitious attempts to photograph while riding resulted in a sudden and firm application of those tektro brakes and a stern face and folded arms.
however, despite the frog 55 being a tad larger than its my little pony predecessor, it took little time for her to adjust, particularly when the cycle seemed the perfect size with room for growth. even her little brother was happy to pedal around the car park as long as i held onto the comfortably padded and frog logo'd saddle. i had thought it possible that the front mudguard might foul little converse shoed feet, but in practice that has never happened. the bell fitted to the left of the handlebars has proved a major pinging attraction, even when the frog has been safely ensconced in the hall porch.
the kenda tyres seem to repel all boarders having been bumped up and down several kerbs in their short lifetime, but it was the gears that gave most cause for concern on my part, and endless fun for the rider. it has been a bit of a slow process trying to educate the small rider as to the correct use of the rapid fire shifters, though great progress has been made in a relatively short space of time. however, when spinning up and down the path between the houses, or the occasional adventure to the distillery bonds, if she wants to remain in one gear, then that's ok by me. there's plenty of time to learn about hyperglide later.
the lightness of the frog 55 no doubt contributes greatly to its enjoyment. it appears there's very little effort needed to travail the occasional gradient, and when a concomitant fitness results from regular pedalling, the joy ought to increase exponentially.
this is by far the best child's bicycle i have come across in the last two decades, and i only hope more parents choose frogs for their sprogs in order to save my aching back.
the frog 55 is available in the spotted version reviewed, as well as red, yellow and purple. retail cost is £255...........................................................................................................................................................................................................