What's the Best Bike for your Growing Child?
9 April 2021
Road vs MTB vs Hybrid vs Track
What is the perfect bike for older children?
Once children are a bit older and confident riders, cycling is no longer just about learning essential riding skills. It becomes more about the opportunity to explore and try different cycling disciplines, whilst continuing to use their bike to ride to school and visit friends. For many kids, cycling is about independence and having fun after all.
For multiple reasons a good quality bike is not always cheap, so if your child is becoming more enthusiastic about cycling how do you choose which is the best bike for them to progress and continue their love of riding? Do you go for suspension forks or skinny road tires, dropped handlebars or flat ones, there are so many options!
On top of which style to choose there is also another question to ask. Now that they’re getting that little bit bigger should you look at a small adult's bike rather than sticking with a child-specific brand?
Whilst we are well known for our great range of balance, first pedal and hybrid bikes for younger children, our fantastic R&D team didn’t stop there. We have also turned our child-specific design hands to larger hybrids, as well as a Road, Mountain and even a Track bike, all built especially with kids in mind.
In this post, we’re going to take a more in-depth look at our different ranges to help you decide which one ticks the right boxes for your child.
Adult or Kids Bikes?
As soon as your child is big enough to ride a 26-inch wheeled bike you are instantly offered the option of buying a small adult's bike for them. Many mainstream cycling companies offer XS frame sizes which might seem like the perfect option. However, there’s a lot to consider with an adult model.
The more inexpensive ranges will often have steel frames which are super heavy for a smaller adult let alone a child! Unless you are looking at spending upwards of £1000 + it is likely the components will be of lower quality and although the frame and wheel size may be suitable, the handlebars will be too wide for a child’s narrow shoulders, the crank arm length too long, making pedalling a lot more effort than it should be and additional features such as mudguards will cost extra.
At Frog we know that by the time a child is riding a 26-inch wheeled bike they could be riding an adult model, but we still offer this size in our range.
Our lightweight aluminium frames will have them flying up hills and enjoying every minute, our Frogfit technology® cranks limit any power loss through each pedal stroke making their legs feel strong and powerful and our consideration for gear and brake levers that are the perfect size for smaller hands increases the feeling of safety and confidence in their bike handling skills.
How do you start to choose?
The main question to consider before buying a bike to continue your child’s cycling progression, is ultimately ‘what are they interested in? Maybe they love tearing through your local woods and are drawn towards mountain biking. Or perhaps they are competitive speed demons who would relish the chance of competing on a track?
Our summary table below picks out the main differences between the different ranges, we hope this table and the more detailed descriptions will help you to decide which is the best bike for your child:
If you already know which bike you would like more information on then hit the button below to take you straight to that section of our blog post. 👇
What is a Hybrid Bike?
These bicycles combine features from both road and mountain bikes to create a ‘hybrid’, general purpose bike. Suitable for riding over a variety of terrains they will tolerate a wide range of riding conditions.
If you’ve grown up with Frog you’ll know how versatile they are. Perfect for the school run but they’ll also lead you on an off-road weekend adventure.
Why Choose a Hybrid Bike?
The main reason is versatility, with a rigid frame and mid-size tyres they ride comfortably both on and off-road. If your child needs a bike that rides as comfortably on a local trail or country path as it does around the local town then this is the one for you.
The tyres are thicker than a road bike for increased stability but thinner and lighter than a mountain bike so that it is still quick and easy to ride on tarmac too.
It’s also worth noting that with the frame’s upright geometry and flat handlebars it won’t feel any different from what your child has ridden previously, so there will be no change in riding position to get used to.
Why Buy a Frog Hybrid Bike?
Our Hybrid 69, 73 and 78 models are made with a lightweight aluminium frame and are all equipped with high-quality child-specific components.
Our Frogfit Technology® cranks are still used on our larger hybrids. These straight-armed cranks result in a reduced Q-Factor, which is the distance between the 2 pedals.
A fully grown adult has hips wide enough that their legs will remain straight when their feet are on the pedals but children (of all ages) have much narrower hips. If the Q-factor is too high a child will have to splay their legs outwards in order to pedal, putting their hips in an awkward position which is not just uncomfortable but can also lead to an injury.
With their legs in line with the bike frame, a child can pedal comfortably and efficiently resulting in smiles for miles!
The Frog 73 and 78 also have our ‘Push the Limits’ Frog decals on the frame so the rider feels a little bit more grown-up!
All of our hybrid bikes come with mudguards so whether they’re riding to school in an April shower or whizzing along a muddy canal towpath at the weekend they won’t have muddy clothes or coat at the end of their ride!
The frames have eyelets allowing you to attach a pannier rack. So you can fill their pannier bags with anything from school books to clothes and camping gear for a multi-day, family bike-packing adventure.
What is a Mountain Bike (MTB)?
Mountain bikes often offer either front suspension (also known as a hardtail MTB) or suspension at the front and rear (also known as a full sus MTB). This shock-absorbing suspension makes it more comfortable for the rider when flying along bumpy trails and paths.
They are often heavier than Hybrid and Road bikes due to the suspension and sturdy frame but are the perfect bike for any child wanting to ride off-road on trails, gravel/dirt paths and unpaved terrain.
Why choose an MTB?
If you live near a trail centre or spend your weekends flying around one of our beautiful national parks like the Peak District, and your child is going to be riding their bike purely over rugged terrain and off-road then an MTB is by far the best choice.
MTB frames have an upright riding position for better visibility, with wide, flat handlebars for steering control and are fitted with wide, knobbly tires that absorb the bumps off-road and increase stability.
It’s also common to find a wider range of gears on a mountain bike to help when climbing steep hills.
This type of bike is increasingly popular with teenagers for day to day activities instead of a Hybrid. Whilst the extra features on a mountain bike aren’t necessary for these journeys the bikes are seen by many as ‘the cool option’ with their thicker tyres, more robust frame and suspension fork.
Why Buy a Frog MTB?
We have designed our Push The Limits MTB range with front suspension forks only, this allows it to soak up the bumps when riding offroad but keeps the weight and maintenance costs down. A full-suspension bike, whilst great for big jumps is often seen as an easier bike to ride, with less bike handling skills required. Starting their mountain biking life with a front suspension only, hardtail model will help your child to learn great technique when riding challenging trails and terrain.
Our suspension forks have been designed especially for lighter riders. Many children may find that the suspension forks on an adult bike don’t react when they are riding as they are simply not heavy enough to put the weight required weight through the forks in order to engage the suspension. Because of this, a child may as well be riding a rigid framed bike as they are not gaining any benefit from the suspension being there and the bike is heavier for it.
We have completed extensive research and created our very own suspension forks for lighter riders to ensure that every Push The Limits MTB performs perfectly no matter how lightweight the rider. There is also a lockout function so you can turn the suspension off when riding on roads. You can find more information about setting our suspension forks to work perfectly for your mini shredder >> here.
Our frames are sturdy but still lightweight and the handlebars are oversized to allow for increased steering control. They are fitted with hydraulic disc brakes, not mechanical, which produce a more reliable and far greater braking power. We have also fitted easy reach, junior specific brake levers to allow children to learn 2 finger braking from a young age.
The seat post clamp is a quick release system allowing you to not only adjust it easily as your child grows but can even change their saddle height mid-ride if you’re about to hit a big downhill section or need better-pedalling efficiency when climbing uphill.
Like all of our bikes, we ensure that good quality components are installed on our MTB’s that can be easily replaced or serviced keeping the bike in great condition for both your little one and for future owners.
What is a Road Bike?
Road bikes, as their name suggests are intended for paved/tarmacked roads. Often distinguished by their lightweight, slim frames and skinny tyres they are designed to maximise efficiency and built for speed!
They have a more forward-leaning riding position with dropped handlebars allowing for a more aerodynamic riding position and are generally suited to more experienced riders, who have already mastered balance, braking and gears on a hybrid.
Why choose a Road Bike?
As the name suggests, these are made for riding on the road and riding fast! The efficiency of a road bike lends them to longer distances, commuting, touring and even racing if they want to give that a go!
Road bikes are easily recognised by their slick tyres which give a reduced rolling resistance, a lightweight frame and aerodynamic, dropped handlebars.
If your child is in a cycling club, wants to try road racing or simply loves riding fast and is keen to ride faster and further then it’s time to look at a road bike. Being more nimble, lighter and quicker than a standard hybrid we would recommend progressing to a road bike once they are already competent bike riders.
With a different style of handlebars and the gear levers in a different place, it is beneficial a child is a confident rider as they will need to be able to pedal and control the bike without any issues whilst they get to grips with the new feel of a road bike and the different way to change gears.
For more information on the different hand positions when riding on a road bike check out this short video of our ambassador Matthieu getting to grips with his first Frog Road bike.
Why Buy a Frog Road Bike?
Once again it’s all about the little things! Our road models are fitted with child-specific drop handlebars, these are far narrower, with a shorter drop than those you’d find on a small adult's road bike, allowing them to steer the bike easily and get down onto the drops without any trouble.
Our Road 58 and 67 frames come with a 1x gearing set up. By removing the front mechanism not only is there less to worry about with regards to gear indexing but also it’s much easier for children to get to grips with the new shifting method when there is only the rear mechanism to concentrate on!
The Microshift short-reach brake levers make braking easier and more comfortable for little hands allowing them to control their speed and gain confidence in their bike handling abilities. We have even added auxiliary brake levers to work in line with the brakes on the drop bars to give additional brake control when their hands are on the top of the handlebars as well as on the hoods or drops.
Our road bikes are sold with 2 sets of tyres, slick and knobbly. If your child wants to give cyclocross a go then the thicker, knobbly tyres are perfect for riding on these offroad courses.
As with all Frog bikes our road specific models are built with our patented Frog cranks for more powerful pedalling performance! Each size has a different crank length in line with the recommended size of the rider. Our Road 70 is equipped with a 140mm crank length which is something you would never find on a standard adult bike, no matter how small the frame!
What is a Track Bike?
Track bikes are made for riding on indoor or outdoor velodromes. Riding on a track is all about power so track bikes will have just one, single gear which may be a little hard to get going but once you are up to speed you’re flying!
Many track bikes are classed as fixed wheel bikes or ‘fixies’. This means that they do not have brakes, you simply slow down by applying downward pressure to the pedals as you slow your cadence (pedalling speed) down to a stop.
Frames are light, aerodynamic and rigid to cope with high amounts of power and force being placed through them. Like road bikes, they are equipped with thin, slick tyres to decrease the rolling resistance and increase the speed!
Why choose a Track Bike?
It is currently illegal to ride any bike without brakes on UK roads so unless your child is keen to try track riding/racing then there wouldn’t be a need for a track-specific model.
However, if you do live near a velodrome and your child is keen to try competitive cycling then having a bike just for the track would be a great addition to the bike garage! Frog Bikes works in partnership with some velodromes to bring junior sessions to young riders.
In the UK we also have a growing grassroots scene in Grass Track racing. This simple, fun discipline takes place up and down the country and is a fantastic way for children to experience entry-level racing. Grass track events can take place on any flat field/area of grass such as unused football pitches making them easy to organise in any town without the constraints of having a local velodrome. You can find out more about Grass Track racing here.
The UK currently has 6 indoor velodromes, London (the Olympic Velodrome), Newport in Wales, Manchester (home to British Cycling), Southampton, Derby and Glasgow, Scotland. There are also 14 outdoor velodromes around England, Wales and Scotland, including the London, Herne Hill Velodrome which offers beginners track classes, especially for children.
If your child is keen to try the fun-filled, adrenaline rush that is track racing then get in contact with your local velodrome or head over to the British, Scottish or Welsh Cycling websites for information on how to give it a try.
Why Buy a Frog Track Bike?
Our track models are a niche product and a bit of a speciality in the children's bike market. We took the decision to design and include a track bike in our range as we feel it is important to offer young cyclists something for all disciplines.
Frog track bikes are extra light and designed with aerodynamic teardrop tubes combined with track-specific frame geometry, increasing speed and performance. Like our road bikes, they are equipped with child-specific short drop and narrow handlebars and different FrogFit crank lengths depending on the size of the frame to improve the power transfer in each pedal stroke.
Learning to ride a fixed wheel pedal bike can take a little time so our Track models come with a flip flop hub so they can be ridden as a single speed bike rather than a fixed wheel. The freewheel cog on a single-speed bike rotates freely one way but locks up the other. This means that the cog will turn the rear wheel when you pedal, but will freewheel when you don’t – just like a geared bike.
When riding with a fixed wheel, there is no such mechanism. The freewheel cog is fixed to the hub. When the rear wheel turns, the cog turns, and when the cog turns, the pedals turn. Riding a fixie demands that you pay attention and consider the timing of your pedal strokes, a single-speed puts you under no such obligation and is a lot simpler!