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Frog 60 MTB review

14 November 2013

“High value, lightweight mini-MTB”

Product

Frog 60 MTB

Price

£270

Weight

10.3 kg / 22.7 lbs (without pedals)

Supplier

Frog Bikes – www.frogbikes.com

About the Bike

If you want an off-road bike suitable for Under 8 or Under 10 MTB (i.e. mountain bike) racing you generally have the choice of:-

  • a flat-handlebar hybrid bike with rigid forks from a quality youth specialist brand (such as Islabikes or Frog Bikes themselves).
  • a mini-MTB with suspension forks from a big adult brand (like Scott, Specialized, Giant or Whyte).
  • a cheaper, MTB-style bike with suspension forks from a mass-market brand (such as Halfords’ Apollo) or from supermarkets.

With its 60 MTB model Frog Bikes sets out to offer an alternative that combines the simplicity and light weight of a hybrid with the effective front suspension of a “proper” MTB, at a price that parents are prepared to pay.

Frog’s range of hybrids has sold very well through independent bike shops and direct from Frog Bikes since the brand launched early in 2013. We already know that the larger Frog 69 hybrid makes a great bike for Under 10/12 MTB racing. We were keen to find out if the 60 MTB would be just as suitable for smaller children in U8/10 MTB racing, and if its front suspension offers benefits that overcome its inevitable weight penalty.

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About our Test

We tested the Frog 60 MTB at venues which included the kind of features that a keen Under8/10 might tackle at trail centres such as bomb-holes, short climbs, and drop-offs. Our testers rode a lot of single-track as well as less challenging fire roads. It’s worth saying that actual MTB racing for these age groups doesn’t usually include very technical features.

The bike’s young testers were confident, experienced riders who have been riding for a couple of years already, and who are racing in various cycling disciplines as final year Under 8 youths and first year Under 10s.

We didn’t make any changes to the bike’s specification for our review. The standard-fit knobbly 20 x 1.75” Kenda tyres were ideal for our testing, and we inflated them to 35 psi.

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Geometry and Fit

We’re always looking for geometry that is proportional to young riders’ bodies. However, for bikes intended for very small riders like Under 8 youths it’s particularly important that components are also proportionally sized rather than designed for adult use. Although modern adult components are now so advanced that controls such as brake levers and gear shifters often only need a light touch, we’re also looking for controls that might be easier to operate than standard adult equipment.

The 60 MTB’s frame has neat proportions for typical Under 8 or Under 10 riders. However, like the Frog 69 that we tested previously, the top-tube does seem rather long for the size of frame. We measured it horizontally at 480mm. Like the Frog 69, the bike has quite a long 80mm stem which gives quite a long overall reach to the bars. We understand, though, that customers now buying from a Frog Bikes dealer can specify their stem length, so if your youth rider is quite small we’d suggest considering a shorter stem.

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The up-side is that with the Frog 60 MTB there’s no risk of toes overlapping with the bike’s front wheel while both pedalling and steering sharply.

The Frog Bikes branded short, narrow saddle is sized well for small riders, and the handlebars are in proportion too at 540mm wide.

There’s a reason that many quality junior bikes are fitted with Tektro brake levers – they’re well engineered and they fit small hands well.

The Frog’s handlebar grips are fairly standard at 30mm diameter. The benchmark here is Islabikes with their very slim 24mm grips, but our young testers had no problems using the 60 MTBs’s larger grips.

We like the Shimano Revoshift twistgrip gear shifter’s positive, light action which is no problem for young children.

The 140mm cranks are a sensible length for this bike’s typical riders. However, the “Q-factor” (i.e. the horizontal distance between the pedals) is wide at 180mm for such short legs, so a rider’s feet are quite a long way apart. To put that in context, 180mm is the same width Q-factor as most adult MTBs’ cranks. Each crank cleared the bike’s chainstay by nearly 30mm, so there’s plenty of scope to use cranks which would put the rider’s feet closer together. For maximum efficiency it’s better to have a narrower, more proportional Q-factor for children’s bikes. However, none of our test riders noticed it or commented upon it.

There’s plenty of standover height and there’s 225mm of clearance beneath the bottom bracket which all helps riders tackling tricky technical features.

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Weight

The Frog 60 MTB weighed in at 10.3 kg (22.7 lbs) without pedals. This is a lot lighter than similarly sized MTB-style bikes with suspension forks from mass-market budget brands or supermarkets. Those can often weigh 14 kg, and the Frog bike will be faster and more enjoyable to ride as a result.

However, we estimate that the suspension forks weigh at least 1 kg more than the rigid aluminium forks fitted to Frog’s hybrid models. You can certainly feel the extra weight at the front end of the bike when you lift it.

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Frame and Forks

We’ve seen many Frog Bikes frames and they’ve all had neat welds and quality paint finishes. Our red 60 MTB was no exception.

The bike is available in a choice of four strong colours plus a spotted Children in Need charity special edition. The suspension fork’s lower legs and fork brace are sprayed to match the frame which gives the bike an attractive co-ordinated look.

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A bike priced at £270 is clearly not going to have the most advanced suspension forks on the market – not surprisingly there is obviously no lock-out or adjustment. There’s only 55mm of suspension travel compared to a typical range of 80mm to 120mm on adult trail MTBs. It probably wouldn’t be possible to build more travel into such short forks anyway. Besides, if the forks did have more movement it would considerably change such a small bike’s geometry and probably affect its handling badly.

The bike is fitted with Tektro V-brakes but we noticed that the forks also had a mount to accept a disc brake for those who might want to make a rather big upgrade!

The frame has braze-ons for a single bottle cage. The frame’s main triangle is so small that a side-entry bottle-cage would be a much better way to carry a bottle instead of the traditional type of cage. A Camelbak-style drinking backpack might be a better option for long rides anyway.

There’s a quick-release clamp which held the seatpost firmly during our testing.

There’s plenty of tyre clearance around the supplied 1.75” wide tyres so build-up of mud between wheels and frame was never a problem.

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Wheels and Tyres

The 60 MTB’s wheels used the same quick-release Quando hubs as the Frog 69 that we tested previously. Again, the quality of their bearings is fine and is what you’d expect for a bike of this price. The hubs are laced with 28 spokes onto good quality aluminium rims to make strong wheels.

The 20 x 1.75” Kenda tyres are the right width and knobbly enough to give good traction and grip on very muddy surfaces. However, if the bike was being raced on faster, less boggy terrain then tyres with a lighter tread would help it zip along – Kenda’s Small Block 8 would be ideal.

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Drivetrain

The bike has a single 36T chainring and a 7-speed 14-28T freewheel. Our test bike had a chainguard on one side of the chainring only, but if you buy a Frog 60 MTB now it will come with chainguards on both sides, which will help prevent the chain from unshipping when travelling fast on rough terrain.

Shimano’s Revoshift twistgrip shifter changes gear easily and efficiently. Few Under 8 or Under 10 riders will need a higher top gear than 36×14 in their MTB races but, ideally, we’d like to see a lower bottom gear than 36×28. A super-low gear would allow a tired young rider to wind their way up a steep incline instead of stalling and getting off to walk. The bike uses a freewheel though instead of the more popular freehub-and-cassette system, so finding a wider-ratio 7-speed Shimano-compatible block might be quite tricky.

The Shimano rear derailleur has a long-arm which means the bike has the same issue as all other 20” wheel bikes using similar gearing (such as the Islabikes Beinn 20) – the lowest part of the derailleur is so close to the ground that it can pick up long grass or snag on trail debris.

Most Under 8 or Under 10 youths will ride with flat pedals although a few will fit clipless pedals instead. The flat pedals fitted to the Frog bike are very basic but they are well sized and shaped.

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Brakes

The small Tektro brake levers combine well with matching V-brakes, and the 60 MTB’s brake action is powerful and easily controlled.

The brake levers are well-sized for youth riders’ small hands and their reach is adjustable.

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Components

As with other Frog Bikes models the handlebar stem, handlebars, headset and seatpin are all industry-standard sizes. They look well designed and well engineered.

At 540mm wide the flat handlebars suit this kind of bike well, giving small riders the same kind of wide-arm riding position that has been adopted by most senior MTB riders and manufacturers over the last few years.

The neat saddle fits young riders well and, importantly, is small enough not to get in the way when the rider needs to shift their weight backwards for a drop-off or a steep descent.

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Performance

The Frog 60 MTB was ridden hard by our testers and they had great fun with it. They had the confidence to ride it over pretty challenging obstacles and terrain.

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Of course, the key feature of this particular bike is its front suspension, so we were keen to see how well this worked. In fact, we didn’t feel that it was highly effective. It’s stiffly sprung for a bike with a rider who might only weigh 25kg. Dirt stains left on the fork’s upper legs after riding the bike show that the forks are moving only a couple of centimetres, and we’re not sure that they make a big difference to the bike’s capabilities or its riding comfort.

The longer spokes of a 24” wheel and the larger air-volume of a 24” tyre give more shock-absorption than a 20” wheel and tyre. Larger wheels have less rolling resistance and ride more smoothly off-road too. So, a bike like Frog’s own model 62 hybrid with a similar frame size to the 60 MTB but fitted with 24” wheels instead is likely to handle off-road terrain just as well, whilst being lighter and a little faster.

The low standover height, high bottom bracket and small wheels make the bike very agile off-road. It might not be quite as light as a rigid-forked hybrid but its weight is still a lot lower than most children’s bikes, and its test riders enjoyed whipping it around bends and over climbs.

Our testers said they’d be very happy to race the bike in their MTB events.

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Customisation and Upgrade

There aren’t any essential upgrades needed – the bike is ready to race in its standard specification.

As we discussed above, enthusiastic riders (or, more likely, their enthusiastic parents!) might consider fitting faster tyres or clipless pedals, and smaller riders might prefer a shorter handlebar stem.

And if your youngster is likely to be riding more challenging routes at hilly trail centres then you might want to fit a freewheel with sprockets which will give a lower bottom gear.

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Service and Support

In our review of the Frog 69 we talked about the various ways that Frog Bikes can be bought, including delivery to local bike shops which aren’t actually Frog dealers. Frog has clearly thought hard about making the purchase and initial set-up of its bikes as easy and low-risk as possible for its customers. We know from talking to independent bike shops that their customers, particularly parents without a background in the sport, like this.

The brand is still new, but there’s evidence that its customer service is strong. Dealers have told us that their own feedback to the company is welcomed. We’re aware of several specification changes which have been quickly implemented as a direct result of dealer suggestions.

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Value for Money and Resale

We think Frog Bikes has priced the 60 MTB attractively at £270. Yes, that’s a lot more than typical £120 mass-market MTB-style bikes but it’s so much lighter and better than those. It’s also still £30 less than an Islabike Beinn 20 Large – but whether the lack of suspension on the lighter Islabike is seen as a disadvantage depends on the buyer’s particular view.

It’s still too early to say but Frog Bikes are likely to be in high demand second-hand which will keep their used values high. Just like Islabikes, that means the total ownership costs of the Frog 60 MTB may well be much lower than buying a cheaper, heavier bike which is hard to sell second-hand and is worth little once the rider has out-grown it.

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Verdict

A rider used to a cheaper, heavier bike will certainly find the Frog 60 MTB a revelation. There’s no reason why good Under 8/10 riders wouldn’t perform very well on it in youth MTB races. They’d have a lot of fun riding it on tricky off-road routes at trail centres too, and the bike wouldn’t let them down when riding with their parents or friends on adult MTBs.

We’re not fully convinced of the benefits of the bike’s front suspension, and we tend to think that a lighter bike with larger 24” wheels and rigid forks (e.g. Frog Bikes 62 or Islabikes Beinn 24) would work better for many riders, especially if they might also do a lot of cycling that doesn’t need the suspension feature – such as cyclocross or leisure riding. Many MTB coaches advocate that youth riders develop their bike handling and control on fully rigid bikes before moving to suspension forks when they are older.

The 60 MTB is a good bike and if parents are keen to buy a very small MTB with suspension forks then it’s an attractive proposition.

+ value for money and low price
+ specification
+ light weight
– long reach for smaller riders
– Q-factor of cranks
– debatable effectiveness of suspension

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4 responses to:

Frog 60 MTB review

  1. November 15, 2013

    Personally, I think a rider of that age and height would be better suited to a 24″ wheel MTB. The frame height would be nearly identical, and it would roll over terrain better. In that photo of the rider standing behind the bike, the bike looks really small!

  2. Youth Cycle Sport
    November 15, 2013

    Yes, we agree that many riders will prefer 24″ wheels in a similar sized frame with rigid forks for the reasons discussed in the review.

  3. […] Check out this new review of our Frog60 MTB from Youth Cycle Sport. http://www.youthcyclesport.co.uk/kit/reviews/frog-60-mtb-review/ […]

  4. […] via Frog 60 MTB review | Youth Cycle Sport. […]

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