Lightweight, and with child sized components makes the Frog Tadpole Plus an ideal mid price point first bike for taller children
Child specific design
adjustable reach brake lever
The benefits of starting your mini shredder on a balance bike over stabilisers is huge, as the name would suggest, they learn the most vital aspect of riding a bike, which is balancing, first.
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With a raison d’etre for making bikes for kids, the British brand Frog has two balance bikes in it’s range, the Tadpole and Tadpole Plus – both of which use the same components, so following Frog’s own size guide, opted for the Tadpole Plus for my nearly three year old to test.
>>>Buy the Frog Tadpole Plus for £135 direct from Leisure Lake Bikes (opens in new tab)
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A lightweight 12cm 6061 T6 aluminium frame is at the heart of the Frog Tadpole Plus, with one of Frog’s biggest goals in creating happy bike riding experiences, it firmly believes that weight has a huge impact a child’s bike riding enjoyment.
The frame is complimented by lightweight aluminium forks, 32mm stem, 420mm handlebars and 200mm long 27.2 seatpost, which comes with a very handy quick release to allow you to swiftly adjust saddle height as your child grows.
It’s really pleasing to see that, like the Isla Rothan, the Frog Tadpole Plus has a locking headset, which limits the steering of the handlebars, helping to prevent the front wheel from rolling under itself.
The rear only Tektro Aluminium JL352 RS V brake, has been specifically sourced as a match for little hands, and with the added benefit of being able to wind in the lever reach even further still, it should make an ideal stopping option for the Frog Tadpole Plus.
Frog say the Tadpole Plus has been designed for children aged 3-4, or with a minimum inside leg measurement of 38cm, so as well as the increase in frame size, 328mm top tube Vs 318mmmm top tube, the Frog Tadpole Plus also steps up a wheel size to 14”, when compared to the 12” of the Tadpole version, although both are shod in the same Kenda hybrid tyres and Schrader valve tubes.
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My nearly three year old is already familiar with the balance bike concept, having been riding the Isla Rothan for 6 months, so was able to hop (no pun intended) on the Frog Tadpole Plus and swiftly got to grips with the ride.
With bigger wheels, however, the bike rolls much quicker, and it took her slightly by surprise the increase in speed she hit her usual riding hang-outs.
This is where the handy no-tool quick release came in use, as with the unsettling rapid roll, my daughter felt she needed her feet flatter on the ground to start with, which was easily achieved, before I gradually increased the height again once she gained her confidence again.
The locking headset was really useful, preventing the front end totally washing out on my daughter after everything had all got a bit wobbly, allowing my daughter to almost gracefully disembark the bike or simply put the bike down, rather than getting a full body impact of a crash.
Throughout the testing of the Frog Tadpole Plus, it's been really hard not to compare to the Isla Rothan as with the increase in frame and wheel size, its by no means a like for like comparison.
However there are a couple of things where size of the bike is not the defying factor, the devil is in the detail they say, and the Frog Tadpole Plus, using cheaper and some off the shelf components, has been able to keep the costs down, but does lack the finesse of the Isla Rothan.
This is most apparent in the saddle, at 136mm across at it's widest, compared to 118mm of the Rothan, it was pretty wide for my daughter and I could see it did impacting on her leg stroke action, and she asked several times for the saddle to be put down, meaning it was lower than idea before she found a comfortable position on it.
Once adjusted to the correct reach, the brake was easy to pull on for my daughter, stopping her on most gentle declines with just two fingers. On more aggressive descents my daughter opted for a full set of fingers to stop her, but this wasn't really necessary as she was locking the back wheel by then.
Along with the wheels size, the other noticeable difference between the Isla Rothan and the Frog Tadpole Plus is the weight, and although a direct comparison is flawed as they are two different sized bikes, it was significant, even if it was mostly felt by me carrying it after my toddler decides she’s had enough of riding for the day.
At £135, £20 more than the toddler, the Frog Tadpole Plus is one of the cheaper balance bikes on the market. But with kids bikes you really do get what you pay for, and as a child's first interaction with cycling, their first relationship with a bike can be a real make or break moment in terms of confidence. For me personally it's a no brainer to ensure the bike is light enough and safe enough for them to enjoy bike riding and you won't be disappointed in the performance of the Frog Tadpole Plus.
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Hannah is Cycling Weekly’s longest-serving tech writer, having started with the magazine back in 2011. She has covered all things technical for both print and digital over multiple seasons representing CW at spring Classics, and Grand Tours and all races in between.
Hannah was a successful road and track racer herself, competing in UCI races all over Europe as well as in China, Pakistan and New Zealand.
For fun, she's ridden LEJOG unaided, a lap of Majorca in a day, won a 24-hour mountain bike race and tackled famous mountain passes in the French Alps, Pyrenees, Dolomites and Himalayas.
She lives just outside the Peak District National Park near Manchester UK with her partner, daughter and a small but beautifully formed bike collection.
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