From struggling to find bikes for their kids to major UK bike builder in the children’s market, Frog Bikes is a family-run business hoping to make a difference. Co-founder Jerry Lawson tells BikeBiz the story behind the brand
This piece first appeared in the October edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here
While there may be plenty of hurdles when it comes to cycling levels amongst children, safety being the most crucial, one area that is no longer a hindrance is the children’s bike market itself.
Rewind 15 years and the choice of bikes for children was limited – cheap supermarket bikes were prevalent, while finding a reliable, functional, and long-lasting bike would have been a struggle for any parents shopping for their youngsters. That was the situation that Jerry and Shelley Lawson found themselves in back in 2011, as they perused the local bike shops to find options for their kids.
After speaking to retailers, the Lawsons found there was an appetite for quality kids’ bikes, with ride quality at their heart, prompting them to launch their own UK-based bike brand for children, Frog.
“We launched in 2013 and it was because we couldn’t find bikes for our kids,” said Jerry Lawson, ‘chief Frog’ with the Berkshire-based brand. “We thought there might be an opportunity, but that it might be quite niche.
“We talked to some stores who loved the idea and that’s when it all happened. It turned out it wasn’t as niche as we thought. The first order just romped out of the door, and our warehouse wasn’t big enough so we were just shoving them wherever we could.”
Frog specialises in bikes for kids aged between one and 14, across a range of disciplines from balance bikes to mountain bike and track-specific designs. After the huge demand for those initial batches, all focused around a lightweight bike design, Frog began to refine its philosophy, commissioning its own research in collaboration with Brunel University London, to explore the perfect geometry for children’s bikes.
Head size in comparison to the rest of the body, the irregular nature of body growth, and overall strength of the rider, all impact how children ride bikes, and how bikes need to be designed for a younger audience. Frog has worked with experts utilising a bike fitting rig, and has tested around 1,500 kids for bike fits, to ensure the geometries of its bikes are suited to younger riders.
A unique product
So what differentiates Frog from other children’s bike brands out on the market? “So when we launched, there was one brand and they didn’t go through stores. We decided we were going to put stores and independent bike dealers at the centre of what we do.
“What has happened is that a few people have snuck in and taken some of the ideas and do similar things, but the one thing they haven’t got, which puts us in a very different position, is they don’t have the research. The other thing that sets us apart from everybody else is we opened our factory in 2016, so we make the bikes in the UK, which nobody else does.”
A sustainable future
More recently, Frog has also been increasing its focus on sustainability, releasing a sustainability report that revealed the brand’s emissions have dropped by 10%, despite Frog continuing to scale up bike production.
In its annual emissions report for 2021, Frog said it has decreased its emissions by 10%, despite increasing the number of bikes built by 14% in the same period.
The brand calculates total emissions, including raw materials, assembly, packaging, and logistics, along with the heating and lighting on its premises, travel to work by its staff, and emissions generated while working remotely.
To reduce emissions, Frog made a number of design changes to its bikes, including reducing the aluminium used by 5.9% per bike, and reducing steel by 12.8%, through a new design of bottom bracket, spokes, and cranks. This resulted in a 6kg CO2 saving per bike.
Other sustainability improvements came through packaging, as Frog removed single-use plastic protection, bubble wrap and cable ties in outbound shipping, replacing these with paper bags and cardboard.
Looking to the future, Frog now has plans to further source lower carbon materials for bikes, continuing to reduce plastic use in bike boxes, investing in a fully electric vehicle fleet for staff, and rolling out a store-based service programme, to promote longer use of each bike and second-hand sales.
Another arm to its sustainability credentials is the longevity of its bikes, and the resale value once the
original rider has outgrown their bike. “What’s good about our bikes is they hold their secondhand value,” said Lawson, “because they’re designed to be hard-wearing and when kids get a decent bike, they look after it in general, and the bikes last.
“The customer and the parent sees the benefits because they can sell it and still make some money, or not lose as much money. Some of our really good stores, they do a trade – they say to the customer you bought a Frog, so we will offer you 50-60% guaranteed when you come back.
“So we’re trying to encourage customers and stores to think about pre-loved or second-hand bikes and that is a key aspect of our whole mission – trying to improve the sustainability, make them last and make it exciting for the kids.”
For the future, Frog is pushing its newly launched City bikes range, available worldwide with prices starting from £490. And for its wider aims, Frog is still shooting to reach net zero, including plans to reduce emissions in sourcing components.