Wednesday, June 11, 2008

11 The Invasion of the Frogs : Rrriiiibike!




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As a casual industry observer, I have a penchant for looking outside the box of worms.

Which is precisely why I have spotted an intruder outside that said box.



I think frogs are cute and fine and all that jizz, but lo and behold...this sick four limbed psychopath is invading human territory.

Or shall I more aptly say, human powered territory?

Can't we for once keep what we discovered to ourselves instead of petty concessions to some wide eyed amphibian?

The tendency of the bicycle toward the frog or the frog towards the bicycle is interesting but alarming nevertheless. Products have come and gone over the past 5-10 years but the subtle evil character behind all the design decisions stands pretty clear.

They are frogs.

Did the wrong beaker break in the product design laboratory that caused designers to inhale some ancient power of marshes? Did they get some sort of....fetish as a consequence?

Is there such a thing even as frog fetish?

"Hey whats your fetish?"

"Oh yeah...hemm, frogs"


To get an idea of the severity of this tendency, lets survey some of the following items specially handpicked from good ol' velo land. You may make a mental note of the number of frogs as we go along the way. Alright, if you can't count, you may use a scientific calculator.



After cross checking my facts with Sheldon Brown's website, I have confirmed my discoveries.

The great grandpa of all frogs, Kermit the Elder, was the first frog to ride a bicycle.

Historians recount how a happy, go lucky Kermit the Elder rode his basket stricken vintage Bianchi celeste for many many miles in scorching temperatures in the hope of getting to Hollywood, before the Burning Frog Syndrome caught up with him and he was essentially fried, on the his Brooks B-17 saddle, without even knowing it.

What an utter tragedy.


In Kermit's memory, a handful of striders and riders in downtown Delaware got together to ride a 50 miler. Though a charity ride (contributions that would later go to the Hungry Toad's Association), like all charity rides, they shamelessly made this one into a race as well. And so, it became a frantic race for all or nothing.

The gold? Top finishers were awarded with funky frog jerseys. What do you know, it was Primal Wear! They were upto their substandards from day one.

After the hard ride, tired riders eat and leapt, I mean, slept. Their children lit candles and stuck frog spinners in the garden.

Dogs particularly didn't favor these new irritating specimens that had taken over their territory.

So they were chewed on, pissed at and torn apart in a merciless blood coup like ragdolls.


Pass 2-3 years. Soon bicycle manufacturers start seeing the nation wide reverence for frogs and sought to introduce the first ever frog bike that would make this reverence a complete reverence. Enthusiasts could pay homage to Kermit the Elder, at the same time, enjoying the sport they so love and adore.

The frog bike was known for its sketchy handling and tons of backpain, but thats what it was. Designers wanted to let riders feel what it feels like to be a frog.

It was an instant success.

A commuters folding version of the bike was also released by a German company the same year.

Soon we had a good following of bowlegged, back broken frog riders. Somehow, the whole topic escaped the butcher's cutting board at BikeSnobNYC.


While progression marched on in the North, the darker alleys of New Mexico city saw the rise of a new gambling phenomenon. Like cock fights, they placed their bets on handicapped frogs riding custom made Titanium wheelchairs. The frog that toppled first on the banked path because of a lack of skill to manage a track stand usually lost the money.

For police, it was a match sprint of their own, a never ending headache to track these gamblers down, put them rightly behind bars and ship their slimy compatriots to rehab.


Going back to the developed north, accessories were popping up everywhere, like maaaddd frogs.

A custom frame designer Richard Axe carved out some nifty frog dropouts like these....

.......only to be later sued by a child's mother after she discovered that the frog faithlessly gave up its duties of holding the skewer in place for a more convenient mischief of craftily scooping up neighborhood flies.

That was scary.

Serious people in the industry like Noginsox soon became aware of this safety situation and brought out the frog head lid. They could protect your noggins in case the dropout frog went beserk.

Atleast your head wouldn't go beserk.

And the fairy tale continued. Apparel makers followed Primal's "the path least ridden".
Sheebeest released their Leaf Frog cycling socks.

So if your legs gave the dreaded stink, at least you had an excuse.

And Wishing Fish launched their hip frog bike bells.

Riders could now 'croak' to warn unwary motorists not to run them over.

In reality, the opposite would happen.

But of course, safety wasn't exactly guaranteed unless you had a set of neat Knog Frog lights.

In a clever act of bio-mimicry, they designed the lights to look like two frogs tightly clinching onto the handlebars. But they did this in a very subtle, lightweight and water proof manner, their target rider being the ultra lightweight Rasmussen disciple who eat nuts for meals and climbed ridges deep under water on his bike.

But perhaps the march of the frogs into the industry wouldn't have been more pronounced hadn't it been for two major products that we all commonly waste money on.

The male Speedplay Frog pedals :

And the petite and slender female Frog cleats :

Talk about a mating ritual right underneath our feet. High season or what??

Adding insult to injury, SRAM recently launched their "Will You Make the Leap" effort, making a hideous looking red frog their mascot.

The first set of Red aerobars came with a complementary frog that looked like it was the real captain of the ship.

We interviewed a local triathlete who had used them at the Ironman cult camp and asked him :

"Did you make the Leap?"

He replied : "No, not really...but that frog sure did!"

Yes, we too discovered that the opportunistic frog was gone, leaving a terrible, naked empty space between the handlebars that didn't look so good as in the catalogues.

SRAM refused to comment on the incident.

After reviewing products like these and hundreds of incidents for many months and days, I was deeply frustrated.

My anger really filleth the cup when I heard Kurt Kinetic was upto something fishy at their Minneapolis manufacturing plant. I hired an inside guy to give me the details.

What he would tell me later really shook me.

Kurt was changing the paint work on their trainers for that year.

A certain variety of rare Tasmanian frog had inspired them, I was told.


I desperately asked him to give me the CEO Kurt Cobain's phone number, but he told me that Mr. Cobain needed no land lines anymore, he was free in mind and spirit to communicate however he pleased.

He was dead.

I decided to board the next plane to MN to seriously contend Kurt's design decision. I showed them records, paperwork, pictures, floppy disks worth of information.

The new CEO was apparently ignorant of all these prior developments, or was he deliberately choosing to ignore them?

"Its a conspiracy, sir!" I told him, under labored breath. "The evil Cabal of Kermit the Elder is forcing frogs everywhere. Don't you see? We're going to look like frogs, and ride like frogs...Don't fall into this disaster!"

"This man is mad! Guards...!"

Before I could finish my hurried statements, the unconvinced man in the black chair had his two sidekick brutes pull me away and out of the room.

A physician would later pat my shoulder and in a morose tone, diagnose me with acute Ranidaphobia.

Come again?

Ranidophobia. The fear of frogs you know.

Everyone had abandoned me.

I thought atleast the press would be faithful.

But my heroic attempts at stopping Kurt dead in their tracks would soon be overshadowed in the news next morning by none other than Britney Spears, who reportedly shaved her head and then crashed her car into a coconut tree. It was big big news.

I would later turn the page of the same newspaper and land somehow on this picture in the "New Sports Products" section.

The launch of a certain Rock n Roll Trainer....

And there it was, the thousand mile stare.

The sheepish stare of a frog.

Legs flared out like a frog.

Mouth ready in wait, like a frog.

And color, unmistakably, of a frog.

There was only one authorized retailer in the country. Fearing the worst, I hunted the sentences for a name.


A certain Fat Frogs Bike and Fitness in Virginia.

Stumped, my heart skipped a beat.



  1. I wonder what Freud would say about this Frog Fetish?

  2. Anonymous8:49 AM

    Frogonomics have helped many companies leap over their competition for decades. Kermit was ahead of the curve.

  3. Don :

    He would randomly take the words trauma, sex, repression, castration anxiety, penis envy and some old childhood incident by the banks of a river, cook them all up together, and then muddle readers by somehow connecting them to frogs. Enough of analysis already. I'm not really a fan of that maniac.

    Anon :

    And what good exactly are frogs doing to the cycling world?

  4. Anonymous10:59 PM

    why frogs..?

  5. Beats me, anon.

    I'm as confused as you.

  6. Forget the frogs. That dog is frightening!

  7. When I lived in the US Midwest, the little buggers would spawn by the millions, literally covering the roads for a few days in the spring. The roads are slick with squished frog guts. If you think a stripe of mud up your back is bad, wait until you have to wash tiny little toads out of your deraillers.

  8. Fritz: That was an insightful comment. Even I thought deer made most of roadkill, not frogs. Habitat destruction is wrong.

    I thought some question were best left unanswered but here's what still stands out :

    1. Why the bias towards frogs in cycling, as opposed to monkeys, bears, lions or pandas?

    2. Whats the selling point here? There must be something with frogs that tick for design, but I cant figure it out. Is it the color, the name, the idea of versatility, what...?

  9. ...anon 10:59pm...if you have to ask...

    ...sorry, but i've been a frog (& lizard) guy since i was a kid...1st grade, "there once was a frog named freddy..."...first high end mtb, yep, big ol' rubber frog zip-tied to the stem...1st ti mtb, little lizard stickers all over it...

    ...still have various frogs in the car & all over the apartment...strange, sick ???...hey, so what !!!...i like frogs...

    ...& fritz...aren't you just lucky you didn't own a 'delta 7 iso truss' bike back then ???...need i say more ???...

  10. Anonymous9:15 AM

    Another frog ...

    Nitto Way Back.

  11. Anonymous9:17 AM

    What a nutter! Freaky. Yeah, I'm starting to think about things.


Thank you. I read every single comment.