A couple months ago, I was in San Rafael for the Sunset Criterium and got to witness the kid’s race, which was one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen, despite not having, wanting or even really liking children. The little kids on balance bikes were the cutest of all.
It turns out that there is actually a national balance bike racing series for toddlers and children presented by Strider Bikes called the Strider Cup, which will be held in three different cities throughout the country as well as a final “World Championship” race in Boulder, Colorado.
The races aim to be family-friendly and provide a chance for small children to put their balance bike skills to the test and compete in a friendly and encouraging atmosphere. The races are open to children between two and five years old.
The Strider Cup races will be found in the following cities this next year:
- Saturday, May 5: Fort Worth, Texas, in Sundance Square
- Saturday, May 26: Cleveland, Ohio at the Public Square
- Saturday, June 16: Seattle, Washington, at the Seattle Center
- World Championships: July 19-20 at Civic Park, Boulder, Colorado
This past year’s World Cup hosted over 382 toddlers from 10 different countries and organizers are expecting over 500 toddler-aged racers from around the world to compete in 2018. Participation in any of the racers automatically qualifies the rider for the World Championship. Pre-registration will open in January.
A typical Strider race scene features excited and proud young parents and grandparents eagerly encouraging their young racers as bright yellow cowbells are rung and the starting gate drops. Toddlers, some still in diapers, wearing colorful helmets lean forward at the 24-foot wide start gate, kick their short little legs, and embark upon their 650-foot-plus journey over obstacles such as tires, water features, and wooden ramps. Parents cheer, run alongside the course as though it were a cross-country race, and coach their little ones to the finish line. All racers are treated to a celebratory podium award ceremony immediately following their main race, where they will receive either a trophy or a medal and pose for the crowd of proud parents and spectators.
As one parent put it, “best part was seeing the joy on my child’s face as he got to go down ramps and through tunnels. In every picture he has a huge smile on his face. He is still talking about it and was showing off his trophy to everyone. The whole event was amazing and adorable.”
Visit the Strider Bikes website for more information.Tweet Print
By Jeffrey Stern
I remember the day well, almost as if it was yesterday – riding my bike without training wheels on the tennis courts a few blocks away from my childhood home. I was so excited by the near 25 seconds I spent pedaling free of those clunky “safety” wheels, I nearly crashed my pearl white Specialized Hardrock straight into the bottom of the net.
Instead, I just kept going (and haven’t stopped since) shouting with joy, a level of excitement you learn to express as a child, all while seeing the grin to grin smile on my dad’s face, helping forever ingrain in me that day as a pivotal life experience. It’s likely that most of you have similar riding memories from the day the wheels first came off. The freedom from riding a bike around the block, to circumnavigating the world is the rooted in same feeling and it’s simply the best.
Now, imagine if you could give that experience and the lifelong gift of cycling to your child, but years earlier? I think I was around 5 or 6 when that day happened after months of practice on that same lap around the courts (our street was a bit too busy). I’m a child of the 80s, times before dozens of fancy type balance bikes were manufactured and available to the kids of the world, but oh do I wish I had one of them back then!
These days I see kids, not even 2 years old, cruising around my neighborhood in complete control on these tiny, confidence boosting miniature bikes. Countless of friends have replayed stories of their children quickly graduating from keeping their feet on the ground to coasting their mini bikes with feet extended wide in excitement. Pure joy, the same feeling we all experienced on our first rides without training wheels.
One of the best things about balance bikes, is you can convert a normal child’s bike into one at home. Yes, it’s true you don’t have to buy a brand new one from any number of online dealers featuring wooden designs, or special additions. Using a traditional, children’s pedal-powered bike, you can easily remove the cranks and for the price of a garage sale item you’ve got yourself a perfectly usable, durable balance bike for your child.
Why are these bikes so important in developing your child’s riding skills? A balance bike focuses on teaching children how to, you guessed it, balance and steer on two wheels. When learning to ride, it’s of the utmost importance that a kid get the proper feel for how steering with the handlebars affects the balance of their bike. Using only foot propulsion and with the ability to save themselves as they teeter in and out of balance, a child can build confidence quickly. With increased coordination and balance, their on the bike courage is guaranteed to soar. In no time, your child will be coasting more than pushing and you’ll know when the time is right to upgrade to a real bike and pass along your homemade balance bike to a younger sibling or another kid in the neighborhood.
The transition from coasting around the block to pedaling a bike wherever their heart desires is at their fingertips. It’s our duty as adults to help lessen the learning curve and inspire the next generation of riders, by encouraging the use of balance bikes for cycling fundamentals that will be used for a lifetime to come.Tweet Print
Image courtesy of Strider Sports
The joy of life on two wheels doesn’t come easily for everyone. For kids with special needs the freedom and excitement of wind in their hair can be far more challenging. This year Strider Sports is donating seven bikes every day to kids with special needs, and you can nominate a family member.
Strider’s balance bikes aren’t just for toddlers either. They build three models that can fit anyone from ages 18 months to adulthood. While Strider balance bikes weren’t originally designed for users with special needs, they are easily adopted because the users’ feet can stay on the ground for balance.
If you have a family member who you think would love to receive a Strider bike, just take a photo, submit their story and include the name of the special needs organization to which they belong. You can send your nomination through the Strider Sports website.Tweet Print
We can thank the smarty-pants over in Europe for introducing balance bikes to American parents many years ago, and now we can thank a Frenchman for introducing the ultimate kid’s bike, the Yuba Flip Flop.
Best known for its adult cargo bikes, Yuba unveiled the Flip Flop at Interbike last week, incorporating a curiously simple concept to extend the life of the bike as your child grows: flip the frame, flop the position of the bars, rack, seat and front wheel. Voila! You’ve added another inch and year to the bike’s use.
Yuba founder Benjamin Sarrazin, a native of Strasbourg, France, developed the patented Flip Flop with serial designer Barley Forsman (CamelBak, Specialized, Volagi). Aimed at children aged 1-½ to 6 years old, the Flip Flop comes in three colors: lime, raspberry and aqua. It should be available in November in stores and online. Price is $149.
See all our 2014 Interbike coverage here.