Review: Strider 14x Sport

By Jeffrey Stern

The Strider 14x Sport for kids ages 3-7 is the ultimate two bikes in one that has tons of features making it a great option for those with kids learning to balance and ride. It creates a level of confidence and riding skills that are second to none, setting a foundation for years of success. The best part of the 14x setup is that it easily converts from a balance bike to pedal bike and back again for the next young child in your family. After a few months of testing, we found a bunch of pros and a few cons to go along with it – let’s be honest, no bike is perfect! All in all, the Strider 14x is a fantastic choice for the budding riders in your family. 

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What we liked:

  • The bike concept and their execution of the convertible bike is really good. You can go from coaster bike to pedal bike in just a few minutes. You add chain, gears, guard cranks, pedals in one easy bolt on unit.  
  • The tires are a good medium width to give a good ride, but not go so slow like many other tires.  
  • Our test pupil, Hayden has run the wheels straight over many sharp corners, where we expected a pinch flat, but it never happens.
  • Geometry is right on if you want your kid to have a good fit and good position. Hayden puts a lot of other kids to shame on the bike, in large part because most kids have poorly fit bikes.
  • Color/design is nice and the tires grip well. Some models have foam air-less tires that don’t seem to have the same traction as ones like the 14x with real rubber tires.
  • Nice geometry saddle. Whoever designed the saddle is a real biker! Many other kids bike seats are not so good.

What could be improved:

  • Grips come loose pretty quick. We added duct tape to increase the diameter of the bars and the grips work perfectly now.
  • Pedals are super narrow. It seems that they did this so the kid could still ride with his feet on the ground with the pedals on and not have the pedals get to in the way. While this is great for that purpose, your kid will move past the transition stage quickly and then the pedal bike has super narrow pedals from then on out, which is not the best. We bought new full width pedals and replaced the narrow ones, because we could see Hayden’s feet pop off them all the time. It would be better if Strider supplied pedals the telescoped out or a full width set, if they want this bike to really be a full on coaster bike as well as a pedal bike
  • The bike is not hyper-rust resistant. Goes with the territory for kids bike, as they are typically less expensive.

Ryan McFarland

Ryan McFarland, the founder of Strider over a decade ago, took the time to answer a few questions about what inspired him to start the business, where he sees the company going in the future and more.

What’s the story behind creating and founding the original Strider bike?

The Strider bike was a result of my eagerness to teach my 2-year-old son, Bode, how to ride. After buying all the typical products such as ride-on toys, tricycles, and training-wheel bikes, I realized that none of these vehicles truly fit my boy or focused his attention on the fundamental skill needed to ride a bike — balance. Being an avid motorcyclist and mountain bike rider myself, I knew that proper fit was the very foundation to riding success, so ultimately I had two choices… wait a couple of years until Bode could better fit the products currently on the market or create a bike perfectly fit for my son right now. I didn’t have the patience to wait, Bode on a bike at age 2 meant that we could soon be riding together, father and son. Motivated from a personal standpoint, I headed to the garage to create the perfect toddler bike. That garage project turned into the Strider Balance Bike, and now there are nearly 2 million Strider bikes in the marketplace. How cool is that! I also love that each purchase has a purpose with Strider, that’s really cool and unique.

From kids to the elderly, Strider truly touches many people in such a meaningful, yet simple way. What’s the inspiration and story behind this component of the business?

I am always looking for and believe there is a greater purpose in life. My faith leads me to care more about improving lives than focusing on profitability. I try to put faith into action when I can, for example, the Strider Rider Fund is a commitment to dedicate a percentage of top-line revenue to charitable purposes every month… that money goes to charity whether the company makes a bottom line profit that month or not. I believe that as a company we have a responsibility to give to God first, without fail. Through faith and dedication everything else will fall into place. I also believe riding provides an important early experience of freedom that instills a lifelong appreciation of freedom and desire for more freedom. This appreciation and desire are life changing and are the foundation of a strong nation and a fulfilling faith.

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Where can we see Strider going in the future?

Strider will continue to expand its promotion of the riding lifestyle that celebrates freedom and adventure. As a company, Strider continually wants to introduce kids to the joy of riding at ever younger ages (Baby Bundle!). We will continue to push for active, health-focused events and activities that get kids on bikes enjoying the community of riders instead of sucked into the isolation of their mobile devices. We are an ambitious company, and one of our ambitions is to see every kindergartener in America fully proficient and pedaling a two-wheeler. And while we’re talking ambition, Strider wants to see the extinction of tricycle and training wheels… extinction meaning gone forever.

The 4-step pedal process and emphasis on safety in the guide is really extensive and well thought out. Safety is a huge issue with the proliferation of bikes across all age groups in this day and age. As the next generation of kids slowly graduates from a Strider upbringing, how does Strider expect to see it’s influence translate in the years to come?

When children learn a skill at a very young age, their brains physically develop specific pathways to perform that skill— making them better at that skill than someone whose brain doesn’t have that direct pathway development. This means it will be more natural to them, as easy as walking or even breathing. When kids are so skilled at riding that they don’t have to “think” about it, they will not only be safer riders for life, but they will be better riders. We envision Strider graduates setting new records and performing new feats that have never been done before. We have no doubt that future Olympians and World Champions will state that they started their racing career at age two on a Strider bike.

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Why you should buy your child a balance bike

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!

Homemade balance bike,

Homemade balance bike. Just remove the cranks!

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.

Photo: Matt Dubberley

Photo: Matt Dubberley

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.

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Field Tested: Cleary Bikes Owl

Words: Trina and Stephen Haynes. Photos: Justin Steiner

Cleary Bikes is a new company founded by Jeff Cleary, a father of two who understands the need for a good quality bike that will be reliable and long lasting. We got our hands on a prototype 20-inch wheeled Cleary Owl.

The Owl ($325) is a stripped down single speed that comes in subtle blue or grey, has front and rear hand brakes and is reminiscent of a BMX bike, only lighter (just 17lbs) and more refined. Internally routed brake cables and cool, minimalist graphics add to the bike’s good looks, without shouting at you.

This lightweight, steel-framed newcomer is easy to wrangle for most kids. The geometry of the Owl aims to center the child’s weight between the saddle and handlebars, giving the rider an attentive stance. The saddle, handlebars, grips and brake levers have all been scaled down to accommodate the small features of children. The grips also feature a “no drop” bar-end designed to keep your Mini Me’s mitts attached to their grips.


Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #31 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a bike review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.


Our seven-year-old son, Odin, immediately took to the Owl, having already mastered the use of handbrakes. This is a point that’s easy to overlook. There aren’t many kid’s bikes out there that are designed with a free wheel and hand brakes. As parents and cyclists, we struggled to find a bike that wouldn’t be a step back developmentally for Odin.

It’s great to see another bike company use parental experience to create a solid bike, with a good price point. The Owl is at home on the street or on the trail and wouldn’t find itself out of place at the local bike park either.

Cleary Bikes offers four different models starting at $205, from gliders to the 20-inch Owl. All of them have two handbrakes, internal cable routing and are singlespeeds. The bikes are currently available to order through the website, and you can receive a sticker kit for your kid to customize their ride.

Tech Editor’s note: The prototype we received had vertical dropouts, but I’m happy to report Cleary Bikes will be implementing horizontal dropouts for easier singlespeed setup. Also, our prototype had riser bars, while the production bikes will feature flat bars.

 

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