I’ll never forget when my oldest, Raines, first learned how to ride a bike. A real bike – with pedals and two wheels and everything. A Big Boy Bike. Raines had been riding his little green Strider bike for years, but now that he was five, he really wanted the real thing.
It’s not like his Strider slowed him down – heck, he would keep me company while I ran (and once we did four miles down the banks of the Schuylkill River together) but Raines has always been interested in fast, and quickly realized that a higher top speed could be reached with a larger bike.
You understand my hesitation, Mamas. Mike, on the other hand, was all, “boy’s ready for a bike!”
So….OK. After school one Friday, Raines and I came home with a bike. It was huge. It was heavy. It was a giant monstrosity that the bike store guys assured me would “last for years”. I was skeptical, but….whatever. This was Mike’s domain. I envisioned him coming home from work that night, and spending all weekend with Raines having that classic father-son Bonding Moment. Snort. I was ignoring that my own memories of learning to ride a bike involved tantrums, tears, and a certainty that adults COULD NOT BE TRUSTED.
Anyway, The Big Bonding Moment never happened. Not because of tears or tantrums, but because Mike never got the chance. Raines hauled his heavy bike out onto the sidewalk to show it off to the neighborhood kids, including Luke, a nine-year-old who always seemed impossibly old compared to my little guys. “Miss Shana? I can teach him to ride,” Luke said casually. Pax had picked that exact moment to freak out, so as I carried the screaming/flailing Pax back into the house I said, “Uh…OK, Luke. Go ahead.”
I went inside to change Pax, and when I came out – it couldn’t have been more than ten minutes later – Raines blew past me on his bike, Luke running behind him. “LUKE!!!!” I bellowed. “WHAT HAPPENED???” Luke stopped, confused. “Uh….he just got on the bike and rode?” he said, giving me a funny look. “I barely did anything!!!”
The genius part of balance bikes is that they teach the hard part – the balance – almost immediately. It’s innate, just based on the design of the bike. And when you see your kid cruising by with their feet up….
….you know they’ve got the balance down pat.
Learning to pedal can be tricky, and I think much of it has to do with development and motivation. I remember Raines, when he first started preschool, had no earthly idea how to ride a tricycle -the pedals were totally puzzling – and anyway, he couldn’t understand why anyone would ride a super-slow trike when the Strider was a possibility! I swear he rolled his four-year-old-eyes as one kid s-l-o-w-l-y triked on past. In hindsight, Raines probably would’ve loved a BigWheel, but the Strider bike spoiled him with speed while preparing him for a real bike. So once Raines decided he wanted to learn how to ride a two-wheeled bike, he figured out the pedals pretty quickly.
There are other balance bikes on the market, but we swear by Strider. Why? Because it’s built like a real bike. The frame, wheels and components are exactly what you’d find on a real bike, just smaller. Striders can do long distance rides, mountain bike courses, and, even without pedals, appease little speed demons like Raines.
Also? They last. Raines’ Strider bike was used and abused – in just about every environment you can imagine, including the beach and SNOW – and yet was in good condition for Pax to ride (Pax started around age 2). Raines’ Strider finally met it’s end after the last two winters of accidentally being stored outside (oops – those were our cancer-and-recovery-years). But we’re talking about 4-5 years of near constant use by two crazy boys in extreme conditions. Not. Bad.
In any case, Pax was thrilled to get a new one….in red.
“Mom? I wost my fast.”
I don’t know when we’ll upgrade Pax to a “big boy bike”. Pax is easily frustrated, and we don’t really have a great outdoor storage solution for a large bike, so…yeah. But I can’t see that being a problem for a loooong time.
He looks pretty happy, and just like his brother, found his fast.
You can read more about Strider Bikes on their website (and also see if they have Strider bike races in your area). You can also buy Striders on Amazon (prime shipping, baby) in blue, pink, yellow, orange, black or wed. I mean red.
One final note: Pax started riding the Strider easily, right around age two, because he had been watching his brother. It took Raines, however, a good six months to warm up to the Strider. We had bought it for him around age two, and he didn’t have a clue what to do. Our early outings ended in disaster. We ended up bringing the bike inside, and letting him play around (or ignore it) for roughly six months. One day Raines decided he was ready, and just took off, me running behind. The rest is history.
A huge thank-you to Strider for sending Pax his new red bike. We are die-hard Strider fans FOR LIFE.