About STRIDER® Balance Bikes
My name is Ryan McFarland, and I love riding dirt bikes and mountain bikes. When I was a boy, my dad owned a motorcycle shop and raced dirt bikes. Riding and racing have been in my blood ever since. When I became a dad and my son turned 2 years old, I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm any longer. I wanted to get him riding! I bought him the traditional little tricycle and the cute little 12" pedal bike with training wheels, each one decked out in racing stripes and decals. My enthusiasm quickly turned to frustration as I watched my eager son of just 20 pounds struggle with the weight and complexity of these so-called "children’s bikes." The daddy in me wanted to help him succeed; the racer in me wanted to build him a better bike.
So, I started cutting, grinding, and unbolting every piece of non-essential weight I could find. When I got to the drive train (pedals, cranks, bearing, chain, sprockets), I realized this was the majority of the weight and complexity. I paused for quite some time at this point as I pondered how to lighten the drive train. Could I drill holes in it? Could I cut away parts of it? Until finally… could I simply remove it completely? Hmmm… now a new dilemma, a mental dilemma… if it didn’t have pedals, would it still be considered riding a bike? What defines riding? Again, the racer in me urged simplify, simplify, simplify. After all, downhill mountain bikers don’t pedal, road racers descending a highway don’t pedal, and motorcyclists don’t pedal. They all are riding, so what do they all have in common? The ability to balance on two wheels and lean through turns regardless of what put them in motion. Pedaling is just one of many means of propulsion. Separating propulsion from the riding equation solved my dilemma. What can a kid already do naturally and instinctually? Walk! Perfect! I removed the entire drive train which dramatically lightened and simplified the bike. It also allowed me to cut the frame down further to lower the center of gravity and increase the stability. Now my little boy with his 12" inseam could sit on the bike with both feet solidly on the ground.
My son hopped on the bike and started walking without giving it a second thought. 100% of his focus was now on keeping the bike upright and centered under him as he walked. In short order, I could see him "experimenting" with holding his feet up between steps… trying to coast ever so slightly. At first, quite wobbly and only going inches before dabbing his feet back to the ground. But, he wasn’t FALLING, and he wasn’t SCARED, because his feet were on the ground. He was actually self-motivated to keep trying to glide further and further each time… with repeated "Watch me! Watch me!" as he beamed with pride. I simply let him play and learn at his own pace, and soon he was balancing and gliding at will, riding down hills, over the grass, and through puddles.
Fast forward a year… time for a pedal bike (3 years old). Lesson learned… buy a bike that is lightweight and simple… and no training wheels. This time, riding was the part that was natural and instinctual for him. The only new element was a change in the means of propulsion. So, confident in his own ability to balance, lean, and steer a bike, he could focus 100% of his attention on converting his 'striding' motion to a 'pedaling' motion. Easy! He was off, safely and proficiently riding in minutes.
Fast forward another six months… time for a dirt bike (3 ½ years old). Again, find the lightest, simplest dirt bike possible… OSET 12" electric trials bike… no training wheels. Again, riding was the part that was natural and instinctual for him. The only new element was a change in the means of propulsion. So, confident in his own ability to balance, lean, and steer a bike, he could focus 100% of his attention on twisting the throttle and pulling the brake. Easy! Literally within minutes he was riding around the field.
The essence of riding is balancing on two wheels and leaning through turns. Propulsion can come in many forms, the simplest of which is "striding."
About Ryan McFarland
Ryan McFarland is an entrepreneur with a passion for mountain biking and motor sports. Ryan grew up with a grandfather who was a race car engineer and a father who owned a motorcycle dealership. This early exposure to cars, motorcycles, and racing influenced Ryan to ride dirt bikes and mountain bikes, as well as race go-karts and stock cars. His mechanical inclination and his competitive spirit led him to invent the U.S. Patented Thudbuster suspension seatpost for bicycles and a U.S. Patented suspension system for wheelchairs.
His passion for spending time with his family, riding on two wheels, and teaching other children how to ride using the Strider Bike was the genesis for what is now known as Strider Sports International, Inc., formed January 9, 2007, in Rapid City, South Dakota, of which Ryan McFarland is still the Founder, President, CEO, and Chief Enthusiast.