Think back to the time you received that first set of two wheels – the moment you sat on the bike, placed your feet on its pedals and tightly gripped those handlebars. Remember the excitement and sheer sense of freedom that you felt once you launched yourself forward for the first time? For any kid turned long-time rider, that one moment likely kicked off a lifetime of epic rides, lasting friendships, and a love for riding that continues to be a big part of your life to this day. The Strider Education Foundation is now spreading that same sense of excitement across America by delivering their own set of two-wheel gifts to thousands of school children who have never learned to ride a bike.
Strider Education Foundation, a South Dakota based 501(c)(3), is backed by Strider Sports International, the maker of Strider Balance Bikes. It’s the brainchild of Ryan McFarland, Strider Bikes’ Founder, President, Chief Enthusiast, and father who simply wanted to teach his son how to ride so that he too could experience the joy that’s found in biking.
McFarland’s low frame, no-pedal designed Strider bikes allows young riders to develop confidence in bike handling and balance while propelling the bike in a natural way.
“Riding a bike is a natural extension of mobility,” McFarland says. “As babies, we desire mobility and that’s what drives us to crawl, and then we want to walk, and then we want to run. The next logical step is to get on that bike and go. Get that sense of freedom and ability to go where we want to go.”
For many kids, however, the pure joy of riding a bike may be something they’ll never get to experience. Too often, physical and mental disabilities or even the impacts of financial hardship will keep them from learning to ride. McFarland and the foundation are changing that.
“Riding is our passion and we want to share that passion with as many kids as we can. The Strider Education Foundation was formed to overcome these limitations.”
Their goal? Make learning to ride a bike part of the standard Kindergarten PE curriculum through the foundation’s “All Kids Bike” campaign.
“The All Kids Bike campaign is a movement,” says Development Specialist Jenn Smith. “It’s to put bikes in classrooms all across the U.S. We truly believe that all kids should have the opportunity to learn to ride a bike.”
To do this, the Strider Education Foundation delivers what they call Learn-to-Ride programs to schools that are committed to teaching their young students how to ride. Each school is presented with a Kindergarten PE program that equips teachers with necessary training and certifications, a structured 8-lesson curriculum, 22 Strider 14x Balance Bikes, 22 Pedal Conversion Kits, 22 fully-adjustable helmets, as well as a five-year support plan. PEARL iZUMi has selected an elementary school in Wisconsin to sponsor a Learn-to-Ride program as part of their “Go grants” support.
“Most of the kids who start out on Strider bikes are pedaling by the time they’re 3½,” Marketing Manager Susie Marcks says. “We’re so proud of that but the majority of kids still don’t know how to ride a bike. And if we can teach them in school, that’s where we can gather the most kids and make the most impact. All Kids Bike is doing that.”
Strider’s Learn-to-Ride curriculum has not only been shown to be a successful teaching tool when it comes to riding, but it also helps by increasing social skills, independence and a confident can-do attitude for life. And because of Strider Sports International’s tremendous success and strong backing, the foundation can focus their efforts on spreading donor funds directly toward this program. And to date, the impact has been incredible. As of December 31, 2019, a total of 113,650 students in 145 schools across 27 states have been positively affected by All Kids Bike.
McFarland and his team believe that finding confidence in riding changes everything.
“If you can feed some confidence into a child when their really young, it changes the entire trajectory of their life. With the milestone of riding a bike being so valued, it is probably one of the main drivers for injecting that bit of confidence into kids. We see it time and again. You can tell that these kids have been wanting to master this skill and when they finally do it’s just this huge release of joy and excitement. And you can just tell their life is gonna be different and better from this day forward.”