The original Strider bike came on the market in 2007, invented by a dad in South Dakota. Four years later I put my oldest girl on one when she was almost two. A month after her third birthday she set it down and started pedaling a real bike. She was pedaling her bike around kids twice her age that were still on training wheels!
Let me stop here and say this isn't a post about how my awesome kids are, this is a post about how awesome Strider bikes are. I know that technically we can call them balance bikes. And I know that every corporate bike company in existence has ripped off the design from this dude in South Dakota, but I still call them all Striders. Just like every flying disc is a Frisbee or every nostril wipe is a Kleenex.
When I first saw a Strider, I instantly knew it was a genius design. For people who don't know what they are, Striders are a small, kid-sized bike that has no cranks or pedals. The child can stand over the bike and walk, then eventually they learn to scoot. Kids learn how to balance a bike and steer it first, without the added confusion of trying to pedal. When the rider graduates up to a bike with pedals, they already have the other skills down, so pedaling comes easy.
Our Strider experience started with lots of slow walks down the sidewalk. Soon after that, she figured out how to balance and scoot. Once your new rider is scooting along, then it's time for some fun. Strider bikes can go almost anywhere. A great place to start is Stephen Day park over on the east side of town next to Fall River Elementary school. The park has long, smooth concrete paths with hills and curves for some new challenges. Once they master those, it's time to try out the kid-sized skate park and dirt park. The dirt park is a loop of rollers and berms. The conditions vary depending on weather, look out for mud, or more likely, loose dirt. Parents need to be ready to help out a downed rider. There is potential for the dreaded, "I-can't-make-it-up-hill-now-
Right next to the dirt track at Stephen Day is a great little skate park. It has several different features and can be ridden from a few directions. Striders can focus on just getting up and down different sizes and shapes of transitions. Again, be ready for some slams, this early riding experience will teach some valuable life lessons.
Once you've dialed in Stephen Day or any of the other rides around town, don't be afraid to take your Strider out to Valmont Bike Park, or Sandstone Ranch. Valmont Bike Park in Boulder has a ton of terrain suitable for scooting. Start at the little loop right in the playground, then go over to the kids-only pump track at the bottom of the dual slalom course. Pump tracks are fun because they have a whole lot of obstacles packed into a tight area. If you decide to tackle either of the other pump tracks be ready to share with bigger, faster riders, and always be prepared for more of the hills-too-steep-to-get-up. The Skillz Loop is another great spot for Striders, and the park even hosts Strider races around this short loop.
If you begin to venture up the hill, remember that Striders don't have brakes. Kids can only slow down by dragging their feet. So even sending them down something that doesn't look steep, like Mid Mesa can lead to a crash. At least the grass on the sides of the trail is pretty tall and provides some cushioning so they don't get too hurt....yes, there is a reason I know this.
For another place in Longmont to advance your Strider skills, head out to Sandstone Skatepark. You really have to time this one right, because when the park is busy, it is definitely not safe for knee-high riders. Sunday mornings can be a pretty quiet time at the park. Let your little one explore the upper area around the box and try going up and over the various banks. When the upper area starts getting busy, slide your kid into the big bowl over by the spine. They will have fun sliding in on their belly or butt, then drop the bike in also. Stay close and slowly teach them how to carve on the walls of the bowl. Explore the entire bowl and let the little rider learn a little about the physics of riding. When they get tired of striding, or the park gets too busy, there is an awesome playground right next door.
For all the stuff I've described, you can find little elbow and knee pads that really do help, and of course a helmet should be mandatory. If you really get into it and want to try some Strider racing, Dacono BMX hosts Strider races before the real racing gets started, and as I mentioned Valmont hosts a couple races every summer. For the last two years the City of Longmont has hosted the Glider Strider Race at Willow Farm Park. Hopefully it will return for 2020, search it out on longmontcolorado.gov