Strider is a US company which claims to have taught more toddlers and young children how to ride than any other brand and, with over a million bikes sold, that’s not hard to believe.
The thinking behind the concept is straightforward: 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’. These two things inspired Ryan McFarland to build a better bike for his two-year-old son, who was struggling to get the hang of peddling a scaled-down version of his dad’s bike.
McFarland’s solution – stripping off excess weight in the form of pedals, cranks and chain – allowed his son to concentrate on the fundamental skills of balancing, leaning, and steering while propelling the bike in a natural way. The Strider was born.
Today, the three starter bikes sell for between £60 and £100, which is comparable to the price of wooden Kiddimoto bikes (which cost from £49.99 to £114.99) and FirstBIKE, which sell for between £69.99 to £119.99. You can buy the Strider Balance Bike from the Strider Bikes website or on Amazon.
Is the Strider balance bike light enough for a young child to lift?
Yes! Remarkably so. My son Tyler is 3-years-old, our previous experience with a balance bike (a heavy wooden version that I struggled to lift and poor Tyler could barely move), made me sceptical.
But even in the box, which contained an extra saddle and seat post, the Strider weighed next to nothing.
Once put together (a process so simple we thought we’d missed something), it weighs just under 3kg (roughly the weight of a newborn baby), meaning Tyler can lift and manoeurver the bike with ease.
Can the seat be adjusted?
Yes it can. Thanks to two seat posts (one regular and one extra large), plus a no-tool, quick-release seat adjustment mechanism, the saddle height can be easily modified while you’re out and about.
So Tyler was able to ride around in the park until we adjusted the seat to the optimum height. That turned out to be lower than we expected as Strider recommend that your child sits on the saddle with both feet flat on the ground while slightly bending his knees.
The bike comes with a regular and XL saddle (included) which allows the seat to adjust from 28-48cm (11-19”)
Does it feel safe?
Absolutely. Because Tyler’s feet are flat on the floor, he can control the speed himself without the need for brakes.
The handlebars are the perfect size for Tyler’s grip, ensuring he can avoid obstacles with little effort. And when he tips over, which happens rarely, he is falling from such a low height that he doesn’t hurt himself.
And thanks to the bike’s weight (or lack of it), I’m not worried about the frame hurting him when it lands on top of him.
This is the antithesis of how I feel about his pedal bike, which we rushed into buying. He’s perched high up on the saddle, the bike gathers momentum quickly and his small hands struggle to reach the brakes, let alone apply them.
When riding a balance bike children’s feet should be able to rest flat on the floor for a comfortable ride.
Is it comfortable?
Yes, Tyler swung his leg over the drop crossbar and, once we’d adjusted the saddle to its optimum position, he was off without a complaint.
The mini-saddle is smaller, narrower and lighter than a typical saddle to allow for proper riding position and posture. It’s ideal when your child is still in nappies.
Over the months we’ve been testing the bike, Tyler has been toilet trained, so the saddle has become a little less comfortable.
Originally we thought we had to wait to swap the smaller saddle for the padded XL version (which is more forgiving on his nappy-less bum), as it’s been designed for older children who are 41-48cm tall according to the Strider site.
But when we double checked with Strider they told us the height and age range is an approximation, as both seats extend across various ages and height stages.
Every child is different, so moving them from one seat to another will vary, the main thing is to make sure that the seat doesn’t strain the inside of your little one’s thighs.
So although Tyler has just turned three-years-old, we’ve moved him to the XL seat and he is much more comfy.
How does it work with training Tyler for a ‘big bike?’
It takes the onus off pedalling and allows Tyler to focus on the fundamental skills of balancing, leaning and steering.
The lack of distractions (no pedals, chain, bells or even brakes) means Tyler is free to concentrate on nailing the art of staying upright, negotiating obstacles and, after a few months, taking his feet off the floor and coasting.
Crucially, the bike enables him to build confidence to get his balance on two wheels. It’s the best cycling teacher we could have hoped for.
This balance bike doesn’t come with brake handles, what do you think of that?
Having owned a balance bike without brakes, the lack of brake handles didn’t concern me; in fact, having watched Tyler struggle to negotiate stiff brake handles on his pedal bike, it was a relief.
The Strider Sport features a unique rear-brake mount (above)
Tell us about the break mount.
Another conscious omission is the brake, as Strider don’t endorse finger-pulled lever brakes.
They’ve found that small children can’t reach or control them easily and, after watching Tyler struggle to put his small fingers over the brake lever on his pedal bike, I agree.
So the Strider Sport features a unique rear-brake mount, which is designed to be used in conjunction with a foot-operated brake once your child is proficiently gliding with both feet on the footrests.
Although we didn’t try it out, the concept seems genius as, rather than distract a child with hand-activated brake levers, the brake is within easy range of their established riding position.
All your child has to do is press one or both feet onto the front of the spring, which lifts the lever behind up and against the back wheel to prevent it turning.
Does it have steering limiters?
No, it doesn’t have steering limiters but this omission is for a reason. Strider believe that a steering limiter is a hindrance to the child´s development and a potential safety issue in the event of a fall.
The company believes a steering limiter becomes a ´crutch´ that keeps the child from fully learning the skill of steering a two-wheeled vehicle. Without it, steering control can be learned from the moment the child first sits on a bike.
As for safety, a steering limiter prevents the handlebars from folding flat to the ground in the event of a fall, which could potentially impale the child through the face, neck or chest.
When Tyler oversteers on his Strider and topples, the handlebars hit the ground first and are flat, so Tyler’s falls on top of the bar, not into the bar ends.
What are the tyres like?
Maintenance-free, as they’re made from industrial foam so they’ll never go flat. Goodbye puncture repair kit!
The foam makes them extremely light (half the weight of an air-filled inner tube and tyre system), plus they boast 10 additional support struts per wheel so they’re highly unlikely to buckle or break.
The balance bike has EVA polymer (industrial foam) tyres, so should be not go flat
Does it handle all terrains?
Definitely. Rather than having to dismount at every steep incline or have me pull him over every bumpy surface, Tyler was able to stay straddling his Strider and negotiate every change in floor level himself.
Going up or down kerbs became a cinch as instead than crashing into paving stones, Tyler was able to stand up and lift the front wheel of the bike quickly and easily, making crossing the road much quicker and safer.
In the park, rather than wobbling precariously over uneven ground or getting stuck because his back wheel had bedded into the mud, Tyler bumped delightedly over leaves, twigs and dirt. And with no punctures to worry about, I was more than happy for Tyler to tackle all kinds of terrain.
What do you think of the footrests?
These frame-integrated non-slip footrests are positioned directly below the saddle for natural bike balance.
Tyler didn’t find these himself; we pointed them out and encouraged him to use them only once he could take both feet off the ground confidently for several seconds at a time.
It’s taken a while for him to get used to tucking his feet under as he was more comfortable holding his legs out in front of him when coasting.
But I’m sure he’ll get used to placing his feet on the footrests as he further develops confidence in his ability to balance.
The integrated non-slip footrests
How long do you reckon this bike will last?
For at least another two years (until he’s five), which is well after I’d imagined he’d want to ride a balance bike.
But because Strider bikes are designed to gently ease and assist a child into making the transition to cycling a ‘grown-up’ bike. And because the Strider Sport is so much fun to ride, I suspect Tyler will still be using it for several months after he’s mastered riding his pedal bike without stabilisers.
Considering Tyler could have used it from 18-months of age, it could give around 3-and-a-half-years of use, which I consider tremendous value for money.
If you want to impart a love of riding on your child without breaking the bank or your back (on the odd occasion you have to carry it), the Strider Sport should be your balance bike of choice.
Weighing in at just under 3kg, this featherweight model is the ideal starter bike for every child as it facilitates independent riding far quicker than a pedal bike might.
From the instant we assembled the Strider Sport (which only took a matter of minutes) and he sat on the specially designed saddle, my son loved the bike and it’s been an instant hit with his friends, too.
The simple-yet-brilliant design has even ignited a long-forgotten urge to learn to ride a bicycle in his grandma so it’s lucky Strider make models for older children and adults!
My one and only complaint is that there’s no handle built into the frame so although it’s not much heavier than a newborn, it’s not as easy to carry. But that’s barely a consideration when it’s so easy and enjoyable for your child to ride.
Available in seven vibrant colours and suitable for kids aged between 18 months and five years, the Strider Sport is bound to give your child years of enjoyment while helping them develop the confidence and balance to ride a two-wheeled pedal bike.