Getting Children Back Outside, And On Two Wheels
As a kid growing up in south Florida and later north Georgia, my bicycle was my life. I’m unsure what my first starter one was (does a Big Wheel count?), but I perfectly recall the bike that defined my childhood. It was a metallic blue Schwinn Stingray with a pearl white banana seat, a high back “sissy bar”, and a serious ape hanger handlebar, at least for a 2nd-3rd grader. I’d clip playing cards (always Jokers) to the forks and frame, fore and aft, so they would clatter against the wheel spokes and mimic the sound of my dad’s Triumph TR6. No hand brake, but it slowed/stopped by reversing the pedal action. I rode that bike all around our small community, through the woods behind our home, and took quite a few spills on it, always getting back up and rolling on. I remember teaching our own girls how to ride, each when they turned about 5. And like their father, they rode those little bikes all over the neighborhoods we raised them in.
Sadly in this high-tech age, children receive an iPad before they learn to ride a bicycle. Hence, more children are growing up learning how to use their thumbs for gaming more than their feet for pedaling. That’s a shame to me. Visit any “big-box” store today, and the aisle with bicycles is usually small and the offerings spartan. Little wonder we’ve observed a decline in motorcycling over the past 20 or so years. Kids are growing up in front of screens, rather than riding bikes, and therefore aren’t transitioning to motorcycles. Okay, my lament is over. Time for some good news.
Let’s see more of this in the coming years. Photos by Strider Bikes and All Kids Bike.
Strider Bikes is looking to change all that. With offerings from their 2-1 Rocking Bike, through an array of balance bikes, up to pedal power, Strider’s goal is to get kids outside, get them active, and get them on two wheels. Their strategy for achieving this is impressive, and has now become a national campaign. Called the “All Kids Bike” initiative, a non-profit dedicated to getting kids back riding, the goal is to place as many pedal-less balance bikes in as many elementary schools across the country as possible, for use in their Phys-Ed programs. Complete with a training course for the school instructors, and a simple curriculum to implement, kids will once again begin to experience and come to enjoy the sensation of balancing a bike, and riding into the wind. There are also steps and tips for parents who want to start even before their kids enter school. The bikes can later be converted to chain/sprocket pedal bikes as the kids grow in confidence and ability.
Our friend and master motorcycle builder Kevin Baxter of Pro Twin Performance/Baxter’s Garage jumped on board the national campaign by raising funds to purchase 25 Strider balance bikes and an adult instructor’s bike. “We want to get more kids physically fit,” Kevin told me, “we want to get them active, and hopefully as they get older, we can get them on motorcycles!” Kevin observed that the region he lives in has an elevated level of rural poverty, and parents barely scrape by to put food on the table, much less purchase their kids bicycles. “Parents can’t afford to buy them a bicycle of their own,” Kevin shared, “so they can go to school, be a part of this whole program, and learn how to ride bikes.”
Friends and volunteers joining in the assembly fun.
Kevin signed on for the program then connected with Statham Elementary School, who enthusiastically welcomed the opportunity to join the national campaign. Supported and sponsored by Brian & Vanessa Klock of Klock Werks, 3TSports, Holly Whalen of Law Tigers Georgia, and his own YouTube tribe, Kevin and company purchased 25 balance bikes and one adult instructor bike, and organized an assembly party to build the bikes and present them to the PE teacher of the school. Complete with a catered lunch, live entertainment (Don Law provided the pipes and the picking), and ample help from friends and volunteers, we spent part of a Saturday assembling bicycles. The joy and enthusiasm was palpable.
Holly Whalen of Law Tigers stated, “We’re excited to be here, building bikes for kids, and to partner with somebody like Kevin Baxter is just awesome.” Holly shared that she and her husband recently bought a Strider balance bike for their small grandson, who is already pushing himself around the house astride it.
We also chatted with Jennifer Poole, the PE coach at Statham Elem, who exclaimed, “We are very excited about it! We are going to start this with our kindergarteners, and hopefully get them on their way from these two wheels (pointing to a Strider) to those two wheels (pointing to the motorcycles in Kevin’s shop).”
What a rewarding day.
I even set the mic and the camera down to help assemble a few myself, to get in on the action rather than just observe and report on it. Knowing that little boys and girls would begin to experience the thrill of riding that these little bikes will afford them, just made my heart happy. I look forward to the day when I’ve got grandkids of my own, and can help teach them how to ride a bike, like I taught my own daughters. In the meantime, being a part of this national initiative is a humbling and rewarding experience. Kids will get back outside, learn to ride, and get fit. Then hopefully in a few years, many will move from balance to pedal, and from pedal to motor.
Much thanks to Kevin and Crew, Holly and her Law Tigers team, to Klock Werks and 3TSports for catching the vision for the next generation, and to Statham Elementary School for being among the first of many in Georgia and across the country to implement the unique program. Here’s to a bright future of kids getting off the couch and out on two wheels.
For more information on Strider and the “All Kids Bike” program, click here:
Check out Kevin and the crew of ProTwin Performance here:
*Photos by Strider Bikes, All Kids Ride, and the author
*Check out the video short we compiled from our day-