Quick! Let’s go back in time to when Ryan McFarland was so eager to share the joy of riding a bike with his 2-year-old son Bode that he deconstructed the smallest, lightest bike he could find and made something new. That something new was a two-wheel bike unlike any other—it had no pedals! And it was perfect. It fit Bode’s little body and allowed him to put both feet on the ground.
“It worked so well that it actually shocked me,” McFarland shared in the company’s 2019 #GrowWithGoogle video.
Bode’s newfound confidence, independence and speed on his balance bike changed his whole family’s ability to get out and moving. And as they were out and about, McFarland fielded more and more questions about how his son (and soon, his younger son, Jesse) had learned to ride at such a young age. He saw an opportunity to get more kids on bikes, and in 2007, he founded Strider Bikes.
To date, Strider Bikes has sold nearly four million bikes worldwide, and it’s the leader in the balance bike industry. The company supports authorized dealers and distributors in more than 75 countries. They estimate having helped more than five million kids learn how to ride a bike, and that number keeps on growing.
But it’s only partly because Strider Bikes runs an efficient and data-driven online and in-store retail business. The company sells its three core products, the 2-in-1 Rocking Bike, 12” Balance Bike, and 14x Sport, via its own website; a flagship store in Bentonville, AR; other online retailers; and through bike shops around the U.S. and world.
The rest of Strider Bikes’ success stems from its brand focus on education and community. In the early days, Strider employees regularly called bike and motorcycle shops to tell them about the benefits of balance bikes for kids.
Now that balance bikes are more known and accepted, Strider isn’t afraid to tell people that:
- Training wheels are (still) the wrong way to go when teaching a kid to ride a bike;
- It’s safe (and super fun!) to get kids accustomed to bikes as babies and really start teaching them to ride as early as they can walk; and
- Little kids can absolutely stop without pedals or brakes—they just put their feet down.
As far as community, Strider continually solicits feedback, questions and all the muddy-sometimes-a-little-bloody-but-it-was-fun videos and photos that riders, families, distributors and franchisees can provide. This ongoing communication underscores deeply held company beliefs, some of which are:
- Kids are awesome.
- Failure is OK.
- Kids learn best through play.
- Life is better when riding a bike.
And there’s more! McFarland wanted to extend the confidence, courage and happiness that his boys achieved through balance to other kids, but he knew he couldn’t reach them all through the Strider Bikes business. So, he created the Strider Education Foundation, a nonprofit entity separate from but supported by Strider Bikes.
The Foundation’s public-facing brand is All Kids Bike (AKB), which has the mission of teaching every child in America how to ride a bike in kindergarten PE class. Through the program, All Kids Bike equips participating schools with everything they need to teach every kindergartener how to ride: a full eight-lesson curriculum, teacher training and certification, a fleet of bikes and pedal conversion kits, helmets, and a five-year support plan.
All Kids Bike then routes community comments back to Strider to assess and incorporate into product adjustments, either for the AKB-specific bikes or the commercially available 14x Sport.
The bikes, the business, the nonprofit and the community programming are all simple by design and on purpose, putting the joy of riding above everything else. It may be too early to say many VJers learned to ride on Strider Bikes, but many of our team members’ kids have. Bikes make life more fun, and Strider is making that possible—one fast-footed, helmeted Fred Flintstone at a time!