27 May 2017

Striders: The Future Peloton?

When I first became a dedicated cyclist, during my teen years, I started to follow bicycle racing.  In those days, before the Internet and 24-hour news cycles, it was much more difficult to do.  There was little or no coverage in any of the mainstream media.  Bicycling! ran stories about the Tour, the Giro and some of the classics, but that came out only once a month.  You pretty much had to go to a large city to find a place like Hotaling's, where I used to find French, British and other European publications.

During my rides, I would sometimes imagine myself in the peloton with Eddy Mercx or Bernard Hinault.  I wondered, then, if I would have been like them--or one of their competitors--had I grown up in Brittany or Flanders or Tuscany and pedaled in the midget and youth races in the days when I was playing Babe Ruth League baseball (and high-school soccer) in New Jersey.

What I would have done to ride in a Strider race!

This one was just held in Fort Worth, Texas.  It's part of a series of Strider races that will culminate in a Strider World Championship on 21-22 July, in Salt Lake City.

I mean, really, how can you not love it?

Strider, the sponsor of these races, is the leading brand of so-called "balance bikes", which have no pedals--or training wheels.  Proponents of this type of bike claim that the most important skill in cycling is balance, and a kid learns it more quickly than on a bike with training wheels.  Moreover, their advocates argue, because balance bikes don't have pedals, chains or sprockets, they are free of the sharp surfaces that can hurt a kid or simply snag his or her pants.

If I had a kid, I don't know whether I'd choose a balance bike or training wheels.  Well, maybe after watching Strider races, I might be swayed!


  1. My parents were too mean to ever buy me a bike when I was a kid but I did learn to ride by occasionally getting a couple of minutes on a friend's bike. We lived on a slope with a rough unmade road and I started by rolling down that road...

  2. Cyclists Imagination is not confined to youngsters..every time I ride over the cobbles in Elvaston Castle courtyard I imagine I am competing in Paris-Roubaix..unfortunately even my imagination never lets me actually win :-()

  3. Balance bikes really work. I have seen it. Much better than training wheels.

    BUT... I feel that the Strider Cup races are more for the benefit of the parents than the kids. Those kids are mostly too young to really understand the idea of a race. Notice some of them riding the wrong direction in the video. Kids should be let to just be kids and have a good time scooting around. I might even be enough of a grouch to suggest that the real competition is to decide who has the cutest kid. This is maybe not as bad as little girl beauty contests, but it is going in the same direction.


  4. Coline--That's quite a lesson!

    Peter--I have to admit that at times I still imagine I'm winding on a road along the Mediterranean in the Tour or the Giro when I'm pedaling the South Shore of Long Island!

    Leo--I was thinking about child beauty contests, too. The races are indeed less creepy. But, as you say, any time kids are made to "compete"--whether it's in Little League baseball or a ballet exhibition--it too often becomes about the parents' egos.

  5. Took our older children months to learn to ride. They started when aged 8 and 9. The balance bikes became available when our youngest was 2.5 years. She used it for about 18 months then transitioned to a 12inch with pedals. Thirty minutes later and she was pedaling with no dramas. Stopping was a whole new experience as all of a sudden she had brakes!

  6. Accordion--After reading about your kids' experience, I would be interested to see two kids learning how to ride, side-by-side, one with training wheels and the other with a "balance bike."