"If your toddler can walk, your toddler can ride." That's a tag line from Strider Sports International, a Rapid City, South Dakota, company, and maker of its namesake Strider "scoot bike" for small kids. The point with the product, which is a scooter with no pedals, chain or gears, is to teach balance on two wheels and let kids skip training wheels altogether to go right to riding a bike.
It works. Our young boy, Charlie, rode a Strider for a couple weeks before turning four-years-old this spring. Just after his birthday, he put down the Strider and gripped the handlebars of a small kid bike without training wheels. Despite a wobbly start, Charlie was pedaling and riding in fine balance within a few hours all the way down our block.
Friends of mine tout their kids were riding a bike by age three years thanks to a Skuut Toddler Bike, which is a similar product. Both the Strider (www.stridersports.com) and the Skuut (www.skuut.com) cost about $100. The Skuut is made out of wood and has rubber wheels. The Strider has a steel frame and hard foam wheels that cannot pop.
Charlie took right to the Strider. He started slow, sitting on the seat and walking down the sidewalk with the wheels rolling along. As he got used to the motion, he'd push off and lift his feet to glide.
To accommodate foot placement, the Strider has built integrated footrests into the frame. With minimal instruction, Charlie found the footrests, which are on both sides of the frame in front of the rear wheel, and stepped naturally back to rest and ride while the wheels glided free. When the Strider slowed, our son would remove his feet and stand up to stop.
The skills learned on the scooter translated quickly once Charlie stepped up to ride his "big boy" bike. The balance, hand grip, and the general motions were the same. The only difference is now he pedals for momentum instead of "running" with his feet.
Beyond Strider or Skuut, companies including Schwinn and others make similar pedals-less, "learn-to-ride" products. If you have a coordinated, adventurous young kid and want to skip the training-wheels stage, in my experience these made-for-kids bikes are a must-buy.
--Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com. Connect with Regenold at Facebook.com/TheGearJunkie or on Twitter via @TheGearJunkie.