Ryan McFarland, founder and CEO of the Strider Bikes of Rapid City, presented 22 free bikes to the Stanley County School kindergarteners on Nov. 9 in the Fort Pierre elementary gymnasium.
The Strider Education Foundation, “is in collaboration with the Strider company, business support and schools for this Learn-to-Ride kindergarten program, in 36 states, in about 250 schools and about 40,000 kids this year,” McFarland said. “We want to make sure all of you can learn to ride bikes. In this crazy time right now; people are re-discovering how to ride a bike,” said McFarland to the students.
McFarland said this own family is into all types of bikes; from street, to motocross, and motorcycles. “If it’s got two wheels, we’re on it,” he said.
As the kindergarteners energetically tried out the pedal-less bikes, Matt Konenkamp with the Strider Education Foundation said the curriculum comes with 22 bikes, each with kickstands and a pedal conversion kits. All one needs to do is remove one bolt and watch as the pedals drop down to incorporate the learning of pedaling a bike. Also included are 22 helmets, five years of complete warranties, and even training support of any new physical education instructors who might come on board in the five-year time.
“Statistics say that only 25% of 6-year-olds to 18-year-olds in America will pedal a bike even one time this year,” Konenkamp said. “This program is about bringing biking back — learning a true life skill that will serve students and everyone else the rest of their lives.”
Terri Mehlhaff, elementary principal, gave thanks to all the donors of the All Kids Bike Kindergarten PE Program — Motorola, Montana Dakota Resources Foundation, South Dakota Retailers Association, and BankWest. During the summer, the bikes and helmets can be loaned to the GOLD (Greater Opportunities for Learning and Development) before-and-after-school program in Fort Pierre.
U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., also joined in the fun. When McFarland was honored by Google in Washington, D.C., several years ago, Johnson introduced him. Johnson has since been a big advocate for these bikes.
“All three of my kids rode something like this,” Johnson said as he one-arm hefted up one of the donated bikes. “We got more joy and happiness than we would have without bikes. They are a happiness-building machine.”
“We have a tendency to push other South Dakota exports. When you think of South Dakota, you think of cattle, corn and other things. You don’t think of it exporting bikes,” Johnson said. “And, sometimes, a family can step back. With these bikes a young child can push themselves. It can make a family more active.”
After the presentation at Stanley, Johnson and the Strider team traveled across the river to St. Joseph’s School in Pierre to give their kindergarteners 20 learn-to-ride bikes and helmets.
Johnson said Strider Bikes’ unique format, through which pedals and chains are gradually added, are changing the way young people learn how to ride bikes.
“Training wheels don’t actually help with balance...The beautiful thing about Strider bikes, children can, at an incredibly early age, begin to work on balance to push themselves along a glider bike like this,” he said.
The kindergartners got a chance to take the bikes out for a spin around the gymnasium, and before Johnson and the Strider team left, the class gave them a Christian blessing as a thank you.
Nathan Sanderson, executive director of South Dakota Retailers Association, is one of the donors of the bikes. He said members of the association saw the donation as a great opportunity to give back to the community by supporting children getting outdoors and being more active.
“In a world where kids are spending too much time playing video games or on their phones...to be able to get them connected with a love of the outdoors, a love of physical activity, a love of biking...that’s pretty special,” Johnson said.
The Boys & Girls Club of the Capital Area also received the Strider Inclusive Learn-To-Ride Program and a fleet of various sized Strider bikes to teach children during their after school programs how to ride.
Amy Iversen-Pollreisz, CEO of Capital Area Counseling Services, of which the Boys & Girls Club is a part, said the donation will serve many children from kindergarten-middle school involved in the after school program. Iversen-Pollreisz said the club tries to focus on physical activity.
“The bikes will be a great activity for the kids to get active, be physical, and also to improve their skills if they haven’t had the opportunity to learn how to ride a bike,” she said. “The bikes will be a great tool to help them with their biking skills and develop a love for that that can be with them their whole lives.”