Interview with Mom’s Choice Award-Winner Ryan McFarland

Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.

Hi, Mom’s Choice readers! Welcome to another interview in our ongoing series. For this interview, we were able to speak Ryan McFarland, the CEO and founder of Strider Bikes. His “balance” bike—a bike without pedals, which helps kids learn physical skills that can’t be accomplished on training wheels—is the top-selling toddler bike on the market. This remarkable company has come up with a great way to introduce youngsters to biking—long before most children are using bikes with training wheels. Read on to learn why this bike and method are so popular—and so successful—with kids between ages 6 months and 7 years.­

MCA: Won’t you tell us a bit about yourself?

Born in Indiana and later moving to Custer, South Dakota, at the age of 10, I always had a passion for biking, motorsports, and entrepreneurship. I rode my first motorcycle at the age of 5 and owned my first car by the age of 12. In high school, I designed an all-terrain wheelchair that climbed stairs and won first place at the International Science Fair.

MCA: What impressive credentials! As bike riding is a lifelong passion, please tell us about the creation of your company and your current role.

When my wife, Kristi, and I welcomed our first son (Bode) into the world, I couldn’t wait to share my love for riding with him. It didn’t take long after Bode took his first steps that I got him his first bike. However, all the bikes Bode was attempting to ride were too heavy and complicated for his small frame.

I had to take matters into my own hands and stripped, chopped, and welded on Bode’s little 12″ bike until I came up with what would become the very first Strider Bike! At two-years-old, Bode took to the simple, lightweight bike immediately and in 2007, I realized that kids all over the world could benefit from this creation.

Strider now has authorized dealers and distributors in over 75 countries, starting with Japan in 2008 and followed by Canada in 2009. Today, Strider has sold over 4 million bikes to families around the world. One percent of every sale is donated towards making sure everyone gets to experience the freedom and joy that comes with riding, thanks to the Strider Rider Fund.

MCA: What needs were you trying to fill when you created the Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike?

To enable a 2-year-old to ride on two wheels. The need I was filling was to get my son, Bode, riding on two wheels as soon as possible. All of the other methods were not working, at least not quickly enough. The tricycle was too heavy. The training wheel bike was WAY too big.

MCA: Please tell us about the research that went behind the product’s unique features, and describe these features.

I leaned on my years of riding and racing mountain bikes and motorcycles to develop the Strider. My focus was on functionality for the child and the parent. I wanted the bike to function and perform well for the child so they enjoyed riding it. I wanted it also to adjust easily as the child grew in size and skill so that performance would keep them engaged and challenged. I wanted it to function for the parent so assembly and maintenance was simplified and minimized. The idea of the balance bikes goes back 200+ years. Strider is unique in that we built a high-performance balance bike for a tiny child, believing that the child was far more capable than current products assume. That belief has made all the difference.

MCA: So, what is the importance of these products to children and families?

Nothing instills confidence in a child like learning to ride a bike. Children who learn to ride on a Strider Bike will develop balance, stability, and independence.

Babies who are 6 months old can rock on the Strider 2-in-1 Rocking Bike, and once they are proficient in rocking, the bike detaches from the base and they can start striding. Children as young as 1.5 years old are riding a bike! Strider Bikes weigh between 5 and 6.7 pounds and are the ideal size for a child’s small frame. The average weight of a bike with training wheels is around 20 pounds, which is typically too heavy and makes it difficult and intimidating for a child to ride.

MCA: What age groups were your bikes designed for?

Our 12” bikes have a 2-4 year old focus. To get kids on bikes even earlier, we introduced the Strider 2-in-1 Rocking Bike, which is geared for babies from 6-18 months. Once the child has mastered rocking, the bike detaches from the base and the child can begin striding. When they are a pro at striding, they are ready to move to our 14x. The Strider 14x is a balance bike for children 3 to 7 years old and our Easy Ride Pedal Kit can be attached once the child is comfortable striding on a larger bike and is ready to pedal!

MCA: What kind of feedback have you received about these products?

Our customer service team receives messages every day from parents who are ecstatic that their child is finally riding a bike and can’t get them off their Strider. This review from a satisfied customer sums it up perfectly,  “Finally! My timid 3-year-old has found a bike that makes him feel brave! He was so grateful to receive his bike with no pedals and is picking it up so fast!”

MCA: What is next for you and your product line? Do you have other products in the works?

We are the experts in the learn-to-ride process. We have a solid product offering for kids 0-6 years old that perfectly support that process. Now, we simply need to educate more parents and reach more kids globally, shift the paradigm away from the antiquated methods of tricycles and training wheels, and onto the intuitive and progressive method of balance bikes.

MCA: Ryan, thanks so much for speaking with us today. It’s been  enjoyable, learning how you’ve transformed biking for young children. We wish you the best!

You can learn more about Ryan McFarland and his award-winning product, Strider 12 Sport Balance Bike, by visiting his MCA Shop page.

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