Photos Courtesy of Ryan Hussey
Some people may think athletic clubs only cater to dads and moms who want to pump iron and do Zumba, while kids play in daycare. That’s not the case at the Almaden Valley Athletic Club (AVAC) in San Jose, CA, whose website home page boasts, “Something for everyone.” They mean it!
AVAC hosted their first Strider Camp in December and had ten kids, most of them 2-year-old toddlers. Now, they’re busy running two camps; one for the 2- to 3-year olds, and one for 4- to 6-year-olds.
“We learned a lot with the first one in December,” said Jeff Griffith-Jones, General Manager at AVAC. “There can be a big difference with the younger ones. Parents are worried they aren’t ‘getting it’ right away. Since they’re smaller, just having them walk with the bike is big deal. As they get more competent, they gain confidence.”
Jeff, who’s a mountain biker and road cyclist, has known about Strider Bikes for a few years, as both his sons started on balance bikes at 18 months old. His oldest is now 4 years old, and transitioned to pedal shortly after his fourth birthday.
“It’s so obvious when they’re ready for pedals,” he said. “We went on a long camping trip to Utah. When my oldest son saw other kids at the campground riding pedal bikes, he said he wanted pedals. After we got back home, we put him on a pedal bike and he started riding instantly – no training wheels and no falls.”
The group at AVAC made a “gravel road” from lattice for their Strider Camp. Jeff said riding across it makes a cool noise and the uneven terrain builds their bike handling skills. They built small ramps for the course and have a big cowbell that the coaches ring to keep it fun.
“The downslopes and upslopes help them gain confidence,” Jeff added. “Their eyes light up when they pick up their feet and feel the thrill of speed. That’s when they realize how much fun it is.”
Some of the kids in the camp already have their own Strider Bike. Their parents were a bit frustrated that the kids didn’t want to ride them at home so they signed them up for the camp.
“The camp setting is more fun, and when they see others riding they want to do it,” said Jeff. “It was similar with my oldest son. He had a scooter and other toys that were a priority before he got excited and really started riding his bike.”
Jeff added that because the younger kids have a shorter attention span, they schedule 45 minutes of class time and then 15 minutes of parent time and free play. Check out the cool video they made:
Mary Tafralis enrolled her 2-year-old granddaughter in the first camp and said, “She loved it all – from the warm-ups to the actual Strider Camp instructions to the ‘Happy and You Know It’ song at the end. The instructors were completely involved and interacted with the kids on an individual basis. It's been a few weeks since the camp and my granddaughter takes her little pink bike everywhere. She has not completely mastered the skills, but her balance on the bike is amazing. And she loves it.”