BMX racing goes to young kids | News
Sarasota, Florida - It's a sport redesigned for the tiniest of athletes and some aren't old enough for school... but their passion to compete and win is bigger than them.
The sport of BMX racing has been resized to fit ages 2 to 5 year olds. This weekend about 100 racers are competing in Sarasota for the first Strider World Cup in their age group.
BMX racers from Europe, Asia, South America and across the United States arrive at the Sarasota County BMX Track for clinics Friday morning, before the qualifying round begins that evening.
Don't let their size or age fool you. These BMX racers are ready to compete. They use a pedaless bike called a Strider.
"I want to beat everyone," says 4-year-old Devin Miller.
Organizers say there are about 100 boys and girls registered to race. The track is a serpentine, hilly clay track.
"I use my legs and feet," explains Devin. Using their own leg power, the racers propel themselves across the course, gliding up and down hills.
Three-year-old Brady Colbert from Uticca, New York and his parents flew down for the event. Bill Colbert says his son Brady got his pedaless bike for his first birthday.
"I put him on it and would ride him around the house. Before he was 2, he'd ride in the driveway. Then he picked up his feet and it was all over. I built tracks in the backyard and he rides every day," says Bill. He adds, "He loves to ride. It's all he wants to do. He's passionate about it."
"Mountain biking, BMX racing: this is where it starts," says Ryan McFarland, the inventor of the Strider bike and BMX event for 2 to 5-year-olds. Ryan says the seven pound, pedaless bike made of durable steel frame is light enough for kids to handle. Ryan says, "It's so light, it gives kids good control, gives them the confidence to ride and with feet on the ground there's no fear."
Ryan started working on the bike in 2005 when he realized his older son was having trouble handling his smaller bike with training wheels. Ryan says he tried to come up with a blend of a toddler's scooter -- which kids often use their feet to ride -- and the performance of a bike.
And out came the Strider. The bike costs just under $100 and can be found at www.striderbikes.com.
At this age, parents and organizers say the sport is about kids having fun and learning the fundamentals of riding a bike and competing. "He enjoys it, there's always a smile on his face," says Bill about his son Brady.
Retired BMX racer and four time Half of Fame member Greg Hill, 47, is taking part in Friday's clinics, giving the kids some pointers.
"Remember this is a race, go fast," Greg tells the kids. "Don't look around, don't look at your parents. Look at the track," he adds.
Greg won five professional titles and 10 national titles during his 15 years competing. He says he started riding when he was 10 years old. "You learn to express yourself. You try new stuff, push yourself as much as you can," says Greg.
Besides offering kids a good form of exercise, Greg says it teaches them valuable skills. "Teaches hand and eye coordination, balance, basic skills that whether they race or not they are developing early," says Greg.
The sport was launched into the spotlight in 2008 in Beijing when the Olympic Committee made BMX racing a medal sport. Greg says just like with gymnastics, parents of BMX racers can now see a future in the sport.
"There's the Olympics, they can represent their country. Now the sport's gone big on both ends with Strider and younger kids competing."
Greg says the Strider division of BMX will give kids a jump start on a sport. Many had to wait until they were 6 years old and up just to enter. Greg says, "Probably the best thing that's happened to BMX in my opinion."
The Strider World Cup is taking place at the Sarasota County BMX Track at 1590 North Tuttle Avenue. The qualifying round takes place Friday, October 14th from 5pm - 8pm. The World Cup races are all day Saturday, October 15th starting at 10am. The event is free to the public.
There's also a demo track with bikes for kids to give the sport a try.