Originally published Nov. 14, 2018 in the Black Hills Pioneer.
By Deb Holland
On any other Monday, the Black Hills Harley-Davidson service bay would be dark and quiet, but this week it looked more like Santa’s workshop.
Parts and pieces were lined up on work benches as elves of all shapes and sizes worked together to assemble bikes — not of the horse-power variety — but pint-sized Strider bikes.
The Strider Bikes — 375 in all — will be delivered to every kindergarten physical education class in the Rapid City Area Schools district and will be incorporated into their curriculum between December 2018 and spring 2019.
The schools will receive everything they need to get their students pedaling — an integrative curriculum, staff training and certification, and Strider 14x Sport bikes.
Those elves were actually Black Hills Harley-Davidson employees who came in on their day off to assemble the bikes along with Rapid City Area Schools staff. Among them was Danny Janklow, principal at Meadowbrook Elementary School, who’s excited about getting the new Strider bikes. Meadowbrook already stages a bike rodeo at the end of each school year, so having the new bikes will fit right in to that tradition.
“We have hundreds of kids using bikes during the rodeo. This will help us involve just that many more children by getting them acclimated to a bike,” Janklow said.
In addition to using the bikes for physical education classes, Janklow envisions that students will be able to use the Striders in the school’s new courtyard on clear days.
As for the PE curriculum, Janklow said instructor Shelly Vidas is an expert at getting students up and moving during class, so the new bikes will play into that philosophy.
“She’ll immediately incorporate them,” Janklow said of the bikes. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for our kids.”
Janklow believes the bikes will be used by a variety of students with varying ages and abilities.
“We have a very large special needs population, so I can see everyone using them,” he said. “We just want the students to get out and enjoy themselves and get physically active.”
Meadowbrook Elementary School is among 15 elementary schools in the district that will get the Strider donations. Another of the schools, South Canyon, already has a new 10-foot by 8-foot storage shed for its new Striders thanks to the efforts of Noah Rendon of Boy Scout Troop 320 of Rapid City. Rendon built the shed as his Eagle Scout project.
“It was really a community effort for me and my troop,” he said.
RCAS Superintendent Lori Simon said numerous studies show that riding a bike not only improves physical fitness, it also benefits student learning, development and mental health.
“Black Hills Harley-Davidson’s generous donation of 375 Strider Bikes will give every kindergartner in our district an opportunity to experience the lifelong benefits of knowing how to ride a bike,” she said.
Al Rieman, co-owner of Black Hills Harley, couldn’t agree more. He first learned of Strider’s Adopt-A-School Program when Ryan McFarland, Founder, President and CEO of Strider Sports Int’l, spoke at the Hall of Fame Banquet during last year’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
“He said that a significant number of young people do not know how to ride a bike anymore. Not to have ever experienced that seemed not quite right to me,” Rieman said. “I don’t remember a single child in my neighborhood who did not know how to ride a bike.”
The Adopt-A-School Program dovetails with Harley-Davidson’s initiative to see 2 million new riders in the next decade.
“This is a real tangible way that we can move towards that effort of building new riders. With this program, we’re starting at the very beginning,” he said. “Riding a bike is a life-long endeavor. This is something they can pick up again at any time in their life for bicycling or motorcycling, anything that uses two wheels.”
The iconic dealership is donating the bikes through the nonprofit Strider Education Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization.
Rieman says he hopes the Harley-Davidson donation can serve as a model for other parties interested in getting Striders into their schools.
“Whether it’s motorcycle dealerships or people interested in their schools, we can work together to make this happen all around the country,” he said.
It is already happening in the Meade School District. At the start of the school year, the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum, anonymous donors, Sturgis Police and Sturgis Ambulance Service teamed up to provide 78 Strider bikes and helmets for students in Sturgis, Piedmont and Whitewood.
Chris West, physical education teacher at Sturgis Elementary, said he has combined some of the lessons and adapted the curriculum to work for his students.
“This fall we are learning bike safety, balance, steering and control. I try to give them a lot of time to just experiment and practice. I set up courses to maneuver through. We even play tag games and Green Light/Red Light,” he said.
McFarland said that in the last 10 years, research shows that there has been a 35 percent drop in the number of kids riding bikes recreationally.
“Electronics is a big part of it,” McFarland said. “A lot of kids just aren’t venturing out the way they used to. They are making connections to friends through phones, but the bad part is that instead of getting out and actively going and seeking to be in the presence of your friends, you’re just connecting with them through a device.”
He said a bicycle is a great way to inspire a youngster to get outside and get active.
McFarland, who wore a wide grin most of the morning Monday, said he was thrilled to see Harley-Davidson get behind the initiative.
“It feels like we just put a match to the rocket,” he said.