This customized kids bike from an East Peoria motorcycle builder to be auctioned at fundraiser

Mike Kramer
Pekin Daily Times

“Kids need to be outside and not on their phones or computers,” said Carl Pusser, owner of Walkin Tall Cycles in East Peoria.

Pusser has gained a considerable reputation as a custom motorcycle builder that perhaps rivals that of his uncle — Sheriff Buford Pusser in the 1973 movie "Walking Tall." He and his custom bikes have been featured on the cover of such magazines as Easyriders, Hot Bike and the British publication Bike.

That fame may have prompted writer, photographer, publisher and motorcyclist Marilyn Stemp to approach Pusser on behalf of the Flying Piston Benefit and the All Kids Bike kindergarten physical education program about customizing a Tiny Strider balance bicycle. It was certainly his belief in outdoor activity from an early age that prompted Pusser to accept the challenge.

Master bike builder Carl Pusser and his granddaughter Jocelyn Dunn, 9, work at attaching the seat to a customized Tiny Strider balance bike at his workshop in East Peoria. Pusser is a world-renowned custom motorcyle builder. He and Jocelyn customized the bike and will sell it at an auction next year to support the All Kids Bike program, an organization aimed at teaching every child in the United States to ride a bicycle in kindergarten.

“I’m about kids learning physical skills and learning to work with their hands,” Pusser said. “My granddaughter (Jocelyn Dunn) is actually working on this project with me. She helped me design the (paint job) and with the metal work and sanding.”

“When we heard he was willing to participate, we jumped at the chance,” said Stemp. “His work is always of the highest quality, and he works under the radar, saving surprises for the unveiling. His idea to involve his granddaughter in the build was stellar and fits with the concept perfectly.”

One of eight builders throughout the United States to customize a Tiny Strider for Flying Piston, Pusser has been working on the project for four months and completed it this week. In keeping with his background as a custom motorcycle builder, he has altered the balance bicycle to resemble a motorcycle – complete with a tooled leather seat, fenders and a (strictly vestigial) gas tank.

The custom-designed Tiny Strider features a hand-tooled leather seat cover with Jocelyn Dunn's first name etched on one side.

“The Flying Piston Benefit is delighted to have Carl — and his granddaughter Jocelyn — in our 2021 class of Tiny Strider custom builders,” Stemp said. “Carl is quite well-respected in the custom motorcycle industry, not only for his engine building expertise but also for his custom work.”

Pusser will display the bike Friday at the Buffalo Chip entertainment complex and the Flying Piston Benefit in Sturgis, S.D. Next year, all eight customized Tiny Striders will be sold at Mecum Motorcycle Auction in Las Vegas. Proceeds from the sale will be donated to All Kids Bike, whose mission is to teach every child in the United States to ride a bicycle in kindergarten. Pusser hopes that each customized bike will bring in between $2,000 and $3,000.

“At the (2021) Mecum Motorcycle Auction, the (least expensive Strider) went for $1,800, and the most expensive one went for $4,000,” he added.

The box for the Tiny Strider 12-inch balance bicycle shows what the bike looked like before Carl Pusser and his granddaughter Jocelyn Dunn customized it to look like a motorcycle.

As an outspoken advocate of outdoor activity in general and of cycling in particular, Pusser took on the customization project largely to raise awareness for All Kids Bike in central Illinois. Currently, only one of Illinois’ 2,174 elementary schools is participating in the All Kids Bike program.

“All Kids Bike has a program where (a school) can submit an application and (All Kids Bike and Strider) will provide Tiny Striders for them," said Pusser. “Hopefully, schools in this area will pick up on it, and we’ll be able to get the program started here.”

More information on All Kids Bike is available at allkidsbike.org.