Last week, I watched my daughter ride home from her music and art show, and was amazed at her progress as a cyclist. She rode with confidence, shoulders back, head high, with an air of fearlessness about her I have not seen before when on a bike. My heart warmed.
There are a lot of reasons for this. Of course, my pride in her for gaining new skills, for taking the time to hone them, for sticking with something and becoming better. And of course, I am excited that she can start to join me on more rides. But there is more to it than that.
I strongly believe in getting kids on bikes. Cycling is a sport that can be in your life for all your years. It is one you can share with others, that can help you build friendships, that will keep you fit and healthy as you age. It fosters confidence and independence. It can be an outlet during hard times in your life, a place for contemplation, a space all your own when needed. I know I have said this before in “The Next Generation“, but it is a topic I can’t say enough about.
Whether my daughter chooses to live in a city or a small town like the one she is lucky enough to grow up in, whether she chooses the mountains or the ocean or anywhere in between, whether she is waiting tables or a CEO, cycling will always be there for her in her life. It can be her mode of transport, her escape, her fitness, her social life. It can be whatever she makes of it. There is nothing more versatile she can have in her life.
As a parent, I feel it is my job to introduce cycling in her life, to give her the base skills. What she chooses to do with it from there is up to her, but that ability will always be there, lying in wait in the back of her mind, and will always be available to her if she decides to she wants to ride. I consider this to be on par with teaching her to read, to write, to play musical instruments, to create art, to speak foreign languages.
What is scary is how we as a country are lacking in providing many of these things, including cycling, to our children as they grow. This week marks at least week 5 of standardized testing this year, while this week marked her first school organized athletic event and the second musical and art based show. We are failing to give our children the resources to live a full life.
A I have said before, we live in a special place. One where our after school program includes a mountain biking school. But most places around don’t have these amenities and options. Luckily, there are organizations that are working to change this, to provide kids the ability to learn to ride, and giving opportunities for those who love it to stay with the sport. I am lucky enough to work with two great organizations within the state of Colorado who are both do this.
The first is Axel Project, who I talked about in “Why We Ride“. This foundation was created to honor a local couple’s son, and help carry on his love of cycling,even at an early age, by providing bikes to schools, youth groups,community organizations and more, as well as helping set up “Ride Time“, a program created to help teach other skills through biking. They hold a fundraising ride called the Axel Project Bicycle Classic in Ridgway Colorado on Labor Day weekend, and it was the first official cycling event I participated in, as well as worked to help coordinate. I will be riding it again this year on September 5 and I invite anyone available to join. It’s a breathtaking ride over Dallas Divide, part of the San Juan Skyway.
I also recently have started working with the Just Go Harder Foundation. They take the next step in the process of keeping kids cycling, as well as skiing, providing scholarships and other funds for school students who bike and ski competitively in the Nederland area. One of the biggest issues I hear from parents is the cost of cycling racing, between the equipment and travel and entry fees, and the fact that there is no school or other government participation. The burden falls solely on the family,and often kids are forced to give up the sport for lack of economic ability. Unlike other countries, the US has little to no school programming for cyclists. It is not generally a part of physical education and many kids have no place they can even train. Just Go Harder is making the first steps to helping kids realize their dreams, and have also founded a ride, Indian Peaks Classic, out of Nederland to support their cause. It will be August 30, and requires a minimum fund raising commitment of $50 per rider, directly benefiting the foundation. The routes were designed by Timmy Duggan, retired pro cyclist and 2012 Olympic cyclist, and I think this ride will be Colorado’s answer to the Belgian Waffle Ride.
I am really excited to be a part of both these rides and love seeing that there are others out there with a true love for the sport who want to work to keep it present in kids lives for generations to come.