Do you remember when you first learned to ride a bicycle? It's one of the most exciting achievements of childhood. Despite all of the benefits that cycling can have on one's health, the environment, etc. it is unfortunately a skill that is often placed on the back-burner as we grow up. That is, until recently. We are in the midst of the largest youth cycling explosion to ever hit the US. In fact, places like Northern California where cycling is now a high school sport are seeing higher participation on the bike team than in any other scholastic sport. How can you facilitate the growth of youth cycling in your community? Here are some tips:
Weekly rides are the foundation of any good youth cycling community. While there may be plenty of group rides in your town already, creating one specifically for junior riders is key. Kids want to ride with other kids, plain and simple. By creating a ride where they can do that, young riders will begin to make new friends and form a sense of camaraderie among one another that will spread to their peers. This is where growth begins and you start getting more kids on bikes.
The Right People
You may have a ton of great riders in your area, but speed doesn't always equal good leadership. When it comes to your network of coaches and ride leaders to help grow youth cycling, you want people who are responsible, fun, and relatable to kids. Young riders don't care whether or not you can win the local race series. They just want someone who can make them smile while they are grinding away up a big hill, and then give them some good pointers to keep them safe on the way back down.
Keep it Fun
This is the single most important thing when it comes to getting more kids on bikes. Remember, 99% of the kids in your community have no ambition to ever race the Tour de France. You are teaching them a fun, life-long form of recreation that will forever improve their health and our environment. This is so important to remember when planning a ride or event with kids who are new to the sport. Stay away from intervals and miles and miles of uphill. Rather, focus on keeping everyone safe, facilitating new friendships, and making sure everyone is having a good time.
Here in Reno, our youth cycling scene has really been taking off. You can check out some of the things that we've done to aid in it's growth here: RenoTahoeJuniorCycling.com.