By Karen Kefauver
January 27, 2012
Link to Sentinel article
When I hear laughter and shouting outside my window, I know it's because my three young neighbors are practicing their bicycle skills. The twins and their older sister have left the training wheels behind and are discovering the joy of grown-up-style cycling, one thrilling step at a time.
Under their parents' watchful eyes, the trio of little girls practices safe cycling. They are learning the basics, like watching out for traffic, braking and turning. As they test and expand on their newfound skills, their happy voices echo through the neighborhood.
Not all kids are lucky enough to have this opportunity.
According to the Outdoor Foundation's 2011 recreation report, bicycling is the second most popular outdoor activity for Americans ages 6 and older, based on frequency of participation [running is No. 1]. More young children know how to play a computer game [58 percent] than swim [20 percent] or ride a bike [52 percent], according to a report from computer technology company AVG.
The folks at Bike Dojo, a bicycling gym in downtown Santa Cruz, want to change that. Earlier this month, Bike Dojo announced the creation of Project BIKE [Believe In Kids' Exercise], a program to give children in need a bicycle of their own.
"We want to launch a grassroots movement," said Kimberly Mylls, Founder and owner of Bike Dojo along with business partner and husband Rob Mylls. "The program is dedicated to providing bikes to children who want to ride but whose families do not have the financial ability to purchase a bike."
In addition to giving kids a bike, Bike Dojo will help get them rolling.
"For children who want a bike but don't know how to ride, Bike Dojo will teach them how, with an emphasis on bicycle safety," explained Rob Mylls.
First, though, the folks at the Bike Dojo have to find enough bikes to meet demand. They are asking people to help Project BIKE by donating a bike, regardless of its condition. Old bikes can be dropped off at Bike Dojo or a pick-up can be arranged. Bike Dojo will then make the necessary repairs to restore the bikes to good condition.
"We know a lot of people who don't know what to do with their kids' bikes once they have outgrown them," Rob Mylls said in a press release. "Instead of having them sit in the garage or outside, now you can recycle them for a good cause. A child will be wearing a big smile as they ride their new bike."
An added bonus for those who donate bikes: one free month of spin classes and cycling at Bike Dojo, which will celebrate its one-year anniversary with a party and silent auction on Feb. 3. Project Bike will officially launch during the party, scheduled for 7-9 p.m.
Project Bike is one way Rob Mylls is fulfilling his to create a community that is inviting to all levels of cyclists.
"Cycling is for anybody," said Mylls, a former BMX junior champion from Virginia who later raced in the velodrome and on the road. "There is a learning curve, but it's easy to get over it. As another part of Project BIKE, for every person who becomes a new Bike Dojo member, the gym will give away one bike. That's called the "One-for-One" campaign.
"Cycling is a life enhancer and can help build self-esteem. Learning to ride a bike is a rite-of-passage," Mylls said in the release, "and something the whole family can do together."
So you don't race cyclocross?
That's OK; just go watch the non-stop action and cheer for the riders from only inches away this Sunday at the 2012 Santa Cruz County Cyclocross Championships. The championships happen in tandem with the final race of the series for Surf City Cylo-X.
Be warned, though, after watching the thrills and spills, you may be tempted to try racing 'cross yourself.
That's what happened to me! After many seasons of watching and reporting on cyclocross, I jumped into racing and had a blast. I started out as a beginner, moved up to intermediate and raced for about seven years before declaring myself mostly "retired." But I still love to watch.
Hosted by the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club, the championships will crown Santa Cruz County residents as both series winners and individual race champions in each of 19 categories. Organizers estimate more than 200 riders will compete.
"Cyclocross is different from a standard bicycle race in that riders will encounter mixed terrain [asphalt, dirt fire road, grass and mud] and be expected to navigate the course's many obstacles, forced dismounts and short hills that are too steep to ride up," said race director David Gill, the race team director for the SCCCC.
"Cyclocross is great for spectators because the entire 1.5-mile race course is easy to walk and find many great spots to watch," Gill added. "Also, each cyclocross race is relatively short [30-60 minutes], so spectators can watch an entire race play out before their eyes, unlike five- to sixhour road races where spectators only see the riders for a moment."
Karen Kefauver, www.karenkefauver.com, is a sports and travel freelance journalist. She blogs weekly about bicycling for the Sentinel at The Out and About blog.