Escalante Middle Schoolers Outfitted with New Mountain Bikes

11/10/2022

It’s a simple idea: Get more kids on bikes. But first, you need the bikes. Through a national grant and a local-business partnership with Mountain Bike Specialists, Escalante Middle School made it happen. Thirty-five shiny new bikes have arrived at the school, and students are eagerly waiting for the first ride. By Connor Shreve. This story is sponsored by Pops Truck & RV Center and Serious Texas BBQ

Dozens of students at Escalante Middle School are getting a crash course in mountain biking. You're watching the Local News Network, brought to you by Pop's Truck and RV Center and Serious Texas Bar-B-Q. I'm Connor Shreve. Escalante Middle School is adding a mountain biking program to its physical education curriculum and outfitting 35 students with their own brand-new specialized mountain bike.

We live in a biking community, and a lot of our kids don't ride bikes. There's various reasons for that. Our school is not really a neighborhood school. Most of our kids are bused in, so geographically, it's a little more challenging for them. And we have some socioeconomic barriers. Our kids aren't as involved in our local biking programs as kids from other schools. So, just access and then coupled with doing it in PE and the kind of the correlation between mental health and physical activity. We're always just trying to find things that kids want to do and like get them into that they'll do when they're not here too.

The program is a result of winning a grant from national non-profit Outride. It's an organization dedicated to improving kids' lives through cycling. Mountain bike specialists built and delivered the bikes for free. Eva Duce wrote the application and believes biking can serve her students throughout their lives.

One of our main jobs as PE teachers is to get kids' heart rates up. So we know that exercise improves brain function. We want them leaving our class having participated in moderate to vigorous physical activity. So when they go to math next, or whatever it may be, they're more ready to learn. So that's kind of one of our primary jobs at the school is like get our kids exercise, so they're ready to learn. And then just expanding PE options. Like we want every single kid to have something they like that they might do out of school, just for health and wellness reasons.

Her own experience, being involved in Durango cycling community, helped Duce realize that making an Escalante bike group will maximize the program's potential.

A lot of it has to do with where our school's located. But just talking to our kids and being in those groups and being like, dang, we don't have that many kids involved. And when we've had a bike club here, and we had bikes that kids could use, kids showed up for it. We had loaners. Kids would be hustling in the day of to sign up to use a bike. So it was cool, and we wanted to bring that back

Even before students get on their bikes, the program starts with the basics. The most challenging part of teaching the course might be keeping kids calm before they pair up and perform a collaborative bike fit, deciding which bike to pull out of the lineup to ride.

They were pretty excited. It's funny because they're like, "We have enough bikes for all of us?" And we're like, "Yeah," which we have to do like a day one day two situation cause it's unmanageable with all of them at once. But we do have 35 bicycles, which is pretty crazy.

From here, students will learn to ride with a focus on fundamentals and safety.

This program is meant to work at a school like ours or like in an inner city, where they might only have a basketball court to do their lessons. They need to know how like traffic works in terms of like right-of-ways, things like that. How to ride safely around obstacles. And so that's like the big premise of the program. So we build those skills, and when they're proficient, they actually have a test they take, where maybe we set up a course, and like here's a driveway, this is a stop sign, and we have to like watch them navigate through it. Once we kind of have those fundamentals down, then we want to do some more like trail riding stuff.

And after that ride, dozens of middle schoolers become a part of Durango's storied cycling community. Thanks for watching Durango's Local News Network. I'm Connor Shreve.

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