Learning About Life One (Hilly) Ride at a Time

My name is David and those close to me will attest to the fact that I’m crazy about bikes. In the past I’ve been called such names as “Bicycle Boy”, “Car Antagonist”, “That Biker Kid”, and “Dude Who Rides That Obnoxiously Yellow Fixed Gear” to name a few. Those close to me will also attest to the fact that I love building bikes, I love talking about bikes, I love daydreaming about bikes, you get my point. Everything was fine and dandy until very recently when I came to an abrupt realization about my interest in bikes. I have ridden bikes in some capacity for my entire life but never once saw them as anything more than material possessions that brought me personal enjoyment. In retrospect, I’ve got to admit that my love of bikes had been relatively selfish and narrow-minded. That abrupt (and much needed) realization came this fall when I began working with an amazing group of kids that makes up the Bike Club at Chief Sealth High School.

Bike Club at Chief Sealth High School started as a program through the Cascade Bicycle Club called the Major Taylor Project. This program was the brainchild of Seattle cycling-god Ed Ewing and was designed to bring cycling to low-income communities in Seattle. There are now six Major Taylor Clubs at high schools in Seattle, with Chief Sealth being one of the newest. Marshall “Major” Taylor was a groundbreaking African American cyclist at the turn of the 20th century. Before Jesse Owens or Jackie Robinson were even born, Major Taylor was shifting the athletic landscape and overcoming enormous racial barriers. In 1899, Major Taylor became the first African American to reach the level of World Champion when he won the world 1-mile track cycling championship.

The club itself is consists of 14 high schoolers and one 8th grader. We meet every Wednesday after school and follow a pretty consistent agenda each week. We do a check-in, play some warm up games, work on bikes, etc. Then, the fun part: we ride. Cascade Bicycle Club was amazing enough to provide 15 brand new road bikes that the kids ride each week. So far, Bike Club has ridden to Lincoln Park to watch the sun set over the Olympic Mountains, over the West Seattle Bridge to the International District to eat Dim Sum, over the Duwamish River to Georgetown to eat Sushi, and all up and down the Delridge Neighborhood hills. We’ve only been meeting since September so I can only imagine how epic our rides are going to get when springtime rolls around and there is more sunlight. These kids are freaks of nature. If it’s cold, they want to ride. If it’s dark, they really want to ride. And if its raining, they reallyyyyyy want to ride. And the most amazing part about this whole experience is the fact that none of these kids knew one another before Bike Club. Now they’ve got 14 other best friends. We ride together, we train together, we have fun together, and in the summer we’ll all ride STP (Seattle to Portland) together.

Bike Club has been nothing but love from the start. Since the first week we met as a club, each of these kids has shown so much love to one another. Karma must be on our side because the community has been showing love back to them. Most recently, Bike Club was able to partner with an organization in Columbia City called Bikeworks. Bikeworks does a ton of youth work centered on bicycle mechanics, hard work, and earning your way. Bikeworks heard about our club and was awesome enough to provide members of our Bike Club with their own bicycles so that they could ride every single day. In return for the bikes, the members had to take an oath swearing to be safe, to be committed to Bike Club, and to be outstanding members of the community.

So back to that part about me feeling really selfish about my love of bikes. Until meeting this group of kids and seeing how amazing it could be to facilitate Bike Club, I never knew that bikes could be used as tools. Rather than being material possessions for my own personal enjoyment, bikes can be used to teach. They can be used to teach personal safety, respect, commitment, and empathy. This Bike Club has taught me that bikes are a good metaphor for life. Be safe, be responsible, work hard, enjoy the sites and sounds, and have fun!

-David

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