Momentum Bike Clubs: Empowering Underserved Youth

Momentum Bike Club is a youth bike club whose aim is to empower underserved youth through cycling.

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Youth bike club. Momentum Bike Clubs.

Momentum Challenge Team. Photo by David Taylor.

In Greenville County, SC, Momentum Bike Club (MBC) aims to empower underserved youth ages 11 through 17. The program provides group mentoring support to kids struggling with a variety of risk factors including poverty, instability at home, obesity, and parental incarceration.

Created by David Taylor, the program has seen significant growth – starting with the Sterling Bike Club – and now includes seven clubs with more starting up this year. Key to its success is how it matches adult mentors to youth who exhibit leadership potential. Participants are pushed to challenge themselves through regular social bike rides, learning the mechanics of bike maintenance, or taking on a steep climb with peers.

Momentum Bike Club is grounded in the principles of Positive Youth Development, an asset-based approach that builds on individual talent and potential, rather than risk and deficits. By providing a group mentorship setting, the approach allows youth to see a challenge as an opportunity to tap into their inner strength and resolve. This can provide confidence – in their riding skills and in their daily lives beyond the club.

Youth bike club, Momentum Bike Clubs

Clockwise from top: David Taylor, Craig Vial, Richard Yeargin, Charles Hill, Isaac Evans, Xander Sforza, Jeremiah Howard, and Ta’Shaun Harris

And youth bike clubs are fun! Groups meet regularly for social rides and the Challenge Team of more adventurous riders tackles road cycling trips from 30 to 60 miles (45-97 km) long – building physical and mental endurance and strength. The individual bike clubs also gather every season to meet members of other communities. In the fall, they spend a weekend at YMCA Camp Greenville kayaking, hiking, ziplining, and enjoying bonfires and other wonders of camping.

Momentum Bike Clubs also tackle childhood obesity – a serious and growing health concern for many North American cities. By providing opportunities for activity regularly, kids can develop their own healthy living habits. In 2014 alone, Momentum Bike Club participants collectively rode more than 7,000 miles (11,265 km).

It is no surprise that MBCs are being recognized for the positive impact they have on communities. The members involved take their newfound leadership skills and confidence and apply them to important causes. Recently, this included presenting proposals through Youth and Government at the State Capital, where members of the Nicholtown Spinners Youth Cycling Club presented a bill on anti-bullying. In 2014, Momentum Bike Clubs was also named one of the 10 outstanding Capstone Projects over its first 10 years, proving it is an invaluable asset to communities and their youth.

Momentum Bike Club Youth Profile: Jeremiah, 14

Youth bike club

Photo by David Taylor

Jeremiah, 14, has been participating in Momentum Bike Club (MBC) for over a year and is a strong and inspirational addition to the group. Recently, he was hospitalized due to his struggle with Crohn’s Disease. However, within weeks of leaving the hospital, he was back riding with the club, pushing himself to ride steep climbs and be a model leader to other members. His mentors say he is a pleasure to have on the Challenge Team.

Why did you join MBC?
I wanted to start riding a bike more often, and the bike club looked like fun. I also wanted to feel like I was a part of something.

How has being a part of MBC helped you?
The club keeps challenging me and pushes me to keep going. When I struggle, it has taught me to get back up and try again.

What would you say to anyone thinking about joining MBC?
Do it! It’s never too late to try riding. I was not sure at first, but once I tried it, I realized how much fun it is!

Melissa Bruntlett is the co-founder of Modacity, a multi-service consultancy focused on inspiring healthier, happier, simpler forms of urban mobility through words, photography, and film. Twitter: @mbruntlett

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