Lets Ride Interview 1130x600

Learn about the Let's Ride initiative

By: Cody Dedow  September 02, 2021

Hear from USA Cycling Community Director and former Olympian, Mari Holden about the Let's Ride initiative and where it is heading.

USA Cycling wants to get more kids on bikes, and believes one of the best ways is to get children on bikes early and often. In an attempt to get children introduced, comfortable, and excited about bikes as early as possible, the Let’s Ride program has been stood up by Mari Holden, Community Director and Former Olympian. We sat down with her to ask her more about the program, where she sees it growing, and how riders across the country can help it get there.

First things first, what is the Let's Ride initiative?

Let's Ride is a nationwide bike safety and basic bike skills education curriculum shared with elementary aged children in a fun camp-like environment. The intent is that Let's Ride camps create positive first-interactions with bicycles and share the joy of cycling with more kids. This year alone, we've forged some awesome partnerships, distributed over 500 bikes and helmets to kids in need at targeted events, and laid the groundwork for this program to scale year-over-year.

What is the most exciting aspect of the Let's Ride program?

Easily the most exciting aspect of the Let's Ride program is watching how much joy a bike gives these young riders. It's a very pure experience and very infectious. The kids are so excited and everyone involved in making that happen is so energized to share that experience with more kids.

How do you see USA Cycling growing this program in coming years?

We think the sky is the limit for Let's Ride and that growth can come in many forms. We are always interested in partnering with organizations that have similar goals and we've seen a lot of interest in having these camps ran in concert with marquee cycling events. Having this be a staple of community outreach for events looking to have an even deeper impact in their community has a lot of benefits for all of the parties involved and lets us impact more kids. We also have seen a lot of interest from our corporate sponsors who share our passion for getting kids on bikes, so having the financial support from like-minded organizations just helps feed the fire.

What makes a Let's Ride Camp successful?

Without a doubt, the biggest component of a successful Let's Ride Camp is having it be integrated into the community it is taking place in. Connecting local organizations that are already doing the good work with events, passionate cyclists, and youth organizations in their backyard makes for an event with deeper roots, has a greater opportunity to work on scale, and have a lasting impact on the kids involved.

What should I do if I want to help with the program?

Reach out! Let us know how best we can support efforts like this in your community and let us know where there is a need. We know that these efforts are made most successful by USAC contributing our reach, influence, and resources to the places that they are most needed and where they can be amplified by systems already in place. If we focus our efforts there first and foremost, we can ensure that these efforts are successful long-term.

What else is USA Cycling doing for young riders?

Let's Ride is an awesome first impression that USA Cycling can have with young riders, but it definitely not the only thing happening in the world of junior initiatives here. Firstly, as of 2020, any cyclist under 18 gets their license for free. That means that we subsidize their participation in the sport to remove as many barriers to the sport as possible. We've also been forging stronger bonds with NICA to make young riders transitions in cycling as smooth as possible and to encourage life-long riders. Plus, our focus on SafeSport training and certification for junior clubs, coaches, organizers and our community at large, make the sport safer for the young riders involved.

What's an example of an event partnership that was successful?

One of the best Let's Ride activations we've done recently was in partnership with the organizers of Tour of America's Dairyland and Intelligentsia Cup. Tom Schuler and Marco Colbert both saw the potential in Let's Ride and were

amazing to work with in getting this integrated into not only their race schedule, but also with the communities that they took place in.

With the help of Free Bikes 4 Kidz, we were fortunate enough to give away over 200 bikes to Milwaukee Public Schools in conjunction with ToAD and another almost 200 bikes in Elgin, IL as part of Intelligentsia Cup.

In fact, this partnership had so much traction that Marco and Tom helped organize another Let's Ride Camp in Union Park in Chicago in conjunction with Working Bikes and Chicago Neighbors United that helped give away another 75 bikes to kids at an event meant to get kids ready to return to school. Just another example of how this can gain momentum once you start connecting like-minded organizations.

How are you giving away bikes and helmets at some of these camps?

We've been extremely fortunate to partner with experts in distributing bikes and equipment to kids in need. At it's core, the Let's Ride initiative is all about giving kids the skills to enjoy themselves safely on their bikes in their community, but there is no doubt that when we can organize a bike and helmet drive, there is additional excitement. For example, we've partnered with Free Bikes 4 Kidz to help marry the two missions. Working with Terry Esau, Executive Director and Founder of Free Bikes 4 Kidz, has been awesome and on top of their chapter's donations of bikes to local Let's Ride events, we have plans to throw Let's Ride events at some of their holiday bike drives this year. This same approach is applied across the country. We've worked with Wish for Wheels in Denver to help build bikes, and recently joined up with Working Bikes to throw an event. I also have to give a big shoutout to our partners, Giro and POC, for their donations of children's helmets for the past year.

What Let's Ride Camps are coming up?

We have a ton in the works but one of the most exciting events planned is going to be taking place in LA with a partnership with Herbalife, the LA Galaxy, the Bahati Foundation and Eastside Riders Bike Club. This is poised to be the largest Let's Ride Camp yet, and we couldn't be more excited about how it is coming together. Stay tuned for more announcements as we get closer to the day!

If you'd like to learn more about the Let's Ride initiative, please visit here: https://usacycling.org/lets-ri...

If you'd like to learn about how you can support the Let's Ride initiative at an organizational level, please reach out to Mari Holden at mholden@usacycling.org