Sixty-five first-graders received free bicycles at North Bend Elementary/Middle School earlier this month, where professional mountain biker Jeff Lenosky shared safety tips and encouraged the kids to get outside and stay active.
Early on Friday, Oct. 14, volunteers showed up again, after having helped build the bikes the previous evening, to unload and hide them behind a U-Haul near the playground at the Baltimore school.
Once the kids were standing in a neat line, they were ready for Lenosky’s demonstration—which included performing tricks like popping a wheelie and jumping with his bike. Lenosky has been riding professionally for 25 years, and he made sure to remind his young audience that not all tricks were for trying at home, and to always wear a helmet.
Then came the big reveal.
When Lenosky gave the signal, the truck drove off, leaving behind several rows of shiny, new bicycles, each with a matching helmet.
The first-grade class broke out into cheers, jumping with excitement and struggling to stay in place until each name was called and every student had a bike to call their own.
“I’m nervous and scared, but also excited,” says Travon M., 6. “I’ma ride it and learn how to do some cool tricks!”
North Bend serves a student body that is 98% minority and 72% economically disadvantaged, according to U.S. News and World Report. For many of the students who received a bike, this will be their first one.
“[It was] incredible,” says Carl Beck Jr., a volunteer and operations manager for Legends Limited. “[This was] my first time doing it—being a part of it and seeing everyone come together.”
Can’d Aid is a nationally recognized nonprofit dedicated to building thriving communities by distributing water, providing access and opportunities to underserved youth and protecting and restoring the environment. Since 2013, Can’d Aid has built over 6,000 bikes and skateboards—donating more than 2,000 to students across the country in the past year.
Legends Limited—the company behind the Baltimore-based beer distributor, with roots in the old National Brewery building in Brewer’s Hill—has served Maryland since 1994 and the Washington, D.C. area since 2006.
“We love working with Can’d Aid as partners. Being a Baltimore City resident, it’s great to give back and it’s always a lot of fun,” says Erin Tyler, volunteer and general manager at Legends.
Lenosky took the opportunity to encourage the new young riders to follow their dreams, recalling his own journey with his sport and how some of the adults in his life hadn’t supported his goal of competing when he was growing up.
He also advocated for biking as a way families can support an active lifestyle for their kids.
“[We’re] trying to get kids active. Kids spend way too much time on screens,” Lenosky says.
That being said, Lenosky does use some tech to his advantage. His YouTube channel, “Trail Boss,” has Lenosky demonstrating tricks, giving trail previews and showing off new bike tech, along with other mountain-bike-related content. At least one of the first-graders in attendance was already an avid watcher of his channel.
Sometimes, too, biking as a kid is just about accessibility.
“It gives a sense of freedom, to do things, meet friends or get places,” Lenosky says.
Whether it’s for cool tricks, staying active and off screens or connecting with others, Lenosky knows bikes can be an important part of growing up.