Treasure Valley youth who are passionate about pedal power have a unique opportunity in Boise. The Boise Young Rider Development Squad (BYRDS) sponsors, coaches, and supports area youth interested in cycling—that includes road biking, mountain biking, and cyclo-cross (basically a bicycle obstacle course)—either competitively or recreationally. Riders are encouraged to be involved with all three types of cycling.
BYRDS Founder Douglas Tobin started the program 16 years ago when he noticed a lack of age-appropriate opportunities for young people in the world of competitive cycling. Kids looking to get involved in the sport ended up riding with more experienced adults, which often caused discouragement and frustration. “I started working with kids and developing rides specifically for them and basically giving them access to the sport,” Tobin says.
Cyclists ages 6-19 are welcome to join BYRDS at any point, although Tobin notes March-June is the most popular start-up time. “We have a year-round program for kids who identify cycling as their primary sport, to prepare them for competition” says Tobin. The competitive BYRDS program has roughly 30 participants, while the recreational program boasts 150-200 members who go on noncompetitive organized rides together. Additionally, the organization also delivers all the mountain bike camps for the city of Boise, which reaches 300-400 area youth. “We reach about 600 kids a year,” Tobin notes.
BYRDS competitive cyclists attend both local and out of state competitions. “We travel to events about 12 times a year that offer kids more kids their age and ability to ride and race with,” Tobin says. “These events are larger so our older, more experienced kids can compete in adult categories that offer them more experience and challenge so they improve.”
Tobin’s riders also often compete at Junior Nationals (where kids from the BYRDS community have earned 21 national titles over the years) and some have even made it as far as the U.S. National Team, where they travel with USA Cycling and compete in Europe, Canada, and Mexico.
“There’s nothing like our program,” says Tobin of BYRDS, which is run by volunteers and a few paid staff. “There isn’t anything of this format that offers such age range and variety of riding.” Tobin himself began cycling at age 19, and trained and raced both domestically and internationally for over 20 years. “I was a weekend warrior,” he says with a laugh.
To make a donation to the BYRDS organization, visit ByrdsCycling.com and hit the “donate” button, or send donations to 1114 West Jefferson Street, Boise, ID 83702. “We are a 501(c)(3), so you’ll receive tax benefits for donation to our program,” Tobin explains.
Funding goes toward helping in a number of ways, such as purchasing equipment to be shared by the riders, offering scholarships so kids who may not have any or all of the funding can still participate, and helping to alleviate travel costs for competitions.