Tomorrow, Saturday October 17, is a big day for 15 hardworking, fast cycling youngsters—collectively the Riviera Youth Bicycle Team (RYBT). Since August, the team, ages 10 to 12, have trained for tomorrow’s Santa Barbara 100, where they will be debuting in the 34-mile ride. Riding with them will be trainers Zack Bertges of Riviera Multisport, Felicia Tan, and Mike Vergeer—all members of the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition (SBBIKE).
RYBT’s mission is “to create a long-term positive impact on the health and fitness of ‘at risk’ children by developing and fostering a connection to cycling.” The team caters to children who are struggling with issues such as obesity, inactivity, low self-esteem, financial hardship, and learning differences. And RYBT partnered with local community organizations to find and reach out to youth who would benefit from being part of the first local team. RYBT focuses on teamwork, instills in participants a strong work ethic, aims to bring out the best in each child, and encourages family participation, an important key to success. RBYT was formed thanks to the generous support of the Bialis Family Foundation. Some of the Bialis family live in Tucson, Arizona, and have hosted a similar program there with much success.
When SBBIKE was asked to help, the coalition was immediately on board. From its membership, Education Director Christine Bourgeois called Bertges, a local triathlete coach who’d expressed interested in getting involved with youth cycling. Bertges was in and soon joined by Tan and Vergeer, along with Barry Remis and Blaine Egan, all youth cycling educators who have participated in SBBIKE’s youth programs, like Pedal Power (an earn-a-bike, safety education workshop hosted by local schools).
Tan, who’s clearly pumped to be riding with the team tomorrow, found it hard to pinpoint her favorite thing about RYBT. “I guess, it’s that it’s really hard,” she says.
“I just love to see the determination on their faces and the happiness when they’ve made it to a certain point. I’m so proud of the kids. And they’re so proud of themselves when they’ve made it, say, up a big hill.”
The team has trained both off and on the bike, doing workouts at parks and local gyms, and steadily building up their mileage by taking longer and longer rides every Saturday.
The SB100, which commits to supporting local youth, has not only waived the race fees for RYBT’s members, but has also embraced the team, making RYBT a large part of the event and making special accommodations for the team’s success. Tomorrow will be the culmination of months of hard work and camaraderie. Together, RYBT’s members will celebrate their accomplishments at the SB100 “after-party” at Leadbetter Beach.
But the team isn’t done there. RYBT will continue to ride together. And up next on their agenda—contributing back to the community. Over the coming months, the team will participate in a number of service events, including patching tubes at SBBIKE’s Bici Centro, a DIY repair shop and community center.
To support RYBT, you can make a tax-deductible donation by visiting and choosing Riviera Youth Bike Team from the SBBIKE Program menu.