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Guest Editorial by Mike Sinyard: This is how we’re going to change the world … and we’d like you to join us

Published September 12, 2018

By Mike Sinyard

Editor's note: Mike Sinyard is the founder of Specialized Bicycle Components.

I founded Specialized on the belief that cycling changes lives. I’m living proof of that fact. Throughout my life, I’ve been able to use cycling as a way to channel the symptoms of my own ADHD into something positive. If it weren’t for the bike, however, I may have suffered the same future as do many of the 1 in 9 children in America today who are diagnosed with this condition. Those children struggle in school. Too often, they get left behind.

Today, the standard approach to treating ADHD is to dispense stimulants such as Ritalin, the psychoactive drug most commonly prescribed to children in America. While Ritalin and similar drugs may help kids manage their symptoms, the side effects and potential for abuse are unacceptable. When I realized how transformative cycling has been for me, I knew there was a healthier alternative to these powerful drugs.

Out-riding ADHD is our top priority

Through our nonprofit, The Specialized Foundation and its Riding for Focus school program, we are combating ADHD by getting more kids on bikes. For the past six years, Specialized has invested heavily in highlighting the positive benefits that cycling can have for all kids, but especially those struggling with ADHD. First through our research with the Harvard-affiliated RTSG Neuroscientists, and now with our partners at Stanford University, we are gaining a better understanding about how riding can help kids live better lives.   

What’s more, we are actively bringing bikes to some of the kids who need them most. This year alone the Riding for Focus program will get 20,000 more kids on bicycles. Beyond the benefits for kids with ADHD, there are enormous health benefits to our youth and society as a whole. According to the Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) at Johns Hopkins University, these 20,000 students will see benefits including:

  • 7,198 fewer overweight and obese kids
  • 9,313 years of life saved
  • $127.5 million in productivity loss averted
  • $119.8 million in direct medical costs averted

As we get more and more kids on bikes each year, those same benefits multiply into something far greater. This is how we create the kind of change that truly makes the world a better place.

The data we collect from the Riding for Focus program and our medical research with Stanford University has the potential to positively change education policies (bringing biking programs to all schools), medical practices (doctors prescribing bicycling as a treatment for ADHD, dementia, obesity, depression, etc.) and public policy (creating safer places to ride for kids). 

We know we can make a real impact with our investments in the Specialized Foundation and the Riding for Focus programs. We are witnessing a growth in cycling within the communities that have integrated Riding for Focus programs in their schools. When kids ride, their parents and families also begin to ride, which is a win for us all. This is how we Pedal the Planet Forward. I applaud the efforts of the retailers who have joined us on this journey and I invite the entire cycling industry to take a stand for our kids and our future. We are creating what we hope will become another mainstay pillar of advocacy for the cycling industry.

Advocacy — getting more people on bikes and giving back to our communities — is vital. It’s why Specialized has been a founding member of organizations such as Bikes Belong (now PeopleForBikes), IMBA and NICA. While I still believe in the great work that these organizations are doing on behalf of our riders and industry, Specialized has turned much of its focus to one of the biggest challenges facing us today: confronting the ADHD epidemic and turning around the decline in youth ridership.

Our commitment to advocacy has never been stronger and our focus never sharper. We will continue to invest where we believe that cycling can bring the greatest good for riders, the industry and the world.

Imagine a day in the near future when doctors prescribe a bike ride as treatment for ADHD. This is the future that Specialized has been investing in since 2012. But this is bigger than Specialized. This is bigger, even, than the cycling industry. This is how we are going to change the world for the better — and we’re inviting everyone to join us in making that happen.


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