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Project Bike Tech plans tech classes serving Four Corners reservations

Published July 16, 2021

A version of this article ran in the July issue of BRAIN.

FRISCO, Colo. (BRAIN) — Project Bike Tech, which works to get bike tech classes into high schools, will pilot four new programs this fall serving Native American and low-income Hispanic students in the Four Corners region.

The Catena Foundation, a private foundation founded by Sam Walton in 2017, is backing the programs. Catena also is working with Outride (formerly the Specialized Foundation) to launch five new Riding for Focus programs in the Four Corners area. 

“Catina does a tremendous amount of trail building and other work in the Four Corners with native communities. Their goal is to facilitate a biking community in those communities,” said Mercedes Ross, PBT’s executive director.

“One of the biggest hurdles is that there are no bike shops within miles of the reservations, so when people get bikes they end up in the garage with a flat or whatever. … So having PBT programs solves a lot of problems.”

PBT programs are like auto shop classes, but for bikes. The curriculum has two levels, each lasting a full academic year. Industry sponsors help PBT set up classrooms with tools, workbenches and bikes. There are now 18 programs in seven states and Ross hopes to add 10 to 15 programs this year.

“We have a waiting list of about 30 schools for next year,” she said.

The programs benefit communities and turn out students who are ready for entry-level jobs at bike shops.

“Everyone wants to know how many of our students have found jobs,” Ross said. It’s hard to say, partly because privacy laws prevent the program from tracking students’ careers.

“I have to just say there are more students out there who found jobs than there were before we started doing this.”

The programs in the Four Corners will be at two schools in Colorado and two in Arizona. 

PBT is working on the programs with Scott Nydam, a former pro cyclist who is co-founder of a mobile bike repair service that serves the region. The New Mexico Bikes for Kids program is donating used bikes for the classes. 

Catina considers the four programs a pilot for an eventual rollout to more native communities around the country. It’s already taken three to four years to get to this point — classes will begin in the fall. 

PBT’s industry sponsors include Giant, Shimano, Park Tool, Specialized, QBP, Primal, Bosch, Finish Line, Yeti Cycles, Bell/Giro and Fox Racing. 

“We are still looking for additional partners. In a lot of cases, the teacher’s salary needs to be funded, so we are looking for local gap funding sources to get that teacher funding. … We get a lot of support from outside the industry, but it’s sad that we don’t get more from the industry, because it benefits the most.”

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