I Smile Because…

Jeimy looking to mountains in Montana

It’s been only 5 years since the Spoke ‘n Revolutions Youth Cycling group became more than just an idea on a piece of paper. It has become more than that to everyone who has taken part of our journey as cyclist. Once you become involved with the group you will always have a part of it for the rest of your life.

I was only 15 when I first joined Spoke ‘n Revolutions and cycled my first 1800 miles. This picture represents each day of a cycling tour because even if it is a rough day with several never ending hills or just an extremely “hot day” ride, you will always have a smile at the end of the day. I smile because I have accomplished more than I thought I could. I smile because I have a cycling family. I smile because after being on a bike seat for several hours I can finally get off. And I smile because this picture captures what a cycling trip is – pure joy!


Triangle Bikeworks started as a pilot project in 2010 to see if teens would enjoy a 60 mile bike ride. It came after a conjuring by one of the founders to have youth cycle from Maine to Florida. That project has now become the flagship program Spoke’n Revolutions which takes youth on cross country tours. Triangle Bikeworks also added competitive cycling programs in the form of Cyclocross and Mountain Bike racing. We’re unique in the fact that we’re the only nonprofit serving underrepresented youth in the Triangle area cycling arena.

Jeimy Leading A 'Bike Dance'

Current Programs

  • Spoke’n Revolutions Youth Cycling – history and cultures based cross country tours
  • Cyclocross – competitive cycling in the fall
  • Mountain Biking – competitive cycling in the spring
  • Bikes and Barnyards – a summer bike camp

Why We Exist?

  • Current school curriculums are not able to do a deep dive into cultural or historical elements of our country.
  • There is a need for project based learning because it is effective and lasting.
  • Youth need physical activities for proper brain development
  • Not all youth participate in traditional school sports
  • There is a high cost of entry in the field of cycling
  • Youth of color aren’t large participants in organized cycling

The programs of Triangle Bikeworks transformed the life of Jeimy in the most amazing way. She returns from college and gives back to the organization to make sure other youth have an opportunity to have similar experiences.

For the price of a coffee twice a month you can ensure opportunities continue to be given to youth like Jeimy. Transforming lives, one revolution at a time.

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The Kindness of Others

Back in 2011 I wrote a blog entry during our Underground Railroad summer tour. In it I talked about how we completed our almost 1700 mile journey by criss crossing from state to state and having sleeping accommodations in living rooms and backyards along the route. The majority of the stops for the night were with people we had only met that day or the day before over the phone. For me this was a testament to the greatness of the American people despite various news reports and pundits. Acts of kindness such as those happened for us on each of our four touring seasons and continues to happen through community donations and in-kind support of bike parts, clothing and bikes. The kindness of others sustains us.

I recount those days because just a couple of weeks ago we took our training ride out to Maple View Farm. The Maple View Farm Ice Cream Shop has for a long time kept a drinking fountain outside of their shop to quench the thirst of people biking in the area. That’s a great act of kindness. Recently, they’ve added a much appreciated addition to their porch deck so that it extends around where the fountain was located. It wasn’t until this weekend that I realized that they simply moved the fountain to the other side of the building. Continuing their act of kindness to people who bike.

The Spotted Dog

Similarly, the church on Union Grove Church Road ran a water line near the road so that cyclists can quench their hard earned thirsts. This is where we met two ladies hanging out in the shade and changing a flat tire. As the youth replenished their water supply Tod and I walked up to see if we could help. Tod, in his amiable way, was able to assist in the replacement of the tube and using Tyvek from Tod’s universal bike kit to shore up the puncture in the tire. It worked like a charm and soon the conversation went from tire repair to everything else.

When we parted we were offered lunch on them at the Spotted Dog. A great place to eat in Carrboro for both vegans and carnivores. Yesterday we were able to take Linda and Karin up on their offer of lunch and use the gift certificate. Man! was it delicious! With nine people in our party we were pleasantly surprised to know that there was still room on the certificate to get dessert. Thankfully, there is never an end to the kindness of others.

Kids Are Amazing…

Kids start out as amazingly inquisitive individuals and if things go right then it’s a good possibility that they will become amazing adults, as well. The personal and institutional hurdles that some have to leap over supports the fact that they are amazing and resilient. I believe that adversity makes you stronger and helps you find deeper meaning in trivial things. Constant adversity can also give lend to the thought that everything is hard and who in their right mind wants to be jumping hurdles most of their life?

If I think back, I’ve been working with children my whole adult life. First opportunities were in Oklahoma reaching out to young males who didn’t have a stable family life. My first official volunteer service began in Tulsa OK with the National Urban League. I remember showing up to the offices and meeting a gentleman letting him know that I wanted to help. I’m not sure what I looked like as I stood there, all of 26 years, looking to give back but he was happy I was.

Rest Stop

I didn’t have the childhood that these kids did. I came from a two parent household with both parents working. I was very much, and still am, middle America. Some of these kids were abusing alcohol, illegal and legal drugs and some just had a disruptive home life. The youth coordinator and I were just trying to give them a little insight to something beyond their daily encounters. We chose golf as the medium for this effort. It was something so far removed from what they were accustomed to it kept their interest. Plus, Tiger Woods was all the rage back then.

Whatever reason they found themselves in front of me I realized one thing: these kids weren’t having what little bit of joy I had when I was their age and I considered my life “normal”. Looking back as an adult, other than my stable family life, financially we were just making it. But money doesn’t make happiness.

Organized sports through the school system is important and the benefits are well documented:

  • Higher self-esteem
  • Stress relieving
  • Helps develop discipline
  • Ability to transfer physical successes to academic successes
  • Develop teamwork and leadership skills
  • Develop motor skills and strategic thinking
  • Increases the quality of life through regular exercise
  • With all the above mentioned benefits it would be a natural thought to ensure that all children are able to participate in an organized sport while in school apart from physical education classes. But it’s not possible because as teams go you want to have the best players in order to be the best team. This competition leaves out a large group of youth from being involved. While park and recreation led organized sports help level the playing field it is still a pay to play dynamic.

    1st year cyclocross racers

    Back in my younger days I wanted to bring an opportunity to see things differently to a group of youth who sometimes had a very narrow outlook on life.

    Today I use the bicycle as the catalyst for change. I have seen for myself the positive and meditative effect that riding your bike across the country can have on an individual. The time spent on the road is transforming for the very simple reasons you would think it would. Perspective. The youth see the world up close. Not whizzing by from the back seat of a car. They are able to disengage from electronic stimuli while submitting themselves to a very simple routine: eat, ride, rest, ride, eat, relax, sleep, repeat. Sprinkled throughout are immersive* lessons in history told to them from the places where that history was made. Showing them the world outside their community to let them know how many opportunities await them if they can just imagine it.

    “I believe that children are our future” to borrow the lyrics from a George Benson song (sung by Whitney Houston). They are the generation that follows us to make the world either a better place or one of misery. I choose to gather people that want to teach them how to make the world a much better place than when they arrived.

    If you want to help us at Triangle Bikeworks do that come on aboard, get on your bike and let’s ride for a while and talk.

    *Immersive: images that deeply involve one’s senses and may create an altered mental state

    Who and What is Spoke’n Revolutions Youth Cycling?

    It all started in the fall of 2009 with the idea of having youth cycle from Maine to Florida. People thought we were crazy. I thought it was crazy! So, in order to prove we weren’t we needed a pilot. That’s when we enticed 7 high school students to ride 60 miles around the town of Edenton, NC during CycleNC’s Spring Ride. To our delight, they loved it. Their only concern, “Why were all those old people able to pass us?” Out of that pilot Spoke’n Revolutions Youth Cycling was born.

    Spoke’n Revolutions Youth Cycling is a program of Triangle Bikeworks, a Chapel Hill, NC-based non-profit that introduces youth from under-served households to cross country cycling, history and service. Their first cross country tour was traveling the Underground Railroad from Mobile, AL to Buffalo, NY. Winding their way through Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania before the final ride on the bike trails of Buffalo, NY and taking in the sights at Niagara Falls. The days were hot in the beginning, as you could imagine. There was no lack of emphasis on hydration and establishing better eating habits. One youth stowed away Little Debbie snack cakes as a food source.

    It was toward the middle of the tour that we began to realize that it was more than just a bike ride; so much more. We were able to witness a metamorphosis in the youth. Don’t get me wrong, they were still teens, but there were subtle changes in them. Subtleties like eating a salad at dinner (yes, that small). To a boost of honest pride from learning the seldom taught history of Brices Crossroads where Negro soldiers successfully defended Union troops as they escaped the onslaught of an overwhelming Confederate army led by Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest on the very ground the act was performed. They were shown the rise on the horizon that the Federal Army saw as they crested the hills. They were shown the foxholes where the Colored Troops lay and defended the retreating army.

    Brices Crossroads Battle Map

    At the Battle of Brices Cross Roads, half of the 223 Union soldiers that were reported as killed belonged to Bouton’s Brigade of United States Colored Troops. Most served in the 55th and 59th USCT.

    The youth are also proud of the fact that they are able to travel by their own means across great distances, learn interesting things about history, and meet new people in different communities.

    So, we’re this crazy nonprofit that decided to break down the “cost of cycling barriers” and give opportunities to youth that others pay thousands for. One could say the reason the price is so high is because the experiences obtained are live evolving. Transformative.

    At Triangle Bikeworks we have this wild belief that all youth should have the opportunity to develop physically, socially, and academically to their full potential, regardless of their background, resources, and socioeconomic standing. Our mission has always been to use the bicycle as an entry point that engages under-served youth in the community. We put them in outdoor activities through programs and events focused on a growth mindset that will provide them opportunities to discover their true potential.

    A single goal: To transform lives, One revolution at a time.