Here at LiveMom, we love meeting new moms (and dads) doing interesting things around town. Our monthly features give us an excuse to learn more about these hardworking Austinites.
Although at times I thought my son would never learn, last year we got him up on two wheels and have started biking to school. I love our bike rides together and the idea that he can use this mode of transportation to become more independent. I’ve come across some great opportunities for kids to practice and build upon their cycling skills. Recently, I learned about the brand-new Junior Bike League, founded by Nick Cantrell and Phil Wikoff. Nick and Phil hope to provide a Little League-like experience to kids with a love of cycling. Right now, the league hosts weekly meet-ups on Monday evenings at the Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park and plan to start a racing series in the spring. Nick Cantrell answered some questions for us about the Junior Bike League, what he and his son like to do in Austin and where he likes to go bike riding.
LiveMom: What led you to start the Junior Bike League? What are your goals in starting a league? Is it literally getting off the ground right now?
Nick: My son really loves riding his bike and there was not an organized way for him to participate in the sport at his age. There are “fun” races at adult races that have good turnouts and I figured Austin could use a dedicated kids’ biking program. My goal for the League is to provide a Little League-like experience for kids under 10 who love to ride bikes. There are opportunities to learn and participate in a lot of sports for young kids, but there was not one available for cycling. We are how about 6 weeks old. I hit the ground running on this project to be ready for some meetups this fall.
LiveMom: What are your favorite places to bike in and around Austin, both with and without kids?
Nick: My two favorite spots to ride with my son Gavin are the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail and the Walnut Creek Hike and Bike Trail, which starts in Govalle Park. They are really accessible for kids of all ages and provide enough distance when Gavin is feeling energized. They are also really pretty spots to ride, especially at dusk and dawn. When I can run off by myself I love mountain biking at Walnut Creek off North Lamar and riding around downtown.
LiveMom: What challenges have you faced in starting the Junior Bike League?
Nick: The largest challenge for me right now is getting the word out to parents with kids. I can only provide the experience to kids whose parents know about the league. Marketing to parents and kids is definitely outside of my expertise and our marketing budget is pretty small right now. We are a small operation right now and the other committee member Phil and I are handling everything, but we know we will need a few more dedicated parents soon to help with all the work involved with keeping the League going.
LiveMom: Are there other cities that you know of that have a similar program? Is there an adult equivalent in Austin?
Nick: I am not aware of any other programs with the same mission as JBL. Most serious kids cycling programs I have seen start at 10 years of age. I really thought I would find a serious program that was available for kids under 10, but I am either really bad at Google or they do not exist. If this is a unique program in more than just Austin, I would really love to expand into other cities if this takes off here in Austin. There are a lot of cycling events here in Austin. The main series I follow is the Driveway Series in East Austin. It is a really fun crit series that races on a Gran Prix race track every Thursday from Spring to Fall. There are also plenty of mountain bike races in the summer and cyclocross races in the winter hosted around Austin. The adult scene here in Austin is really large and JBL is excited to be able to offer something to the younger racers.
LiveMom: How many kids do you have, and what are their ages? (as much as you are comfortable sharing, of course)
Nick: My only child is my son Gavin. He is six years old, and will be turning seven in November.
LiveMom: How long have you been in Austin? What brought you here?
Nick: I have lived here in Austin for two years. I moved here from the small south Texas town of Victoria. I wanted to raise my son in a city with more opportunities, and I really fell in love with the culture here in Austin. Victoria is flat coastal plains and I really love the topography and water activities here in Austin.
LiveMom: What’s your idea of a perfect family-friendly day spent in Austin?
Nick: We always have a blast going out to Emma Long Park and making a day swimming and picnicking. Austin is rapidly growing, so I try to sneak out there on a Tuesday or Wednesday when possible to avoid the crowds. We could spend all day swimming, hiking, and eating!
LiveMom: What do you like most about Austin, and what would you change if you could?
Nick: My favorite part of Austin is the multiple parks and outdoor activities located in and around city. Paddle boarding on the lake downtown is super fun and accessible and there are tons of amazing parks an hour or less drive from town. My chief complaint is the common complaint for all Austinites new and old…. traffic!! The infrastructure here is horrible and the growth rate is accelerating faster than they can build.
LiveMom: What’s the best way to get involved with the Junior Bike League, either as a volunteer or to get kids racing? What’s the best way to stay up to date on what’s going on with the League?
Nick: Right now, the best way to get involved is to just show up at the meet-up and have fun. This season we are just trying to build a community around JBL and get everything ready for next season. After the kids race we have snacks, mingle, and get to know each other and see how we all can help grow JBL. All info is posted on our Facebook Page: facebook.com/juniorbikeleague.