We give the Mountain pulpit to Amy Haggart, executive director of Durango Devo.
Durango, Colorado is a world-class mountain biking town. When my family moved here in 2007, my husband and I wanted our family to ride the local trails together someday. So we enrolled our kids in Durango Devo, a youth cycling organization, and happily sent them off on weekly rides. They got more confident as mountain bikers, but there was a deeper transformation: They grew into leaders, trail advocates, and mentors.
It can be difficult to engage kids in the outdoors, something I experienced firsthand as a climbing guide and an educator with nature organizations. But the bike is magical. It’s a vehicle to explore and a way for kids to get to know each other and themselves. This was the tool I’d been looking for. So I joined Devo’s Board of Directors, and eventually became Executive Director.
I worked with Sarah Tescher and Chad Cheeney, who founded Devo in 2006, to create lifelong cyclists by teaching bike fundamentals in a noncompetitive environment. It was simply about “having fun,” as Sarah and Chad would say. With Devo, you don’t just show up for a ride, hammer, and go home. We help kids find balance in their lives. Here, becoming a lifelong cyclist means living up to our four R’s: respect yourself, respect your teammates, respect your coach, and respect the environment. Riders are grouped by age, not skill level—sometimes they learn, but often they’re teaching. And an entire ride might be spent maintaining or cleaning a trail section, or volunteering to coach other groups.
At first, Devo focused on XC mountain biking as an alternative to the usual team sports for middle school students. Now, the organization has grown to 75 coaches—many elite athletes—who work with 600 kids aged 2 to 19. Our 11 programs include pushbikes for toddlers, the Flyers Gravity Team, a bike packing Explorers’ program, and enduro. Every year, we field calls from mountain towns that want to adopt the Devo model and deliver more happy kids on bikes.
During my family’s second summer in Durango, my then nine-year-old son Henry was invited to a Devo ride on Hermosa Creek, a 17-mile trail on any serious mountain biker’s tick list. I was fairly certain Henry and his heavy steel bike had no business riding Hermosa. But after a year with Devo, he didn’t hesitate to say yes. When I accompanied the group, I witnessed confident kids and their coaches, a mix of leaders and mentors, rolling down the trail with wide grins on every face. We pedaled hard. I even learned a few new skills. But most importantly, everyone had fun.