A group of teen and adult cyclists left Napa High School at about 9 a.m. Saturday for a ride to Rutherford.
Setting out for the 40-mile journey were 10 teenage members of the newly baptized Eagle High School Cycling Club and their mentor, Ken Chapman, a Napa police officer and longtime bicycle enthusiast. The other adult cyclists along for the ride along the Silverado Trail, Yountville Cross Road and Skellenger Lane included members of the Eagle Cycling Club.
“We create lifetime cyclists,” Chapman said as the teens pumped air into tires and put their cleats and helmets on.
The high school cycling club, based at Napa High School but open to all students in Napa County, is debuting this year with a new lease on life.
Formerly known as the Napa High School Bike Team, the group formed in October 2011 thanks to a grant through the Napa County Office of Education. The money paid for the club’s 17 road bikes. But the grant, whose terms required a paid administrator, ran out in December, and the bikes were returned to the Napa County Office of Education.
Knowing the grant money would run out and that the bikes would have to be returned, the club set out to raise money for new bikes last October. By January, the club had raised $20,000, including $10,500 from Eagle Cycling, enough to buy 15 new Trek bikes and other equipment.
Other donations included $1,000 from a fundraiser, $500 from the Napa Police Association and $3,000 from a technology executive. Wineries donated, as did bicycle shops and other businesses.
“Everybody seemed to be very supportive of the club,” said Napa High senior Eric Boessenecker, the club president.
The team also became affiliated with the Eagle Cycling Club, a group of about 150 cyclists. The high school club, which now has a dozen members, schedules rides three times a week.
Members of the Eagle Cycling Club on Saturday said cycling gives teenagers an opportunity to exercise and an alternative to other organized high school sports.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for promoting cycling in general,” said Gary Delucchi.
Any high school student who wants to join the club is assigned a bike, cleats and helmet if he or she does not have the equipment.
“It’s nice to be able to eliminate the notion that this is only for people who can afford nice road bikes and such,” said Boessenecker, who took on cycling after a swimming injury. “That’s why I like it,” he said of the club.
Conor Josten, 17, a surfer and skateboarder, joined the club about a year ago.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Josten said. “It’s a good way to spend time with friends. And it’s a good workout.”
Katarina Grohs, 17, said she started riding with the club in September because she wanted to start training for a triathlon. “It’s awesome. It’s been great,” she said.
“Everyone is really helpful. I’ve learned a lot about the sport in general,” Grohs said as she pumped air into a tire.
Gabriel Genes-Peralta, 17, said he hopes to find a cycling club when he goes to college, as he loves the feeling of cycling.
“There is nothing that is quite the same,” he said.