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Specialized Outride and Red Top Meadows

Words by: Teddy Nichols
Program / Wilderness Director
Red Top Meadows

The obvious metaphor a bike presents is that of a vehicle. However, it can also be a tool, an adversary, a teacher, or a relationship. It truly is all those things and more. Biking presents the invitation to move beyond our perceived limitations, build a new definition of “what is possible”, and learn from immediate feedback provided by a non-judgmental source, the trail. Biking has several therapeutic benefits. While biking we confront fears, apply coping skills, practice problem solving, and improve our emotional regulation and tolerance.

Red Top Meadows students have just wrapped up a successful mountain biking season. This was the first full season for Red Top students to get out and spin the tires on a fleet of Specialized Bikes donated to RTM through a grant with the Specialized Foundation, recently re-branded as Outride. Outride is a nonprofit organization that provides evidenced-based cycling interventions to improve social, emotional, and cognitive health. Outride is a national program aiming to increase accessibility to cycling through both fun and sustainable school cycling programs. And through these programs—along with the research—they hope to advance the understanding of how riding bikes can help improve the social, emotional, and physical wellbeing of children, with a particular focus on those with learning differences like ADHD.

Each student was assigned a bike at the beginning of the season and were given the responsibility to maintain it properly. Students had to make sure they kept the bikes clean, and learned some basic bike maintenance to keep their bikes in working order.

During physical education class, our students learned the essential skills necessary for handling and riding a bicycle safely. Focus was given to balance, gear shifting, turning, and tracking what’s upcoming on a trail. Gradually students progressed from pavement to gravel roads and then from gravel roads to single-track.  Throughout the course of the season students started to put together the benefits that getting good exercise could have on their ability to engage and manage themselves in the classroom.

During free time our students and staff worked together to create about a mile-long single track around the property. Once the on property single track was completed, the bike program really began to thrive. Students, of varying skill level and ability, were given the freedom of going at their own pace and were able to challenge themselves by riding hot laps around the property. With advancing skills and increased physical fitness, students started to explore further onto some of the trails that are part of the Munger Mountain trail network.

We hope that our students will take the lessons learn through our bike program back home with them when they return to their communities and hopefully continue to explore the world through riding bikes!

Special thanks to JD Haas for providing much needed bike maintenance guidance and fleet checkups throughout the course of the season. We also want to express gratitude to Hoback Sports for their partnership and helping us get our program off the ground.

Red Top Meadows, a part of Teton Youth and Family Services, is a small (14 bed) residential treatment program located 20 miles SW of Jackson, WY in the foothills of the Snake River Mountains.  Their campus consists of rustic log buildings that sit on 20 acres bordering the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Red Top Meadows provides residential care, education services and treatment for boys ages 12-17. Students referred to RTM exhibit a variety of social, emotional and behavioral issues that make it difficult for them to be successful in their home communities and / or schools.