Youth cycling program raising money for new mountain bikes in Johnson County

Johnson County Youth Off-Road Riders compete in the spring and summer

Anas El Tuhami

The Johnson County Neighborhood Centers' Youth Off-Road Riders, including Devon Skyles (leftmost rider i
Anas El Tuhami The Johnson County Neighborhood Centers’ Youth Off-Road Riders, including Devon Skyles (leftmost rider in green), Alec Nelson, Awelu Abdalla and Victor Kariuki, along with volunteer coach Wayne Fett, far right, go on a ride in 2017.

IOWA CITY — A Johnson County youth cycling program is trying to raise $5,400 toward new mountain bikes to improve safety and help the kids be more competitive.

“It would be nice to have newer bikes,” said Alec Nelson, 16, a student at Liberty High School in North Liberty. “If we all had the same bikes, it would be easier for repairs.”

Tony Branch, a staff member at the Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County, started Youth Off-Road Riders in 2012 to help Iowa City kids learn the “joy, fitness and fellowship” of cycling, according to a news release. Since then, 50 children have participated in the program.

This year’s team has eight students, ages 10 to 17. Their season will start in a few weeks with indoor practices at the Pheasant Ridge Neighborhood Center, followed by outdoor riding on trails off Camp Cardinal Boulevard on Iowa City’s west side or at Sugar Bottom Recreational Area.

Team members decide their race schedule, competing at 10 to 20 races in spring and summer, Branch said.

The Off-Road Riders have a conglomeration of mostly second-hand bikes, Branch said, and some of that gear is wearing out. He’d like to buy eight new mountain bikes so everyone on the team can have the same model.

“I want them to feel competitive and valued when they go to competitions,” Branch said.


Geoff’s Bike and Ski, in Iowa City, has helped maintain the team’s bikes and last year provided some $1,700 Specialized Crux racing bikes, which can be modified for different riding styles, The Gazette reported last spring. These bikes allow team members to participate in road and cyclocross races in addition to mountain biking.

Other program supporters have been New Pioneer Co-op and Goosetown Racing Club.

Devon Skyles, 16, an Iowa City West High School student, has been in Youth Off-Road Riders for four years. He loves trail riding because it engages his mind and his body in a natural setting.

“I love how we’re surrounded by nature, instead of just buildings,” he said. “I get lost a lot, but it’s fun. I see parts of the trail I’ve never seen before.”

The Off-Road Riders’s online fundraising campaign at had raised more than $400 late last week.

Junior high and high school boys and girls interested in the club can contact Branch by calling (319) 354-2886 or by email at

l Comments: (319) 339-3157;

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