Friday, December 19, 2008

St. Francis is featured in the SoCal League Team Spotlight!

High school mountain bike racing? Could it be true? Though his son had not been an avid cyclist, Lee Bird noticed his ears perk up when he heard about high school mountain bike racing. Both father and son decided that they wanted a high school mountain bike team at St. Francis High School in La Canada, where Lee’s son Lance is a freshman, and soon they were off to start one of the first high school mountain bike teams in SoCal.

When Lee initially talked to the school administration about starting a mountain bike club he received enthusiasm and support. “At first, I think they thought I was talking about a bunch of kids sitting around at lunch talking about bikes,” said Lee of school administrators. The school allowed him to attend club day during lunch-time to see if there would be interest among the student body. During that lunch period, 41 students expressed interest and signed up. Soon after, Lee met with administrators again and this time got into more detail.

After learning that students would be, in fact, riding their bicycles, the administration asked more questions to make sure that they became educated about mountain bike racing. Being a new venture for the school, they made sure that they had as much information about the sport required to make a fair judgment about the program. “St. Francis has both Lacrosse and Roller Hockey clubs which are just as, or more, dangerous than mountain biking,” stated Lee, which worked in his favor. Lee was also able to generate tremendous support on several levels. The mountain bike club had advocates in the students and parents, but also in some of the school’s faculty and administrators. Ultimately, this had a huge effect. After gathering information from the League office, other SoCal schools with mountain bike clubs, and from Lee himself, the school board approved the formation of the team.

Once he got the green light, Lee set out to get some team sponsors in the local community. By seeking sponsorship from people he knew personally, Lee was able to talk about the team, the League and about the students directly with potential sponsors. Within 24 hours of beginning the hunt for sponsors, Lee already had $1000, with more on the way. A local bike shop, Helen’s Cycles, was particularly enthusiastic about the team, though everyone wanted to help out in any way they could. The St. Francis Mountain Bike Club currently has seven local sponsors who have given close to $2,000 for its inaugural season. The fundraising was an important part of the overall vision, as Lee wanted to make sure that funds were available to provide scholarships to any student that could not afford the required equipment.

The St. Francis team came together very well, with fifteen students committed to the 2009 race series. However, Lee stressed that he and other committed individuals put in countless hours. “I knew it would be a huge undertaking, but it has taken about three times as much work as I anticipated,” said Lee. Finding a school faculty member was a big help, especially because Lee doesn’t work at St. Francis. Lee enlisted the help of the school’s cross country coach and English teacher Patrick Donovan. “Patrick, and the school’s Activities Director, Denise Gunter, have been a tremendous help and allies of the program from the beginning,” said Lee.

With the team clothing design finalized and submitted to Hincapie, the first team ride under their belt (check out for a great picture), and their team blog riddled with updates the St. Francis Mountain Bike Team appears to be well on their way to a successful season.

If you would like more information about the St. Francis High School Mountain Bike Club, contact Lee Bird at or check out the team blog at

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