Therapy By Riding Bicycles

Recently, I decided to start incorporating biking into my treatment with the youth I work with at our crisis shelter. With permission and safety measures put in place, I bought some old bikes. I am not the best mechanic, but I was able to do the basics of getting them rolling. 

I try to ride my bike most days to work, so on the days I don’t bike, I wanted a bike that I could leave at the shelter to use with the kids. I found an old beach cruiser on Facebook Marketplace. This thing is just my size! 32” tires! Haha, I did a little research and these were old Walmart cruisers so definitely not top of the line, but it will work perfectly for cruising around with some of the kids. It reminds me of the orange creamsicle ice cream popsicles. I’ve embraced the faded orange and bought some new grips and pedals for it. 

Our shelter is on a peaceful campus with other programs around. The campus road is not busy at all, so it makes for some safe riding. In fact, some of the other programs with severely disabled clients will go out on some recumbent reclining bikes. When I saw this, I thought what a cool idea and why couldn’t we do that with some of our kids?

So over the past month, I have been taking some of the youth out on small bike rides. The campus loop is a mile long. With not identifying any client information, I hope to share some of the things they tell  me about how biking helps them. It has truly been inspiring to hear the way they love biking and how it has helped them while they are experiencing their crisis that brought them into our shelter. 

As we go around the 1 mile loop, it’s funny because they always ask, “Can we do one more?” They would ride all day if we let them. Some of them will also ask to go on rides the minute I get to work which makes it fun. 

One of the boys stated “I forgot how good it feels to ride a bike.” The minute he jumped on the bike, he instantly started smiling, talking about memories of riding a bike when he was younger. It is fun to hear their first memories of learning to ride and who taught them. Which then naturally leads to therapeutic conversations about their family dynamics and how they cope with some of those struggles.

Another boy talked about why biking feels good to him, “The fresh air, the exercise, just feels good! I think I might get into biking more once I leave here.” This was music to my ears! 

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, much of the work I do is to help youth with their mental health and develop new coping strategies that will help them throughout their life. The hobby of riding a bike is such a powerful skill for them to develop. It’s not just a hobby or pastime, but a legit way to help them calm their minds and be in the moment. It is also a means of empowerment and freedom. Something that will help them access other resources like school, a job, the store, and connecting with their community. 

So I hope some of these experiences with these youth will stick with them and motivate them to continue biking throughout their lives. The benefits are endless, and a simple bike ride can solve many of our world’s problems.

-Ride This Out-