Boy Scouts of America Troop 2222 cycled 50 miles through Santa Clarita’s bike paths and paseos without leaving city limits on Sunday. The event marked the culmination of months of training and resulted in the participants earning one of the most crucial badges that the organization has to offer.
“We go way to the end of the bike path along Newhall Ranch right along the freeway,” said cycling merit badge counselor Forbes Black. “That’s our northwesternmost point. Our northeasternmost point is at the end of the bike path along the Santa Clara River. You go under the (Interstate) 5 and you go there, and then we’re gonna go way down in Newhall. So we’re gonna basically cover all points in the city.”
Completing the course earns each Scout a cycling merit badge, which is one of the badges required to be promoted to Eagle Scout.
“Eagle has required merit badges that you must achieve,” said Assistant Scoutmaster David Solmonson. “One of them is a physical badge. You can do swimming, you can do hiking, or you could do hiking. And some of our Scouts are not competent swimmers or are comfortable swimming. So we wanted to offer the cycling merit badge as an alternative.”
Training for the Scouts’ ride started in the spring and involved several bike rides of varying degrees of intensity meant to build each participant’s endurance and strength.
“These Scouts have been amazing,” Black said. “We’ve done a series of rides. We started with a few 10-mile rides, worked our way up to 15-mile rides and 25-mile rides, and this is the culmination. And the Scouts have been training on their own, too. They could barely handle 10 miles. Last weekend, they knocked out their final 25-miler like a pro, like a bunch of pros, and I’m just very proud of the boys.”
While the physical aspect of the 50-mile ride is important, what’s equally notable is the mental and emotional impact that the event and prior training has had on the Scouts, the leaders said.
“I’ve done lots of cycling trips, and I find that it’s as much mental as it is physical, and you learn a lot about yourself. I think once you come away having done 50 miles, you realize that you can do a lot more, both mentally and physically, than you probably thought you could,” Black said.
Physical activity is also a quality needed to become an Eagle Scout alongside other traits regarding a Scout’s maturity and ability to lead.
“I would say physical activity is one of the pillars of being an Eagle Scout,” Black said. “Certainly not the only pillar. You have to be a leader. You have to show that you care about your community and various other things. But physical fitness, in terms of something like this with the cycling, in terms of camping, in terms of hiking, it’s one of the cornerstones of scouting.”
The repeated rides have also built strong bonds among the Scouts, with each training session giving them a chance to socialize and grow closer as a team.
“There’s few things better than cycling with folks,” Solmonson said. “This is three weekends in a row that we’ve been working on this. We participated in the ‘Share Our Streets: Finish the Ride’ last week in the community. It’s a lot of fun. I’s not just like a training activity. It’s just a fun activity to get out.”