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The Specialized Foundation uses cycling as a tool for children to achieve academic, health, and social success. Over the past few years, we've brought this concept to life by working with schools across the United States to create a comprehensive cycling program that continues to explore and track how cycling can positively affect student learning, health, and wellbeing—with a particular focus for those with learning differences such as ADHD.

We call the program Riding for Focus.

Want to learn more about Riding for Focus? Watch the video and read about it below.


The School Program is designed to provide schools with everything they need to get their middle school students riding, including curriculum, bikes, safety equipment and training.


  • Measurable improvements in academic performance, fitness, and behavior.
  • Long term social and health outcomes.
  • Reduction in core symptoms of ADHD.


After conducting pilot studies across the country, the Specialized Foundation team determined some keys to success that now represent the core principles of the Riding for Focus School Program:

  • SAFE: The school program must always prioritize the SAFETY of everyone involved.
  • FUN: The school program should always strive to be FUN for all students.
  • FITNESS: The goal of the program is for students to ride a minimum of 20 minutes, at a moderate to vigorous intensity, for a minimum of 3 days/week for at least 6-8 weeks.
  • SUCCESS: Award effort not performance. Success is determined by the effort put forth by each individual.
  • INDEPENDENCE: Encourage student independence. The school program is most successful with high rates of student engagement and involvement. For example, students who participate in route planning, bike maintenance, and personal training programs tend to feel more motivated and connected to the program goals.
  • CONFIDENCE: Build student confidence in achieving fitness goals and increasing independence with bike maintenance.

This is an amazing opportunity for these students and this community, and it will have a far-reaching effect beyond the life of this project.

Bike Project Coordinator, Audobon Middle School, Los Angeles, CA

In 2014, the Specialized Foundation ran pilots of the Riding for Focus program around the country. One such program was at Payson Junior High School in Payson, Utah, which has grown into a fully-fledged PE class. The program was launched with the help of Assistant Principal Jesse Sorenson, school administrator and life-long cyclist.

"Let’s not make any mistakes, bringing something like this to a school was always going to be a huge challenge, but it is also one of the most important new programs our school has been a part of in recent years. It has helped individual kids enormously in lots of different ways, like focus, confidence, and improvements in classroom behavior. And our teachers have loved it, so they join in as volunteers during their prep time. When you get kids out on a bike, the sort of kid who doesn’t enjoy basketball can be on par with the biggest and best athletes in the school. Not to mention that there’s a level of camaraderie that you don’t find through other activities. We’re looked at now, within our community and within our school district, as a leader. We have a reputation for doing things differently to try to help kids. There’s an opportunity in the American school system to train up a generation that knows how to safely get around on a bike. If there was a way to teach kids how to enjoy cycling as a form of transportation and sport, and to teach them about the fitness, academic, and social benefits that come along with riding."

— Jesse Sorenson, Assistant Principal, Payson High School, Utah




Interested in bringing the program to your school? Read on to see what to expect and how to apply.

We know that taking on a school program can present some logistical and organizational challenges. We have the tools and best practices to help your school overcome these challenges and be successful, but please carefully consider the following key criteria before applying. If selected, you will be required to show that you have the following in place:

  • Administrative approvals to apply for, and if selected, run a cycling program at your school.
  • A Program Champion who will lead the program, participate in program training, be a point of contact to the Specialized Foundation, and report back on program results.
  • Ability to safely store program equipment, including bikes, helmets, and tools. Note that the Specialized Foundation cannot replace any lost, stolen, or damaged equipment.
  • Partnership with your local Specialized retailer. If no Specialized retailer exists nearby, then local cycling clubs may act as a partner.
  • At least three routes near the school that are safe and at varying levels of difficulty.
  • An Advisory Committee made up of key stakeholders, including parents, teachers, community volunteers, and cycling advocates. The more people you can engage in the program, the more successful you are likely to be.


  • Schools should be prepared to run the school program a minimum of three days/week with a target of four days/week—weather permitting.
  • Schools will be required to provide certain performance measures to understand the efficacy of the program. Likely, this will be a task of the Program Champion.


1. How can my school get involved?

Applications for the 2017/2018 school year are now closed. If you would like to learn more about a Spring 2018 program, and receive continued updates and program news, click here to subscribe to The Specialized Foundation newsletter.

2. What does the Riding For Focus program entail?

Riding for Focus is designed to provide middle schools with everything they need to get their sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students riding. The program includes bikes, safety equipment, and training. Selected schools should be prepared to run the program a minimum of three-days-per-week, with a target of four-days-per-week (weather permitting).

The program is typically conducted over a minimum of a six-week period, although we recommend going longer, and the curriculum begins by reviewing bike safety and skills. It then moves into the core program content that's focused on individualized training plans for the students. And while the curriculum reviews basic safety and bike skills, Riding for Focus is not designed to teach students to ride. If you're interested in teaching students to ride, check out some of these other fantastic programs: Cycle Kids, Safe Routes to School, and NICA.

3. What does the application process entail?

There are three phases to the application process:

Phase One: Motivation

First, we want to understand your school's motivations for wanting to bring a cycling program to your school. How do you think it will help your school? How do you think your school can advance the mission of the Specialized Foundation? Only schools selected in the first round will be asked to move on to Phase Two of the application process.

Phase Two: Organizational Capacity/Success Criteria

We want to make sure your school is set up for success, and part of that is making sure you have the right infrastructure and people in place to help it succeed. Only schools selected in this round will be asked to move on to the third and final phase of the application process. Learn more about Success Criteria before applying.

Phase Three: Program Proposal

Final schools will be asked to submit a proposal for how they intend to run a cycling program at their school that meets the Specialized Foundation's mission and the Riding for Focus goals.

4. What do I get if my school is selected?

Selected schools receive extensive support, training, and equipment, with the aim of creating a lasting cycling program in each school. The Specialized Foundation will equip your school with key tools to help implement this in a sustainable way. The 2017-18 Riding for Focus program includes:

  • Program Curriculum: Your school will receive a flexible, turn-key curriculum specifically designed to meet national standards for physical education classes.
  • Curriculum Training: We award a trip to the Specialized HQ in Morgan Hill, California, for one of your core team to receive curriculum training. Schools can send additional representatives at their expense, space permitting. The training is scheduled for the first week of August.
  • Equipment & Maintenance: The Riding for Focus grant will supply up to a 20 bikes and helmets, along with the option to supplement the fleet as needed. A starter maintenance kit and services are provided for the first year, although schools should plan to budget for maintenance for subsequent years.

5. What about schools that geographically aren’t conducive to cycling? Or where weather makes cycling impractical much of the year?

Our vision is to make cycling accessible in all schools, but we understand that there are challenges to achieving that. We look forward to working with individual schools to overcome obstacles, whether they're climate-related, based on the location of the school, or others that we haven't even thought of yet.

6. What does a successful applicant look like?

Successful applicants will share the Specialized Foundation's view that physical activity is a key aspect of a student's achievement. Additionally, schools should be committed to the development and sharing of best practices that assure continuous improvement of the program and to maximize program benefits and outcomes. The schools must commit to running the program for at least two years. They'll also have the appropriate administrative approval, infrastructure for housing the equipment, and have a dedicated and enthusiastic program champion who will serve as point of contact for the Foundation, travel to the Foundation's training events, and be responsible for the program's implementation.