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Meet the Border Boys, the Lane County Cycling Club Redefining the Sport

By Jen Sotolongo

Daniel Padilla of Springfield rode his bike some 7 miles every day of his senior year of high school. Inspired by his father, an avid cyclist, Padilla figured it was a good way to stay in shape for cross-country and track. But when Padilla graduated high school and went to college, he forgot about his bike and left it to collect dust.

But early in the COVID-19 quarantine, he noticed his bike once again, reflecting on the joy his bike once brought him and suddenly feeling the itch to ride. He mentioned his nostalgia to his friend, Bernardo Cortes, who admitted he had been having similar thoughts.

So they went for a ride.

Inspired by a cycling club made up of Black cyclists from Compton called the Legion of LA, Cortes and Padilla decided to start a cycling club for people like them, while offering a safe space for those just starting out.

“What's missing in cycling are minority clubs,” said Padilla. “It's very dominated by middle-aged, upper-class white men.”

With the Black Lives Matter movement sweeping the nation and redefining conversations around race, Padilla knew it was an ideal time to fuel his passion.

Three cyclists ride on a path of wooden planks as they exit a white covered bridge.

Still in its infancy, the Border Boys consists of a handful of members-friends and friends of friends thus far, all of whom originated from Mexico. The name pays homage to the fact that all members crossed the U.S.-Mexico border with their families as young children to pursue opportunities in the United States.

The club's objective is to promote cycling and the inclusion of minorities, people of color, and other underrepresented groups in the sport. While the name refers to a physical and cultural border, the mission goes beyond, representing the various borders that members have torn down in sports, politics, professional careers, and personal hobbies. 

Many of the members work in banking and marketing, for instance, careers not typically associated with Mexican workers. Two riders played collegiate soccer in the U.S., and Padilla himself ran track in college.

“We call that border-breaking,” said Padilla.

Four cyclists ride in close formation along a paved country road lined by a tan grassy field and wildflowers.

Right off the bat, the group faced a challenging border: the cost of entry. Cycling is an expensive sport, and many members didn't have the means to buy new bikes and gear. 

“When we started, we were all wearing Nike shoes and Adidas shorts,” said Padilla. “We really didn't have much money left to buy cycling gear.”

From the start, Padilla wanted to ensure that anyone could join the club, no matter their financial limitations. Using their combined skills in marketing and sales, Padilla and Cortes reached out to dozens of cycling companies and secured sponsorship from Castelli, which provided the club with bibs and jerseys free of charge.

They also sought helmets, shoes, and more from sites like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. Often, once Padilla and Cortes explained the club and its mission, the sellers simply gave them the gear.

“The whole cycling community is really behind us,” said Padilla.

Padilla's ultimate goal is to provide kits and helmets to the most passionate members, those who really believe in and support the mission. The club will likely host fundraisers in the future to help purchase gear for the team.

Four cyclists ride road bikes on a paved country road line with green trees on one side and a field of golden grass on the other side.

The Border Boys meet in and around Lane County on weekends for 30- to 40-mile rides, usually in the mornings.

More than just a cycling club, the members are part of a supportive community that fosters personal growth and healthy choices.

“We're all very young, most of us are just out of college,” said Padilla. “So, instead of partying Saturday night, we instead choose to take it easy in order to have a good ride in the morning.”

There is no cost to join the Border Boys Bike Club, and anyone is welcome. The group's Instagram account is the best place to learn about upcoming rides, and interested riders can join the group's Strava club and take a look at routes.

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