Two years ago, Riley Breedlove, 13, rarely rode a bicycle.
Today he is preparing for his first triathlon.
"I used to be super-chubby," says Riley, who has lost 20 pounds since last year.
The student from Imago Dei Middle School - a tuition-free school for children of low-income families - cycles at least 40 miles a week and runs and swims in preparation for the May competition.
The transformation began when Riley was introduced to the ProActive's Jr. El Tour Program, which trains children 11 to 13 to ride and rewards them with a bicycle if they complete the 12-week program.
The teen says he always liked riding in his neighborhood but couldn't afford a good bike, and was motivated by the program to earn one and to get in better shape.
Riley "is a perfect example of someone who really had never cycled before … and then went on to really be riding in a regular basis on his own," says Anne Sawyer, head of Imago Dei Middle School, where most children in the program come from.
Because a lack of transportation limited attendance to the follow-up rides in the past, the program - sponsored by ProActive Physical Therapy, Pyramid Coaching, the Perimeter Bicycling Association of America and TriSports.com - now comes to the school.
"We understand that kids are underactive, in large part because schools are challenged to provide physical education," says John Woolf, co-director of the Jr. El Tour Program and owner of ProActive Physical Therapy. "We are committed to providing the community bike solutions to minimize the effects of obesity and underactivity."
The program also encourages riders to return as mentors to younger kids.
It's a role Riley has proudly taken on.
In 2009, he rode 66 miles of El Tour and hopes to increase the distance in 2010.
Riley worries about his friends.
"(They) are really not active," he says. "It's tough at first, but you have to find the (sport) you like.
"I can ride for miles," Riley says, "and it's just awesome because I like the way it feels."
For more information
Learn more about the program:
• Go to www.proactivept.com and click on "2010 Jr. El Tour Info."
• Call Cyndi Wallace at 490-5979 or Scott Blanchard at 603-4874.