Esparza, center, rides with El Grupo in an El Tour de Tucson tune up. Photo by Kathleen Dreier/Esens Photography

Although, El Grupo team member Marcos Esparza, 17, won’t officially graduate from BASIS High School until May, he is done with classes and is going to spend two months on a bike tour from Portland to Tucson.

Along the way, he’ll speak to bicycle co-ops about how El Grupo has impacted his life and encourage them to start their own youth bike clubs.

He will also file regular updates from the tour, which we be published here.

Check out my Q&A with him:

When and how did you get into cycling?

I joined El Grupo two summers ago after taking a Build-a-Bike class at BICAS led by Nacho [Ignacio Rivera de Rosales], Kylie, [Walzak] and Ashley [Batchelor]. During a few of the classes, Ashley talked to me about El Grupo and it sounded interesting enough to check out. After a few rides, I was hooked. I’ll admit though that being loaned an El Grupo bike was also an initial motive to join.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you go to school, when are you graduating, where are you planning on going to college, etc…

I am a senior at BASIS Tucson. Although I’m graduating this year, I finished classes last Friday. I am an Eagle scout in my boy scout troop.  I hope to go to Columbia University.

Esparza became an Eagle Scout in 2010. It is the highest rank awarded to scouts. Photo by Kathleen Dreier/Esens Photography

How has El Grupo and bicycling changed your life?

I can count on one hand the amount of times I had commuted on my bike before El Grupo. Before, it didn’t even seem like something that could possibly be done on a regular basis.  Now, I ride my bike to school nearly everyday. Through this, I feel a lot more connected to the city and feel like I have a lot more independence than I once did. I no longer have to rely on my parents to give me a ride (especially since most of them would be to El Grupo practice).

How did you come up with the idea for the trip?

I got the idea for the trip after Julia [Liatti] and Ashley [Batchelor] told me about how they were going on tour from Seattle to San Francisco.  Before then, I had never even heard of bike touring. I’d been thinking about it for a while and when I realized I would have no school from February to May, I saw it as an opportunity.

When are you going and how long do you expect to be on the road?

I’m going to be leaving around Feb 22-24 and I expect to get back around April 24.

Will you be going solo?

It will be a self-contained solo tour.

Esparza, right, rides with El Grupo in a tuneup before El Tour de Tucson. Photo by Kathleen Dreier/Esens Photography

Are you going to camp or stay in hotels or a mix?

I’m going to be camping and using, a forum in which people allow bike tourists to stay at their homes.

Any idea how many co-ops there are along the route?

There are about 20 co-ops along the route. I’m shooting to talk to people from about 15.

What do you hope to get out of the tour?

I really don’t know exactly what I want to get out of this.  I just want to go on an adventure.

What bike and gear are you going to take?

I’m building up a Schwinn Passage at BICAS to take on the tour.  So far, I have received a donation of $500 from GABA and I worked out a deal to get $300 from BICAS.  I’m still about $350 short of my budget.  Any extra money at the end of the trip will be given to El Grupo and any equipment bought with donated money will also be given to El Grupo.

If you want to help Marcos make his budget, you can contribute by clicking on the PayPal button below. You can also email him to setup other arrangements.

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