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Navajo Guide Launches Bikepacking Program for Navajo Youth Across Southwest

The first-ever Navajo Nation-based bikepacking youth program for Black, Indigenous, and kids of color launches this fall.

A bikepacking program for Navajo (Diné) youth is launching in the Four Corners region in October. The idea was spearheaded by Jon Yazzie, a veteran and Navajo guide who founded Dzil Ta’ah Adventures. Yazzie’s company specializes in bikepacking trips on Navajo land, where bike touring and trail development are in their infancy.

The inaugural three-part series includes backcountry overnighters in Nazlini and Kayenta, two Navajo Nation chapters. There are 110 chapters, or municipalities, in Navajo Nation. The third multiday adventure blends packrafting with biking at Lake Powell and is co-led by Four Corners Guides.

3 Navajo youth bikepacking

Overcoming Barriers for Underprivileged Youth

To prepare the kids, Yazzie hosts sessions to practice packing and riding loaded bikes. Silver Stallion, a nonprofit bike and coffee shop, leads mobile bicycle repair workshops for the youth too. The two guide companies (along with any donations) cover the cost of gear and fuel (for families to transport kids).

“The first barrier into bikepacking is that Navajo kids don’t know it exists. However, if they’re interested, the next barrier is the cost of gear and capable bikes,” said Yazzie.

“A discounted $100 lightweight tent is cheap for really nice gear, but that’s still asking a lot on the reservation. That money is the difference of food on the table or paying for electricity. The poverty rate is high.”

youth biking in southwest

BIPOC Youth Mentorship

Eight kiddos are registered so far: five female-identifying and three male-identifying riders. Each rider is Navajo and involved with NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association)-sanctioned teams.

Yazzie’s partner in business and life, Nadine Johnson, will co-lead the co-ed trips. They are both NICA coaches and Wilderness First Aid certified. At least one other local NICA coach will assist, and Four Corners Guides owner Steve Fassbinder will steer the final segment.

Moving forward, enrollments will welcome any Black, Indigenous, and youth of color nationwide. And organizers hope two seasonal programs will take place each spring and fall.

navajo youth riding bikes

Sustainable, Local Recreation Economy

As Yazzie guides, he shares Navajo history and creation stories tied to geographic features in the area. His mission is to educate Navajo youth on their ancestral roots, a primary benefit of the bikepacking program, he said.

The program is already a pretty big undertaking, but Yazzie’s bigger vision is to build a broader bikepacking community and sustainable recreation economy across the Navajo Nation. The youngsters he coaches will have opportunities to mentor peers, become guides, and work for Dzil Ta’ah Adventures.

Taking a break

Gear Donations, COVID-19 Protocol

The program includes COVID-19 prevention measures and protection. Members wear face masks, sleep in individual (or household-designated) tents, and carry hand sanitizer. When not riding, they aim to maintain 6 feet of social distance.

A gear library expansion is needed to welcome more registrants. Yazzie is accepting the following donations of youth gear from outdoor industry brands and individuals:

  • Lightweight single or two-person tents or shelters
  • Bikepacking bikes
  • Bikepacking bags (10-12L seat pack; small frame pack)
  • Sleeping bags
  • Sleeping pads

Reach out to Yazzie regarding size ranges.

Contact Yazzie at dziltaahadventures@gmail.com to participate in the youth bikepacking series at Nazlini (Oct. 9-10), Kayenta (Oct. 17-18), and Lake Powell (Oct. 31 to Nov. 1). Participants must be ages 10 to 18 and registered in school. Or reach out if you’d like to donate gear. 

navajo youth riding bike

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