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Profile: Rolling Toward Success

Skyline Mountain Bike Team The Skyline High Mountain Bike Club started out as a club for students to learn how to fix their own commuting bicycles.


Now in its third year, Coach Michael Raytis has transformed the club into a team that both maintains the mountain bikes they ride and races against teams from across Northern California as part of the NorCal High School Cycling League.


With over 20 students on the team this year, an increasing number of Skyline students have access to the sport in a fun, safe and supportive environment. Cycling is the perfect sport for the hills and renowned trails in regional parks near the Skyline campus.


Unlike most other teams, the Skyline riders are mostly new to the sport and ride loaner bikes provided by partner organization Oakland Composite. This year, to support the team now that it is self-sufficient they’ve produced a video that tells their story and launched a FundMe campaign.


“It has been a transformative experience for the student-athletes on our team. I hope the film inspires more kids to ride and some adults to start teams at other Oakland high schools,” said Coach Raytis.


Photo: Skyline High Bicycle Club with Coach Michael Raytis on the left and English teacher Nicholas Beasley on the right with student members of the team.


Watch the video for a birdseye view of the amazing trails the teams rides and read on for insights from two of Skyline’s riders who started last year.



Emmanuel Bahati Emmanuel Bahati, 11th grade
11th Grade


Why did you join the team?

I am originally from Rwanda in East Africa, my family came here in 2013. At first when I got here to Skyline I didn’t play any sports but then I realized I didn’t want to just go home after school. I had some friends on the team who graduated last year. They encouraged me to join so I decided to give it a try - before that I didn’t even know it was a sport.


What was your first year like?

When I signed up I thought it sounded easy, but it’s actually hard at first. You have to come to practice every day if you want to get better and finish the races. It takes a little while to get used to it, but mountain biking pushes you beyond your limits and that’s what I like about it.


The other good thing is there’s a lot of trails around here, we don’t have to go far at all. Redwood Regional Park is just down the street.  Sometimes we go on trails with views of the whole city which I had only seen a few times before and it’s amazing.


What are races like?

Our next race is with schools from Northern California and I’ll be racing with my grade. Juniors do four laps, each lap is around five miles. A 20 mile race takes roughly an hour and 20 minutes, depending on the person. In the beginning everyone’s in a line but it gets spread out towards the middle. If you can it’s good to stay with your team, but I go at my own pace.  


Last year I learned how to fix a flat, because if you get help from people in races you get time added to the clock. You have to do it yourself unless you want to take the penalty.  So we carry extra tubes and a pump and tools when we race and at practice.


What have you learned so far?

Mountain biking has taught me to never give up. Sometimes I’m so tired during a race that I ask myself ‘Why am I doing this?’ but at the same time I know I have to finish, so I do. People should know that it’s really fun and if you’re scared don’t worry, you can work on that.  



Kelly FongKelly Fong, 12th Grade
12th Grade


Why did you join the team?

Mainly I wanted to try out a new sport. I had seen flyers around and last year Coach Raytis was my ceramics teacher so it was easier to join. Last year there was only one other girl and this year there are four of us. I tried to convince more girl friends to join but they wouldn’t budge.


What was your first year like?

I always biked when I was younger but I realized it’s nothing like that. It’s really scary at first going downhill and it takes time to learn the gears, which are different for going uphill, downhill and on flat. I learned all that on my first day. One of the things I like about our team is the coaches don’t force you to race, so if you’re not ready there’s no pressure. I wanted to get used to everything first so I didn’t start racing until a month after I joined.


What have you learned so far?

I’ve crashed a lot of times, once I got a massive scrape on my face. After that I just became more cautious going downhill and more aware of my surroundings. I’ve learned a lot about the gears and bike and position going downhill. I also learned that you can go really hard but you have to think first about safety so that you don’t get hurt, it’s more important than speed.  


What should people know about mountain biking?

People, especially girls, are kind of scared of it but they should just try. I didn’t know I would like it until I went to my first practice and it was really fun. It doesn’t have to be so extreme. Going out to the trails is my favorite part because I can explore parts of the Oakland hills I’ve never experienced before and with mountain biking I’m able to go on different trails every week.

If you get tired on a ride, personally I just try to stay focused and look out at the scenery and it’s really worth it in the end.