What's New

The trail to Cycling merit badge just got a bit rougher

But that’s a good thing. At least, it is for Scouts who love to mountain bike.

The BSA has approved a mountain biking option for Cycling, a merit badge mainstay since 1911. So for the first time, Scouts who prefer fat tires instead of thin can earn the badge.

The news comes in advance of next summer’s opening of the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia, where mountain biking will play a big role in the high-adventure fun.

Here’s what else I know about the change:

  • The patch design will stay the same.
  • An updated requirements book will allow Scouts to choose one of two tracks: road cycling and mountain biking.
  • Expect new pamphlets in late 2012 or early 2013, but Scouts who start the merit badge with the old pamphlets can still finish will those requirements.
  • Members, who told BSA professionals and volunteers that Scouts want this option, drove this decision.

In fact, commenters on Bryan on Scouting have championed mountain biking for a long time. Commenter Gregory Gamache wrote, “Why not a Mountain Bike Merit Badge? Mountain Biking has become a separate sport from road cycling. It has its own equipment and skills. However, the cycling merit badge is all about road cycling.”

Commenter Sian Barranco added, “Could simply be a Track B with separate riding requirements. Change the distances; keep the safety; adapt the mechanical requirements. Not a really difficult adaptation. We live in eastern TN and mountain ride a lot. The Scouts are more interested in mountain than road riding.”

Well, Gregory and Sian, ask and you shall receive!

About Cycling merit badge

Cycling, first introduced as a merit badge in 1911, is an option for the Eagle Scout rank. Scouts can choose among Cycling, Hiking, or Swimming.

See the current Cycling merit badge requirements.

Keep up with merit badge updates

At the New Merit Badges guide, right here on Bryan on Scouting.

What do you think?

Will this change mean more Scouts earn Cycling merit badge? Leave your thought below.


Photo by Roger Morgan/BSA

25 Comments on The trail to Cycling merit badge just got a bit rougher

  1. I’m interested to see the changes. Though we’re not true “mountain” bikers, our family rides mountain bikes and hybrids only on trails. My son was interested in tackling the Cycling badge this summer but when we saw the last requirement was a 50 mile ride on roads we gave up the idea. But now that I know the badge was written with those skinny tire speed freaks in mind, I can understand how that distance wouldn’t be thought of as pure insanity.

    • My son and two other scouts did the cycling MB. My wife was the counselor. We found plenty of rails to trails courses, and the 50 mile was 25 miles out then back. No two bikes were the same. It is true the 10 speed racing bike has the advantage, but boys have to keep pace with the three speed character that doesn’t remember how to get out of first gear. The challenge was finding two adults to do it, but we did. Most boys do the swimming MB, which is pretty low grade compared to biking or hiking.

  2. 50 miles over 8 hours isn’t a “speed freak”. That’s an average of 6.25 miles an hour, a very casual pace. Back when I earned it in the mid-80’s, I did my 50 miler over hilly Maine back roads in under 5 hours. I was a “speed demon” I guess averaging slightly faster than 10mph. :)

    Joking aside, I’m happy for the new option as most scouts these days ride mountain/hybrid bikes.

  3. Denise, As Moxie Man said, The 50 mile ride really isn’t that grueling. Depending on the weather, (mostly heat) it is arduous but not gut busting. The process of planning the trip and using a map along the way is of great benefit to the young Scouts. One of the things that our Scouts always comment about is,”I thought I knew how to ride a bike. I have done it all my life. But through the Cycling Merit Badge, I learned I was doing it all wrong.” They like that they learn and develop skills actually make a 50 mile ride very do-able. Our boys usually ride to Lake Michigan where we invite the rest of the Troop and families for a picnic and a day at the beach. Needless to say there are always a lot of sleeping scouts on the ride home. Encourage your son to rethink this merit badge. I think he will discover something in himself that he will like.

  4. Reblogged this on Lewis and Clark District Committee.

  5. Skinny tire speed freaks? Yeah, I guess that I qualify for that.

  6. Our Troop is working on the badge now with weekly rides. We would love to start working on this right now! Can boys begin working on the mountain bike track this Spring? Or do we have to wait for late 2012?

  7. Hi,
    I am a counselor for this MB too. It would be really great if there were a Scout Branded Cycling kit with short and jersey. There are times when we had up to 20 people riding and would’nt it be cool if they were on team style Scout branded cycling clothing.

    PS: the 50 is indeed very doable as you build up to it.

    • @David; I just found out that National has authorized chsportswear.com to sell a BSA branded jersey. I just ordered mine yesterday!

      We are taking our boys on a 25 this weekend. Total climb will be 1000ft over 13 miles.

  8. gene ramsey // June 8, 2012 at 9:38 am // Reply

    Very much appreciated, definitely an appropriate addition. A significant sport in our area of the country, BSA needs to be a part of it.

  9. If the boys build up to the 50 miler the way they should, it isn’t difficult for most. The problem I’ve seen as a counselor is that many don’t do any outside riding other than the required rides.

  10. Joel Sercel // June 18, 2012 at 8:45 pm // Reply

    This is great! I love the direction Boy Scouting is going with this! However, there is a bit of an issue with the details of the MTB merit badge requirements. The 40 mile mountain bike trek replacing the 50 mile road bike trek in any kind of mountainous terrain is simply not anything close to an equivalent challenge in vast areas of the country.

    For example, here in Southern California there is a 50 mile route on pavement that is very flat and has been used for decades to meet the biking merit badge requirement. A Boy Scout riding a road bike on this path can cover it as part of a two day trek riding 12 to 15 mph and only burning about 400 calories of effort over two days, not too difficult. On the other hand, there are no 40 mile MTB routes in Southern California (that I have been able to find) that do not involve many thousands of feet of climbing. About the flattest 40 mile route we have around here would require the Boy scout to expend an effort of about 2500 calories, or six times more than the 50 miles of the older merit badge requirements. The requirements should be more equal.

    Also, to learn the real challenges of mountain biking, the boys should need to learn that difficulty in mountain biking is more about climbing and terrain than distance. Very few Boy Scouts will be able to earn this merit badge as-is in Southern California. I would be happy to work with the scouts to come up with a more apples-to-apples set of requirements for the badge if that would be a help! ;-)

    • Hi Joel,
      My son is interested in starting the Cycling Merit Badge. We live in SoCal. Where is the 50 mile path you mentioned?

  11. Im a boy scout who has completed the cycling merit badge at camp we did mountain biking but u get a partial so when I got home I had to do the 50 on the road which I trained for with a cycling club and road with them I feel they should make separate books because the 5 tab milers are supposed to be practice but be realistic anyone who cycles and mountain bike knows there different in a lot of ways- besides that it was a great merit badge to do

    • Untrue I ride palos verdes and I burn close to 4000 calories and reach speeds up to 35 mph down hill cycling is not easy

  12. Patiently tapping my foot waiting for the details of the MTB requirements…..

  13. Marian Walters // October 18, 2012 at 7:58 pm // Reply

    Well, Cycling Merit Badge is on our agenda for the spring. These changes will be interesting to check out. The 50 mile ride is not so bad, we usually do it in Wisconsin on a rail to trail. This time we will be doing here closer to home on a bike trail. It will be just fine! They are already talking about it, and they do not know about this yet!

  14. I absolutely approve of including the MTB option, and wonder why it took so long. Even though I mostly ride on the road myself, most scouts these days have hybrid or MT bikes. The ones who do cycling merit badge are faced with riding 50 miles on their MTB, or if they are smart, finding a road bike to do the ride on. (Nothing says you have to make it as hard as possible :-) At least that’s what I advise them to do.
    The only tricky part I forsee as a MB counselor is that we’ll have to make it clear whether they do the road or MTB requirements, which ones are in common, etc. You know these guys – they may be trustworthy, but they are also thrifty – some of them will try to mix and match where it’s not warranted :-)

  15. Anyone seen the requirements yet? I am ready to go.

  16. I think it should stay the same but they should make bsa cycling clothes

  17. Ob McCarter // May 7, 2013 at 12:54 pm // Reply

    Why is Armstrong illegal way of life being used as a reference… He violated several of the Scout Oath and Laws.. I would not support him in any way.. So you as leaders need to remove his name as any reference that scouts should follow

  18. Working up to the 50 is easy just the requirements, but you should throw in a few extra rides to get the Scouts tuned up, also talk to a local cycle club skinny tire or mtn bike they may help with the 25 and 50. The Scouts may find they like riding and want to stay with the club and ride competitively or just enjoy the riding

  19. So it looks like the mountain biking option for the Cycling Merit Badge will consist of the following:

    “On trails approved by your counselor, take two rides of 2 miles each, two rides of 5 miles each, and two rides of 8 miles each. You must make a report of the
    rides taken. List dates for the routes traveled, and interesting things seen.

    After fulfilling the previous requirement, lay out on a trail map a 22-mile trip. You may include multiple trail systems, if needed. Stay away from main highways. Using your map, make this ride in six hours.”

    I wonder if they will adjust the requirements of the National Outdoor Badge for Riding to coincide with these mileage figures.

    • Brian, I ‘m pretty sure that what you quoted is only PART of the requirements for the Mountain Biking option. The full requirements will be posted on the 15th.

  20. Aaron Allen // July 16, 2013 at 2:27 pm // Reply

    The requirements are up on scouting.org

3 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. New York OA Trader | Today’s Links June 7, 2012
  2. Calendar of New Merit Badges | Troop 139 Ortonville, MI.
  3. Blue Grass Council, Lexington KY | New Merit Badges

Join the conversation