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Articles, tips and resour ces for: • Introducing kids to mountain biking • Organizing youth events • Connecting with IMBA’s chapters/clubs Sponsored by oto
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JUNIOR NATIONAL DOWNHILL MOUNTAIN
SEE PAGES 6-7 FOR MO RE PICS
Riding With Chris
CHAIN MAIL Keep sending your letters!
I wanted to tell you about a very emotional Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day ride I experienced. A mother asked me if her son, Chris, 14, could participate. He has various health issues, including being unable to eat without a feeding tube, and is legally blind. But he can ride a bike, so I said, “Yes.” Chris could not participate with the weather conditions we experienced on the scheduled day of the event, so I decided to take him out when the weather was nicer. We went to the same park where the official event was held. To teach him how to pump up a tire, I was able to show him by feel. He could make out the tire, but not the small tube valve, so we learned by touch and he was able to inflate his own tires. I also showed him the chain. We felt each link and how they are connected. I initially guided a bottle of lube by holding his hand but he wanted to do it unassisted and he soon successfully lubed the chain. Chris and I did a short ride on a paved trail near a fire station. That destination gave him the motivation to ride, so off we went toward the fire trucks. A volunteer at the station let him sit in the seat of one of the trucks and hit the horn. I think many of us who are able-bodied riders tend to take a lot for granted. I don’t know how Chris does it, but he does.
YOUTH PUB ROCKS
— Karen Krasley, Pennsylvania
IMBA’s youth publication rocks — I thoroughly enjoyed reading IMBA’s new magazine for youth! It’s nice to see this exposure for all of IMBA’s youth-oriented programs and partners. It also presents a great opportunity to showcase the “Spirit of Howdy” and other IMBA/NICA collaborations in future issues.
— Matt Fritzinger, California, Former NICA Executive Director
I’m working hard to start up a kids’ mountain bike club at my son’s school, Thaddeus Stevens School in Lyndonville, VT. We’re lucky to have the Kingdom Trails — some of the best riding in New England — right here at our fingertips. I’m wondering what resources you know of for programs that I might be able to tap into for ideas, and possibly some financial support to help grow the enthusiasm for our sport? — Patrick McCaffrey, Vermont
Editor’s Reply: Check out page 10 of the first edition of IMBA’s youth publication — you’ll find a comprehensive list of our partners that offer programs and grants for young people. If you don’t have a copy handy you can find an electronic version at issuu.com/imbapublications.
Send us your letters and electronic messages! The content may be edited for space and clarity. E-mail should go to email@example.com and postal mail can be sent to: IMBA Youth Publication PO Box 711 Boulder, CO 80306
IMBA Trail News | Youth Edition Winter 2012, Volume 1, Number 2
IMBA creates, preserves and enhances great mountain biking experiences Board of directors (firstname.lastname@example.org) Elayna Caldwell, San Clemente, CA Chris Conroy, Golden, CO Howard Fischer, Armonk, NY James Grover, Matthews, NC Alden Philbrick, Alexandria, VA David Treinis, Alta, WY Robert Winston, Carlsbad, CA David Zimberoff, Chicago, IL staff and departments (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org) President and USA director: Mike Van Abel Communications director: Mark Eller Development director: Rich Cook Finance department: Tim Peck Government affairs director: Jenn Dice Trail Solutions design/build services: Chris Bernhardt Published by the International Mountain Bicycling Association Designed by Sugar Design, Inc. Images and stories available for re-use by permission only.
PO Box 711 Boulder, CO 80306 USA ph 303-545-9011 fax 303-545-9026 email@example.com
THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR Long-time IMBA corporate member Shimano USA provided a grant to make this special issue of IMBA Trail News possible. Shimano USA is an Elite Level IMBA partner (along with Specialized Bicycles, SRAM, Subaru of America and Trek Bicycles). Shimano USA is particularly interested in helping IMBA publish educational materials on topics like rider safety, resource conservation and respect for the natural world. Check out the web pages at imba.com/resources/ conservation for more educational resources brought to you by Shimano USA.
NExT-GENERATION PLAYGROUNDS Like chimes on a breezy afternoon, the park’s quiet hum is accompanied by squeals of excitement—the kind kids make when they think they’re one good pump away from spinning all the way around a swing set. Off in the distance, a group plays chase until they’re completely winded. A girl peeks over the edge of what seems like an especially tall and bumpy slide, before closing her eyes and giving it a go. Moments later, she’s back at the top with her eyes wide open. Bike parks are drawing droves of young people away from their phones and computers, and it’s easy to see why. “When you’re on a bike, things are moving fast, and when things are moving fast, it’s just more fun,” says 13-year-old Donovan Allen. His father, Scott Allen, also enjoys the bike park, but for different reasons: “He can spin around and do his loops, I can do mine and we can do some together. We get to have parallel experiences,” says Scott. The features found in bike parks are continuously evolving. Small rock gardens and drops mimic what riders encounter on trails, while features like teeter-totters and bridges take their inspiration directly from oldschool playgrounds. Focused on progression and community, bike parks often have jumps, stunts and gravity-fed options of varying difficulties commingled with picnic areas and other standard park amenities. “There’s something for everybody,” says Adam Galvin, who is taking turns with his eight-year-old daughter and six-year-old son on the pump track. “We also like that it’s free to use.” Low-cost, convenience and accessibility give bike parks an appeal that transcends age, gender, and socio-economic levels creating the fastest growing segment of mountain biking. They’re places where the whole family can have fun together, even if it’s on different sides of the park. Watching kids take minutes to master skills that flummox their parents, what may be the park’s greatest appeal becomes evident: Here, the teachers are often younger than their students. — Kristin Butcher See pages 6 and 7 for more about bike parks. — Editor
Planet bike Around the World With IMBA’s Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day This fall, IMBA marked the ninth celebration of Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day (TKMBD). Recognized across the globe, the event inspired 121 IMBA rides and 45 Specialized dealer events registered. The locations ranged from Mexico to Italy to the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejune in North Carolina. In total, this year’s TKMBD hosted roughly 10,000 participants (based on organizers’ estimates). In the U.S. this year, IMBA reached out to our nation’s military families stationed at home and abroad. We’re proud to help promote the shared mission of the National Military Family Association, the White House’s Joining Forces and the Sierra Club’s Military Families and Veterans Initiative. IMBA is also proud to support the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative as a partner in the Outdoor Alliance for Kids (OAK) coalition.
CLIF Kid and Specialized provided event sponsorship. Additional official partners included the National Park Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management. IMBA thanks Specialized for encouraging its networks of dealers and independent bike shops to host TKMBD events. TKMBD is an annual celebration held on the first Saturday of October. Besides being good, healthy fun, the goal is to develop a connection between kids and the natural world around them. Today’s children are tomorrow’s land managers and politicians — future decision-makers for important matters like recreation and access to public lands. Keep reading for photos and descriptions from a few highlighted rides.
Arkansas Outside (AO) hosted 20 kids and their parents at Cook’s Landing Park in Little Rock. With the help of four local bike shops and North Little Rock Safe Routes to School, AO set up obstacle courses with logs, skinnies, teeter-totters and a limbo, and led rides on the Pfeifer Loop trail. The group also gave away helmets and offered bike tuneups.
The Colorado Mountain Bike Association (COMBA), an IMBA Chapter in Denver, hosted 54 kids in partnership with Trips for Kids Denver and 11 sponsors at Bear Creek Lake Park. The day included hot chocolate, pizza, visits with reps from REI and Leave No Trace, an hour-long ride based on ability level and workshops on bike handling, rules of the trail, bike maintenance and local ecology. Enough gear was donated that every participant won a raffle prize.
Xinte Mountain Bike Club, founded in 1994 in Estado de México (the State of Mexico), hosted 30 kids, ages 3-15, and their parents for a 10-mile ride. Xinte has hosted a TKMBD ride since the event’s inception and has a special group within the club dedicated to youth cycling. Germán Villalobos said the goal is to get kids out of the city and into the mountains so they can enjoy biking, get to know the forest and apply knowledge of ecology and the environment.
The Bike Tribe MTB Team organized its fifth TKMBD event at Piave River Park in Salgareda (Treviso), Italy, welcoming 60 kids from ages 3-12.
The Charlottesville Area Mountain Bike Club (CAMBR), an IMBA Chapter in Charlottesville, put on its ninth TKMBD at Preddy Creek Park this year. Twenty kids ages 2-11 learned about mountain bike safety before exploring the trails.
A special area was set up for 2- and 3-year-olds to practice walking and riding around cones and slowing and stopping their bikes. A skills area for the older kids included a seesaw and a balance beam. All participants were taught biking etiquette, such as riding single file, and to always wear their helmets.
The Chippewa Off Road Bike Association (CORBA), an IMBA club in Eau Claire, organized an event at Lowes Creek County Park. It was a cold day but four kids showed up to ride. CORBA volunteers lead the kids on various trails through out the park. One of the favorites is a trail named, “Whoops.” The kids had a great time, despite the cold weather.
The Appalachian Mountain Bike Club (AMBC) and the Bike Zoo of Knoxville, TN, hosted 12 kids at Meads Quarry for group rides based on skill level — from tiny kids on Strider bikes to daredevil junior high students. Rain the night before made the trails slick, but the challenging conditions improved everyone’s skills that day. Each rider received a free Specialized t-shirt, water bottle and snacks. Their parents are already planning an unofficial follow-up event in the spring and possibly a kids mountain bike club.
PRACTICE MAKES PERfECT BIKE PARKS ARE GREAT fOR IMPROvING BIKE-HANDLING SKILLS
Here at IMBA, we’ve gone bonkers for bike parks. From milliondollar mega-parks to small projects, we are thrilled to help support the wave of purpose-built bicycling facilities being constructed around the globe. Why are bike parks so popular? Think about it this way: If you want to learn how to swim you go to a swimming pool, right? If you want to learn to play football or baseball you can go to fields built just for those sports. But where do you go to learn to ride a bike? Before the bike park movement, the choices were usually streets that you had to share with car traffic or trails that were not built with bicycling in mind. Sure, lots of people have learned to ride in those circumstances — but the process of picking up new skills and becoming an accomplished mountain biker (or BMXer, or dirt jumper, or many other forms of cycling) gets a lot more fun when you can develop your skills in a park that was designed and built with bicycling in mind. Plus, you can learn from more experienced riders, maybe even find a professional bike skills instructor, at a bike park. Valmont Bike Park, located in Boulder, CO, is one of the world’s best examples of a purpose-built bicycle park. From a “tot track” designed for little kids to massive freeride features that challenge expert-level riders, Valmont truly offers something for everyone. We brought two highly accomplished young riders to Valmont to showcase their bike skills. Alex Willie and Ksenia Lepikhina are topnotch riders (read their bios to learn more) but they didn’t attain that level of skill and fitness overnight. “I’ve been riding bikes since I was little, but a combination of supportive parents, great coaches and all the amazing places we have to ride in Colorado encourage me to keep getting better,” says Lepikhina.
Ksenia Lepikhina ➟ Age: 15 Teams: Singletrack Mountain Bike Adventures, Boulder Junior Cycling.
Results: U.S. junior national champion in cross-country for 2009 and 2010. Skills on display: Ksenia shows how to handle a bermed turn on Valmont Bike Park’s dual slalom course. Throughout the photo sequence her upper body is relaxed, with her elbows nicely bent. She keeps her shoulders loose so she can move with the bike. As she enters the turn she’s looking ahead, not staring down at her front wheel. She rides the bank and lets her bike lean inward as she turns. She’s still looking down the trail as she exits the turn, ready for whatever comes next.
Alex Willie ➟ Age: 17 Teams: Singletrack Mountain Bike Adventures, Intense Cycles Factory Race
Team, 2012 World Championship Team, Boulder Junior Cycling, U.S. World Cup Junior Team (DH). Results: U.S.A. junior national champion in downhill racing for 2012. Skills on display: Alex shows three ways to tackle a section of rollers on Valmont’s dual slalom course. The first photo shows him cruising through the rollers with both wheels on the dirt. His position is low and balanced, with his center of gravity near the center of the bike. In the second photo, Alex rides across the rollers on his back wheel, a technique called “manualing” that helps him maintain speed. It’s obviously something that only advanced riders should attempt! Even more skill is required to jump completely over the rollers, as Alex shows in the third photo. He’s comfortable making this jump with just a helmet and minimally protective clothing. Many riders would choose the additional protection afforded by body armor, a full-face helmet and other safety gear before catching this much air.
SCOUTING REPORT SUCCESSfUL TRAIL PROjECTS LED BY SCOUTS
rom a bicycling merit badge to trail-based Eagle Scout projects, the world of scouting has embraced mountain biking. It’s a natural fit — outdoor adventure, self-reliance and camaraderie are central to both pursuits. We recently learned about some great projects that blend two of our favorite activities.
Eagle Scouts Improve Los Angeles Trails Working with the Los Angeles-based IMBA Chapter CORBA (Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association), a pair of teenagers each created successful Eagle Scout projects that benefitted local trails. Both scouts received support from CORBA’s Steve Messer, who oversees dozens of trail projects each year for this large and highly effective IMBA Chapter. Chris Sercal, now aged 17, came up with the idea for his Eagle Scout project after watching one of his favorite trails in the Angeles National Forest nearly destroyed by fires and, later, heavy rains. “The Doc Larson trail was in bad shape, and since I���m a mountain biker it really appealed to me to give something back to a place where I like to ride,” says Sercal. By coordinating his plans with Messer and CORBA, as well as posting flyers in local bike shops, Sercal was able to arrange two workdays with plenty of volunteer muscle on hand. The first day focused on clearing brush and removing overgrown Wild Mustard plants from the trail corridor. The second effort was even more successful, with nearly 40 volunteers helping rebuild and reroute damaged sections of trail. “One of the coolest things that happened was meeting a group of equestrians on our first work session,” said Sercal. “It turned out that they were all involved in the construction trades. They appreciated the work we were doing so they came out to volunteer on our second day — their skills were a huge help.” Keenan Koch, age 16, attends the same high school and rides on the same mountain bike team as Sercal. As with Sercal’s Eagle Scout project, Koch coordinated his plans with CORBA and Messer. He also got help from Banner Moffat, a volunteer with the Friends of El Prieto National Forest group. Koch’s project focused on a usermade trail traversing the edge of a
cliff. Making matters worse, an adjacent river was eroding the banks, producing a hazardous section of trail. More than 180 volunteer hours were logged during the two workdays Koch arranged. “It was a big effort, for sure,” says Koch. “Not just the field work but also all the documentation required by the forest service and for the Eagle Scout aspect. But I knew it was worth it when I saw people enjoying the new trail section. One local hiker was so impressed that he made an on-thespot cash donation to help CORBA buy new trail building tools.” A Utah Land Manager’s View of Scout-led Projects Draper City, UT, has some 80 miles of trails, many of which have been built and maintained by scouts over the past decade. In 2005, Greg Hilbig was hired to manage and build trails on 1,000 acres of newly acquired open space. The city paid for heavy-duty machinery, but Hilbig has also relied on more than 50 Eagle Scout projects annually to help with hand-finishing work. As of June of 2012, volunteers — including many scouts — have already contributed more than 3,700 hours of work to the trails he oversees. Hilbig views the partnership with scouts as symbiotic for Draper City trails. The Eagle Scout candidates need projects and the trails need laborers. Each individual scout has to come up with an idea and do some related fundraising. Hilbig and his volunteer coordinator, in turn, teach the Eagle Scouts trail etiquette and how to manage their projects. This year, the Bonneville Shoreline trail — a 10-year-old trail with drainage and sloping problems — needed a onemile reroute. Three-quarters of it was machine cut through rough terrain. The work required to finish the four-foot-wide trail and its 8-foot corridor supported 25 Eagle Scout projects. “My advice is to be flexible, but to make sure that the
proposed project ties into the overall master trail plan,” said Hilbig. “Often a scout will have a good idea, but things get complicated when you’re dealing with mountain terrain. The project might not fit the scout’s skill set, or fit with the land manager’s plans.” To Hilbig, the biggest challenge is that kids have changed since he was a member of the Boy Scouts 30 years ago. He often has problems with scouts showing up in flip-flops, without enough water and not wanting to take their headphones off. Many of them have never used a simple rake or just aren’t used to swinging a heavy tool for several hours. But, he says, the determined ones come back several times to gain better outdoor skills and their abilities rapidly improve. “Not nearly as many of the scouts are as into the outdoors as my generation was,” said Hilbig. “This is a great opportunity to increase their exposure to nature. Trail projects give them a sense of ownership, and hopefully they’ll come back and be good trail stewards.” IMBA and Scouting Groups Tackle Massive Projects IMBA’s professional trail building crew, known as Trail Solutions, has teamed with scouting groups to tackle several large-scale projects. In West Virginia, Trail Solutions helped train and equip more than 1,000 Order of the Arrow scouts to hand-build more than 14 miles of trail in the New River Gorge National River area. A system of this size would normally take years to construct without machines, so it goes without saying that both the scouts and IMBA were thrilled with the project. Better yet, there’s more trail to come, with both IMBA and the scouts eager to contribute additional efforts. Other large projects in recent years include hundreds of Boy Scouts contributing to the trails at Minnesota’s Superior National Forest, and both youth corps and scoutled contributions to the trails in Idaho’s Sawtooth National Forest. There are thousands of trail miles in need of repair in the United States alone — fortunately there’s also an army of scouts that seem eager for challenging and rewarding projects.
Outdoor Nation Success stories created by ON grants
n 2012, Outdoor Nation (ON) — a non-profit initiative of The Outdoor Foundation that is dedicated to reconnecting the millennial generation with the outdoors — selected 20 projects from across the country to receive an ON activation grant. The projects serve various audiences and activities including kayaking, photography, environmental education, map and compass skills and, of course, mountain biking. One of ON’s 2012 activation grants went to Maythana Paquete and Julie Childers of Trails for Youth. The grant supported the Community Conservation and Mountain Biking Partnership among Trails for Youth, the National Park Service (NPS) and Thurgood Marshall Academy, a charter high school in southeast Washington, D.C. The funding provided for Marshall students to participate in a biking skills and safety program at Fort Dupont Park, an NPS property. The partnership stemmed from an event that took place the previous summer, when 50 Marshall students received a mountain biking lesson on the south lawn of the White House from Trails for Youth as part of the First Lady’s “Let’s Move Outside” initiative. “Being at the White House with students was very special. Being able to continue to provide these students opportunities is what we are all about,” said Julie Childers, Executive Director of Trails for Youth. Ninety percent of the students who participated in at least one Trails for Youth trail ride completed the entire program. As the students advanced their riding skills they also learned about the overall importance of physical activity. NPS rangers occasionally participated in events and provided historical information about Fort Dupont Park. “We couldn’t be more pleased to be a part of this partnership,” said Julie Kutruff, Eastern District Manager for National Capital Parks-East. “We think this program gives us an exciting opportunity to connect young people to their nearby national park in a meaningful and fun way.” Across the country in Silverton, CO, Whitney Gaskill of the Mountain Studies Institute (MSI) also secured an Outdoor Nation activation grant, this one for MSI’s program empowering rural youth. Students in Silverton’s school district were involved in townwide trail development, participating in the construction, restoration and creation of trail signs and brochures. The ON funding supplemented a grant that Silverton received two years ago from the NPS River, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program for the purpose of planning an in-town river trail to help revitalize the community. The entire Silverton school district was engaged in the project and as a result, half-an-acre of wetland was restored, 1,000 feet of new trail were built and three geology-themed interpretive signs were installed. The project culminated in a community-wide service day event attended by about 100 community members. A third Outdoor Nation grant went to Thomasville, GA, and the Thomas University Trail Restoration project. Their effort involved 50 youth in restoring local areas suffering damage from invasive species and erosion. Participants learned about the harmful impacts of the invasive species and why local species created a healthier ecosystem. In addition to restoring outdoor spaces, the program had an impact on the people who did the work. The organizer discovered that once students were encouraged to pick their favorite tools and participate in the aspect of the service project that most appealed vto them, they took ownership of the project and demonstrated more enthusiasm. In all, 20 large garbage bags of invasive plants were removed and about 275 native plants were put into the ground.
Learn more about Outdoor Nation and the grants it provides by visiting outdoornation.org.
RACING AHEAD YOUTH MTB TEAMS GIvE BACK TO TRAILS
hen the Southern California High School Mountain Bike League (SoCal) was founded in 2008, its mission statement included the following: “Foster a responsible attitude toward the use of trails and wilderness.” Accordingly, founder and executive director, Matt Gunnell is launching a new initiative that could have a big impact on the future of trail advocacy. In the spring of 2012, Gunnell organized an official trail work day for the SoCal league, run by the Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association (CORBA), an IMBA Chapter based in Los Angeles. Sixty-five student bike racers from five area high school mountain bike teams volunteered that day in the Angeles National Forest. The event led to a discussion between Gunnell and CORBA about how trail stewardship and etiquette could be incorporated in the SoCal league’s culture. “I realized that most of the kids and coaches coming into high school mountain bike racing often have little to no background in cycling,” said Gunnell. “We want to teach them that trail work is just something you do. We don’t want it to be special. We want it to be as regular as their training.” Gunnell envisions NICA leagues and individual high school teams creating partnerships with their nearby IMBA Chapters and other established trail advocacy groups. To him, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when successful organizations possessing tools, trail building expertise and relationships with land managers already exist. “The SoCal league is not a trail advocacy program,” he stressed. “It is a youth sports and development program. Think high school football team.” Gunnell emphasized the simplicity of the idea. Engaging with advocacy groups means a volunteer coach doesn’t need to become a trail expert — but Gunnell does want his athletes to view trail projects as part of the regular training cycle. All a coach has to do is stay in touch with the local IMBA Chapter or other trail organization to know when volunteer work days are, then show up with the team, ready to go to work. “Imagine going to a football coach and telling them that before their team can practice, the kids need to seed, mow and stripe the field,” said Gunnell. “That may make
us laugh, but that’s what we are asking of these kids and coaches. The trails aren’t going to build and maintain themselves. If we don’t do it, we can’t ride.” IMBA Chapters, with their non-profit status, are in a unique position to sign off on volunteer service hours for the students, which are required by many U.S. high schools. The students can also gain a valuable appreciation for trail work, while the chapter gets a cadre of energetic, youthful volunteers who can eventually help grow the chapter’s ranks and step up as future leaders in the mountain bike community. The SoCal league has grown from 105 student athletes on 14 teams in the spring of 2009 to 322 student athletes on 26 teams in spring of 2012. Gunnell expects at least 400 student athletes on at least 30 teams with 80 coaches by the spring of 2013. If each one of the racers and coaches (and the occasional parent) did just one, four-hour work day in spring 2013, it could equal 2,500 volunteer hours contributed to Southern California trails in one year. As high school mountain biking grows across California and around the country, those numbers could add up to a dramatic impact. By the end of 2013, Gunnell hopes to have metrics for the impact his idea is having. Currently, the SoCal league website (www.socaldirt.org) lists 11 regional trail and mountain bike advocacy organizations from CORBA, an IMBA Chapter, to the Tehachapi Mountain Trails Foundation, a multi-user group. There is also a form for coaches to fill out following trail-work days that will provide insight into the volunteer hours and trail miles that the high school teams are contributing. “At least once a year, each team should make a group effort to pair up with a local organization and get a big job done,” said Gunnell. he doesn’t see his idea becoming a hard and But rule, nor does he envision volunteer trail work fast NICA a SoCal “The reality is that becoming league requirement. and I don’t want to scare all of the coaches are volunteers there’s much to do,” said Gunnell. them off because too “I’m so teams have fewer excuses. The trying to dumb it down is strong — we’re just adding to that culture.” NICA culture — Special thanks to NICA’s Matt Gunnell and CORBA’s Steve Messer for contributing their images to this story.
MORE THAN 10,000 KIDS PARTICIPATED IN
IMBA’S 2012 TAKE A KID MOUNTAIN BIKING DAY CELEBRATION. THANKS TO EvERYONE WHO CAME OUT — SEE YOU NExT OCTOBER!
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vISIT IMBA.COM/jOIN TO LEARN MORE This special edition of IMBA Trail News was made possible by generous support from Shimano USA.