Thursday, October 14, 2010

National Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day

Riding mountain bikes with kids is awesome. I know that's kind of a shaky thesis, but I think I can back it up.

On the first Saturday in October, NEMBA hosted a National Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day ride in the Middlesex Fells. About 80 kids showed up to ride, eat pizza, and spray paint bike themed T-shirts. My role at this event was to lead rides. Often leading kids rides is akin to herding chickens with their heads cut off, but I got lucky with my group, they were all little rippers. We started with about eleven kids, six of whom were from a Cub Scout troop. The scouts only had to ride, I think it was a mile, for their merit badge. So they cut out after the first part of the loop. Which was good because that group contained that one kid. That human cannonball kid. The one who takes no instruction and is hell bent on taking out every other kid in his path. I breathed a great sigh of relief as I saw him roll away. Though our National Mountain Bike Trail Patrol rider may have been cursing under his breath: "Damn, I guess I'm not going to be needing these sutures then...boring!"

The scouts get a little pre-ride maintenance talk

A big part of riding with kids is quickly determining the group dynamic and assessing the kids' skill levels. At one point I hopped a log and pointed out the easier line to my right for the kid right behind me who totally ignored me and went straight for the spot where I had hopped it. He threw his front wheel up, tagged the log pretty hard, then his rear wheel hit and sent him flying. I thought he was going down for sure, but no: he didn't even put a foot down, he just wrestled the bike back into line and rode out of it smiling.

Later on the same kid (full disclosure: the "kid" was GB NEMBA President Adam Glick's son Sam) cleaned the above rock obstacle. It was one of those things where you had to commit 100% or fall on your butt. One of the adult guides asked "So, when you do something like this how do you think about bailing out." "You don't" I replied. I told all the kids who were trying it to "go full throttle, no brakes, all or nothing, do or die!" Sam pulled it off and it was rad.

Another View. It wasn't any easy move for anyone.

Sam wasn't the only rock star either. We had kids in the group who hadn't really been on a mountain bike ride, ever. The first time we stopped for a log-hopping clinic they weren't having any of it, but the second time we stopped, they went for it and got over the thing with varying levels of grace and composure.

We were close to completing out allotted loop but the crew was still rarin' for more. This was a solid group with good skills and exceptional fitness, so we blew past the turn for the parking lot and continued on, all the way up to the Bear Hill fire tower. There we had a little rock-upping clinic that, due to a rear wheel not quite getting de-weighted enough, turned into a flat-fixing clinic.

There were a couple good do-over sessions on rooty uphills. The sponge-factor (or maybe it's the lack of fear-factor) is so much more apparent in children. On the first attempt they'd flail all over in too small of a gear and ride off the trail. But with the smallest amount of coaching they'd blast right up the thing, no problem.

The mantra of the day on the descents was "control, not speed." While "letting it go" is the best policy on descents for adults or older kids, if you tell younger kids to "let it go" they will really, REALLY let it go, not stopping until their bars jackknife and they end up munching on gravel.

You don't have to wait until the next National Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day to take a kid mountain biking. Go do it this weekend, you won't regret it...unless the kid is that human cannonball kid. In that case bring some bubble wrap, hockey pads, and a cell phone with 911 on speed dial.

The next big NEMBA event is the Wicked Ride of The East up in North Andover on Halloween. So get dressed up and come on out for some killer riding!

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