During the month of May, Ollie spearheaded the inaugural Craftsbury Academy Middle School mountain bike program. Eleven middle schoolers, a CA teacher, Ollie, Sheldon, and several GRP skiers hit the trails twice a week to learn about mountain biking. The middle schoolers learned a wide range of skills from proper helmet adjustment to bunny hopping off jumps to steep descents.
We kicked off the program in the upper soccer field, where the youngens honed their skills on a variety of obstacles-course-like features created by Anna and Ollie. These included tires, logs, tree stumps, and skinny bridges that are close to the ground as well as the pump track. The features provide a controlled environment to become comfortable with hurdles that are found on the trails. They also learned some bike handling techniques (tricks?!), such as front wheel lifts, rear wheel lifts, bunny hops, and manuals, designed to better clear obstacles, and impress your friends.
Many of the students had come to the Center as part of the school’s gym-class ski program, so they were familiar with the ski trails, but had yet to venture on to the singletrack. They explored the entire singletrack system, including Keith’s newest creations: Frog, Leap Frog, and Northern Borders. It was wonderful to hear the sounds of laughter and cheering echo throughout the woods as the kids ripped around the trails.
Kait and I had the opportunity to bike primarily with two fifth and sixth graders, Verna and Maggie. It was incredible to watch their improvement over two short weeks. During Maggie’s first day, she took a nasty faceplant on Chip Hill and then made it her personal goal to conquer that descent by the end of the program. Verna started biking with little understanding about how to shift gears, and turned into a shifting pro by the next day! Each day, the girls got exponentially more comfortable on their bikes and zooming through the single track. By the end of the program, both girls biked the black diamond trail Disappearances!
It was incredible to watch the progress that all of these kids made during only a handful of sessions on the bikes. Though mountain biking is not a primary form of training for us, it is a fun cross training option, and it is great to share this sport with a crew of eager kids.