I recently had the opportunity to share the sport I love with a group of 10-14 year old children. For those of you who don’t know, my partner and I live at an outdoor education center. Last year, we developed the idea for a mountain biking course, and this August it became a reality. Our camp was 7 days long and consisted of 3 days at Kroka and 4 days on expedition. We learned to push our limits on the trail, keep our bikes working, and make our home in the woods. At the same time we formed a healthy community and built friendships.
To help improve our skills and prepare for the trails we built a training loop at Kroka. This loop consisted of bridges, skinnies, logs, rocks, and a little mud. Students loved the course and it gave us a great opportunity to teach them, while having the support and resources of base camp. We worked out many little bike issues at this time, saving us from dealing with them on the trails.
On the expedition portion of our trip, we chose a route that would get progressively harder each day. This approach was ideal because it built the students confidence in their riding ability and kept them safe. By the last day we were riding technical, rocky, rooty, singletrack at Drummer Hill. Most days of the expedition we rode 6-10 miles with 500-1000ft of climbing. By shuttling the camping gear (tents, clothes, sleeping bags, food) we were able to maximize our riding time. On future trips we hope to carry our gear and be self-sufficient.
The other bike specific element of the trip was bike repair and maintenance. We worked on basic skills like cleaning and lubing the drivetrain, adjusting brakes, and torque checking bolts. An area I would like to improve next time we run the course is flat repair. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we only had two flats. This didn’t give us much of a chance to teach the repair process.
Some of my personal highlights from the trip were the opportunity to teach students how to maintain their bikes, having a rainy wrestling match to warm up, and seeing the kids gain the confidence/skills to ride challenging trails. The students were able to ride at a higher level than we expected. I think as adults we can over-think obstacles and let our heads get in our way. Plus, kids are a lot closer to the ground when they fall! I’m excited to continue sharing the sport with the next generation, and hope to grow the cycling camps at Kroka.