Every Wednesday afternoon during summer at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, the wide swath of the “upper soccer field” swarmed with bicycles. If you stumbled upon this scene unexpectedly, you might wonder, is there a race about to happen? What draws between 40 and 70 mountain bikers to this corner of the rural Northeast Kingdom of Vermont?
The answer would be Craftsbury Bike Club, an hour-and-a-half long weekly session for kids from elementary through high school that’s in its second year of existence at the Outdoor Center. The program is spear-headed by staff bike gurus Ollie Burruss and Sheldon Miller, who are assisted in the teaching and corralling process by a handful of adults and young adults. These assistant coaches include enthusiastic local bike aficionados and parents, Outdoor Center junior ski coaches, and biathletes and skiers from the Green Racing Project.
Forty kids are registered for the 2017 edition of the 10-week Bike Club; any given session draws between 25 and 40, depending on the ebb and flow of kids to summer camps and family vacations. Bolstered by a crowd of 10-15 coaches, and numerous parents enjoying their own exercise time on wheels, the Bike Club scene is a festively chaotic one!
While it takes a few extra minutes to get the riding groups organized for the day, the crowd of kids is literally rolling long before start time. The Outdoor Center’s small pump track and various board-bridge-tire obstacles in the field provide plenty of entertainment and warm-up opportunities leading up to the session. At the start of a typical Wednesday ride, the kids and coaches are divided into 4 to 6 groups by ability, rider age and interest. Riders will move from group to group, but by in large, the groups are pretty constant.
Continuity in group and coach pairings helps everyone find a comfort zone, make friends, and learn to challenge their limits. The coaches of each group lead their crew of energetic youngsters through drills and skills courses, remind them about proper body position, and navigate rides through the winding singletrack at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.
Every day brings new challenges, from heat and thirsty riders to malfunctioning equipment to an occasional tip-over requiring the med kit carried by a coach in each group. Each session also brings smiles, triumphs over tough rocks and bridges, development of riding skills by kids and coaches alike, and new stories to recount. Enjoy the following photos compiled from several weeks’ riding around the Outdoor Center trails and fields!
Photos by Caitlin Patterson