Riding the mountains of Monterey

After-school mountain biking club a hit with kids

Liam Morgan

Liam Morgan

Monterey middle school’s mountain biking club started with Max McCulloch doing what most boys his age do, riding his bike over bumps and jumps.

Seeing how natural it was, and hearing there was a school bike league, Max’s parents, Lara and Mike, put the word out last year to start a school team.

“It was a small group, six kids, and they won the city championships for mountain biking,” Lara said.

“We wanted to get the word out that kids could indeed compete at the middle school level. We found the kids just didn’t know there was a bike league they could be part of.”

This year the group took it a giant leap forward, building a mini-park with stunts and jumps on Monterey school grounds. Happy to help, the local Home Depot, Ford dealership and Oak Bay Bikes store donated supplies and money to assist with the park.

As many as 25 kids meet each Thursday and work on their skills, learning basic mountain biking techniques, such as balancing on “skinny planks,” popping onto curbs and managing corners by learning to position their bodies.

Some days the group heads up Gonzales Hill for a taste of rocky terrain.

“The kids demand more and more growth with bigger jumps, but there is no pressure,” Lara said.

“Basically, we just looked at the space and said ‘we can’t dig in,’ so it’s a portable park. We set up and break down most of the park every Thursday.”

One added bonus is to provide “a nice soft mulch” for when the kids crash, a regular part of mountain biking.

On Sundays, the skills are put to the trail with group rides at Hartland Park, which usually brings out an eager set of parents.

If the group is missing one thing, however, it’s girls.

“No girls yet, just me,” Lara smiled. “We’re trying to encourage it. Hopefully with the road bike portion of the school racing season, we’ll get some girls out soon.”

Information for the school cycling league is available at lowerislandschoolsports.ca.