WAKE COUNTY — “This is my first race, and I got third place,” says Edgar, a sixth-grader at Brogden Middle School in Durham. Out of breath, Edgar just raced a mountain bike through lakeside trails of Harris Lake County Park at the TORC Spring Skills Clinic
He wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Andrea Hundredmark.
Hundredmark, a science teacher at Brogden Middle, launched this school year the Triangle’s first chapter of Trips for Kids. Trips for Kids, she says, is a program for disadvantaged youth. Whether you call it drop-out prevention or leadership development TFKT is a way for teachers and volunteers to identify kids who need a little something extra to see school in a positive light, then take them mountain biking.
According to the program’s national website, Trips for Kids is a non-profit that sponsors mountain bike outings and environmental education for kids who would not otherwise be exposed to such activities. With lessons aimed at personal responsibility, achievement and environmental awareness through fun, “the mountain bike is a conduit to a lot of positive interactions,” says Hundredmark.
Aaron, also a sixth-grade student at Brogden Middle, is originally from Chicago. He says he’s ridden bikes his whole life but had never mountain biked before Hundredmark asked him to join Trips for Kids. Aaron says mountain biking is “fun, exciting, and hard work, but the hard work pays off.”
How does it pay off? “Because you get to go mountain biking again,” he says.
Prior to the TORC sponsored race, John Miles and Brian Bergeler, members of Bull City Cycling, shared insider mountain bike racing tips with the Trips for Kids students. Miles and Bergeler also accompanied the students on a seven-mile warm-up ride that included the advanced loop at Harris Lake.
“It’s great to see these guys out here and to see how quickly they’re picking up the skills,” says Miles.
Aaron’s fellow student Ahkeem has been mountain biking a total of three times. In that short period of time, he’s learned good riding posture, how to change gears, how to use the brakes, how to control the bike and share the trail. “Before, I used to just ride around the block,” says Ahkeem, “but Ms. Hundredmark told me about this.”
TFKT joins a network of more than 30 chapters nationwide. With Mountain Bike Hall of Fame inductee Gary Fisher on Trips for Kids’ board of directors and such celebrities as actors Peter Coyote and Robin Williams and musicians Bonnie Rait and Huey Lewis raising awareness for the non-profit, the Durham-based chapter benefits from the national organization’s exposure and experience.
Individual chapters, however, are financially autonomous. This means that while riding mountain bikes is the focus of TFKT’s activities, learning how to sell and repair bikes is the key to the program’s sustainability.
TFKT plans to open a full service bicycle repair shop this summer. Grassroots Bikes will sell and repair bikes, with all proceeds going to support the TFKT mission. Students will volunteer this summer, learning the technical skills of bicycle repair and cycling etiquette. Hundredmark thinks of learning as something more than just what happens in traditional classroom settings and conceptualizes the shop as an ongoing educational experience. “Other successful TFK chapters across the country also have a similar set-up, where the bike shop doubles as an after school program for the TFK kids,” she says.
Steve Levine, owner of Cycling Spoken Here, is helping TFKT get off to a strong start. He recently donated a $2500 BMC Trail Fox to TFKT so that they could raffle off the a full-suspension mountain bike. “I have kids, and [kids] are the future of our sport,” says Levine. “For me, Trips for Kids is about giving anybody the opportunity to go back and enjoy the most simple thing, and that’s the bicycle.”
TFKT raised $3500 from raffle ticket sales.
“I hope I do learn how to build trails and fix bikes too,” says Aaron. Aaron grasps quickly that the essence of mountain biking is about more than fun; it is also about taking responsibility for your ride as well as the trails on which you ride.
If kids are the future of mountain biking, Trips for Kids is doing its part to ensure that mountain biking’s future is bright.