(Photo courtesy Andy Jansky)
This article was written by Andy Jansky, a volunteer trail steward with the Northwest Trail Alliance.
It’s time to start a new cycling movement. I call it the “Dirt Roots Movement” and it’s all about getting more kids on mountain bikes.
“With each kid we get on a mountain bike, demand for closer-in, off-road riding opportunities will grow. Harnessing that demand is what the Dirt Roots Movement is all about.”
Why do we need this?
The answer should be obvious: Kids are the future of mountain biking; future advocates, future trail builders and stewards, future racers, and — this one might surprise some of you — future bike commuters and everyday riders.
And with Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day set for Saturday, October 4th, now is a great time to plan that first ride.
Mountain biking appeals to the kid in everyone. When we share our love for the sport, it’s a great gift; but only if handled properly. I assure you that if you take kids who are new to mountain biking on a ride at serious trail networks like Sandy Ridge, Coyote Wall, or Falls Creek they’ll end up frustrated and might even give up on the activity altogether.
The goal is to get kids to actually like mountain biking.
Yes, you may have to lower your expectations for the ride, maybe turn back before the loop is done or spend more time prepping bikes than riding them, but this isn’t about you. This is the time to put away your Strava machine and do right by the next generation.
Play your cards right with this first dirt riding experience, and your future might include a family vacation built around mountain biking rather than Mickey.
Not long ago, there were very few family-friendly locations for mountain biking in the Portland region. (Touring the fire lanes in Forest Park isn’t all that exciting and it might leave newbies wondering: “Seriously? Is this mountain biking?”)
The huge void in Portland’s off-road biking opportunities was the impetus behind the construction of the easyCLIMB trails in Cascade Locks. Just 40 miles east of Portland in the Columbia River Gorge, easyCLIMB is a great place for kids, marginally-interested significant others, and mountain biking newbies of all stripes. The trail system — wonderfully free of asphalt and autos — was built by volunteers from the Northwest Trail Alliance (NWTA) and designed to provide a mix of windy single-track, smooth berms, scenic views, and natural beauty over three miles — all with less than 200 feet of climbing.
On October 4th, NWTA is hosting Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day as part of the nationwide push by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) to get more kids on bikes. Last year our easyCLIMB event was one of the largest in the country, with more than 150 kids in attendance.
One kid spent the entire time attempting to ride a two-by-four in the parking lot. When he finally mastered it, there was a big round of applause. A group of Portland kids even rode out Cascade Locks to participate. They’re taking NWTA’s “Ride to your Ride” mantra seriously!
easyCLIMB is a gem and we’re lucky to have it. But 40 miles is not close enough. With each kid we get on a mountain bike, demand for closer-in, off-road riding opportunities will grow. Harnessing that demand is what the Dirt Roots Movement is all about. We encourage all of you to do your part.
— Learn more about Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day at NW-Trail.org.