Imagine cruising down a singletrack mountain trail. There’s a rock here, a log there, then a tree straight ahead. Dodging, rolling over and even hopping such obstacles is all a part of mountain biking. Getting comfortable on a bike so such maneuvers don’t cause panic takes practice.
Gaining that comfort and self-confidence is the goal of the Laramie Youth Cycling clinic offered by Laramie BikeNet, a local bicycle advocacy and activity organization.
BikeNet President Cindy Dywan, who is heading the program, said the purpose of the clinic is mostly just to get youth out on bikes.
“Mountain biking is a great sport to learn at a young age because it can turn into a life-long activity,” Dywan said. “Unlike a lot of sports that kids get into during their school days, mountain biking can continue as they grow older. It is an individual activity that doesn’t require being on a team and it has the added benefit of being outdoors.”
The Laramie Youth Cycling clinic kicked off Thursday, but Dywan said they’ll still accept participants because they really enjoy seeing children on bikes. While BikeNet has had youth clinics in the past, Dywan said the program this year is more organized and structured.
“Before we had a somewhat laissez faire approach,” Dewan said. “This year we have a more structured teaching plan and will go over everything including basic bike maintenance, trail etiquette and, of course, mastering some of the skills involved with mountain biking.”
Avid local mountain biker, Lisa Marno, is planning the coaching program and putting together lesson plans and progressions. According to Marno, mountain biking is a skill-based sport. In other words, it takes practice, practice and more practice.
“In the program we’ll teach skills in a safe and comfortable environment,” Marno said. “It takes practice to become proficient and progress to a harder skill level. The great part: you can build your skills infinitely on a bike. There’s always something new to learn.”
Marno is one of 11 experienced Laramie mountain bikers who are volunteering to instruct youth who want to learn mountain biking skills. The clinic meets every Thursday from now through June 22 from 4:30-6 p.m. The group meets at Kiowa Park, located on the northeast edge of Laramie and adjacent to a section of State Land where trails offer excellent opportunities to learn mountain biking skills.
The clinic ends with a celebration, meeting from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. June 24 at Curt Gowdy State Park. The mountain bike trails there are well known and even have earned the “epic” designation from the International Mountain Bicycling Association.
Dywan said the program is open to grades 3 through 12 but all participants will be put in small groups based on ability and age.
“The groups will be age appropriate and also based on ability,” Dywan said. “We have plenty of trained coaches so we can really offer excellent personalized instruction.”
Cost of the clinic is $40 for current BikeNet members and $50 for soon-to-be BikeNet members since the cost includes BikeNet membership. Scholarships are also available through BikeNet.
Youth who don’t own a mountain bike will be loaned one during the clinic. Dywan said many of the coaches own extra bikes and other bikes are available through the generous support of the Pedal House and All Terrain Sports.
All participants must wear a helmet. Those who don’t own one will be given one, free of charge, through BikeNet. Dywan said that is also true of any young cyclist. Helmets are regularly given away at local events and at area schools.
All clinic participants need to wear clothes that are appropriate for the weather and covered-toe shoes. Bring a bike tube to learn how to fix a flat, and have a way to carry water. Refreshments will be provided.
Amber Travsky earned master’s degrees in wildlife biology and exercise physiology from the University of Wyoming. She runs her own environmental consulting company, as well as a martial arts school. She authored “Mountain Biking Wyoming” and “Mountain Biking Jackson Hole,” both published by Falcon Books. She is the tour director and founder of the Tour de Wyoming bicycle tour, which crosses the state every July.