Wow! That’s all I can say after The Ride Guides first week teaching pumptrack skills to youth in Santa Cruz. The stoke from our crew, both coaches and students, is palpable and the rewards have been huge.
The Westside Pumptrack project was spearheaded by Another Bike Shop (ABS), designed by Kyle Jameson and opened in November of 2013 with the support of a number of local mountain bike businesses and Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz (see Pumped Up!). In January the cool characters at ABS invited us to teach riding skills to youth at the new city park. The program is sponsored by Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation and fulfills The Ride Guides’ mission to develop not only rider skills but also environmental stewardship.
My underlying hope with The Ride Guides is that by helping individuals to become more confident on mountain bikes that they will have more fun riding and so spend more time on our trails. More time on the trails creates the opportunity for greater appreciation of our wilderness resources and in turn more support of environmental initiatives (Dig, Donate, and Advocate). My personal concern is that as youth interact more with technology that they interact less with healthy outdoor recreation and socialization. Bikes done right can help fix that.
Now back to the dirt…about halfway through the class we line the crew up on the top of the first berm, a beautiful sweeping 180 degree corner that stands about four feet high as Kyle Jameson, also one of our coaches, prepares to roll in. I lead in with, “Kyle is going to show us how to rail this corner. I’m pretty sure that you’ll never see anyone ride this better so you’re going to want to check out what he does. “ After all, Kyle is a professional dirt jumper and track builder and has mad skills. He accelerates through the first three rollers and comes ripping into the berm at our feet, his bars nearly perpendicular to the ground as he pumps through the corner with no apparent effort. The most impressive bit of the demo though is the sound that his tires make as he accelerates through the corner, a “verrrippp” sort of noise that is now lodged in my memory. The master painting on his canvas, complete with sound effects.
You’d likely think that would be the highlight of the class but here comes the kicker; a bit later while rolling up the starting hill I catch the end of an interaction between Kyle and one of our students. The student asks Kyle what his favorite video game is and Kyle responds, “ I don’t play video games, I spend most of my free time on the bike”. Of course I can’t let that window pass so I add, “And that’s the reason why Kyle is a professional mountain biker. His focus and passion for riding bikes has driven him to the top”.
When I started The Ride Guides with a few friends it came from the seed of Inspired Stewardship. It fulfilled my desire to instill environmental values in recreational athletes and to meet a need in Santa Cruz. Starting a new business isn’t easy and it’ll be a while before we break even but at that moment I felt like the most successful entrepreneur alive. I honestly didn’t expect to feel so rewarded at our very first pump track class.
My heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone who has been involved with the Westside Pumptrack and all The Ride Guides for making this a reality, viva mountain biking in Santa Cruz!