What: Singletrack Mountain Bike Adventures 20th anniversary
When: June 1, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Various trails in Nederland, The Tin Shed coffee shop, Rueben’s Burger Bistro in Boulder
More info: http://smba.lertprograms.com/
In the parking lot of the Betasso Preserve just west of Boulder a group of kids from various Boulder-area schools stood astride their mountain bikes looking up at their leader, Singletrack Mountain Bike Adventures program director Jessie Vogt.
“Bike check!” Vogt shouted. ” Who wants to start it?”
It’s part of the SMBA’s pre-ride ritual. Shouts from the crowd of young cyclists start coming.
“First, air pressure,” shouts one.
“Next, brakes,” shouts another.
The kids work their way through the alphabet, checking their chain, crank and cleats next, followed by their derailleurs and finishing on “emergency” — does everyone have water, food and some sort of first aid kit?
They take off in two groups — one that will ride back down to Boulder, and another that will drive back up to SMBA’s Nederland base.
This year, SMBA celebrates its 20th anniversary as one of the longest running youth development programs for mountain biking in the state.
World champion mountain biker and University of Colorado graduate Heather Irmiger still remembers the first summer camp she did with SMBA, somewhere around 1994 or 1995, when she was 15.
“Matt Tomasko was running it out of his Toyota Tacoma,” Irmiger said. “We put our three bikes in the back and he took us out on the trail.”
Tomasko founded SMBA in 1993 and has watched it grow to include summer camps, weekend trips, after school rides, several teams and even clinics for parents who want to keep up with their kids. It’s produced countless professionals like Irmiger who have gone on to win national and world titles in the sport. Leading the charge is SMBA alum and now coach Vogt, who raced for CU and won five national titles before racing professionally for eight years.
Team SMBA has grown from 19 riders in 2010 to over 80 in 2012, Tomasko said. In training, Tomasko and other coaches place heavy emphasis on the sport’s fundamentals and teaching kids how to ride safely and intelligently.
“What started out as a small summer program for kids up in Nederland has really blossomed to become this almost year-round program that offers all sorts of riding for all levels and all disciplines,” Tomasko said. “It’s really grown with the sport of mountain biking. Back 20 years ago, the sport used to just be a single mountain bike but now there’s so many options out there. Our program has kept up with the sport itself.”
Tomasko and Vogt also work hard to teach SMBA riders the importance of stewardship and giving back to the community. This year, SMBA riders and coaches worked three straight days, providing more than 250 hours of trail work with Boulder County Open Space to complete two new sections on the Betasso Link Trail, Vogt said.
On Saturday, SMBA will celebrate its 20 years with a van ride up to Nederland, guided mountain bike rides for all levels, pizza, a band and cake. They’re also auctioning off dates or bike rides with local pros, Vogt said.
Emilie Young, mother to 14-year-old Lillie Bahrami, said working with SMBA has taught Bahrami how to take care of herself on the bike.
“When she’s with her dad, he’s more likely to take care of her gear and take care of stuff for her,” Young said. “Here she has to be responsible for her own stuff.”
Every time she picks Bahrami up from practice, Young said she hears about a new skill her daughter has learned.
“In particular she’s very happy that she’s learned how to pump,” Young said. “You weight your bike so then you can pop up over obstacles.”
Anna Hastings, 12, is going into 7th grade at Nederland Middle Senior High this fall. She’s been riding with SMBA for two years, though she’s been mountain biking with her family for most of her life.
Hastings said she pushes herself harder when she’s with SMBA, and working with the program has given her more confidence in herself as a rider.
“I’m a little bit better at stepping out of my comfort zone,” she said. “It’s a great way to unwind from a long day.”
Another SMBA veteran, 10-year-old Ari Soto, said she “couldn’t really ride a bike” when she first started with the program three years ago.
Now, she says she’s a much better rider and has tons of friends to have fun riding with in Boulder and Nederland outside of her friends at school.
Lately, Soto has been working hard on cornering. As for whether or not she gets scared speeding downhill over rocky terrain she replied:
“Sometimes, but it’s best not to be.”
–Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.