Remember summer camp? When I was a kid, I always went to camp in the summer. I never knew if it was my idea or my parents’ – camp was a welcomed break from bored, overactive kids. Whatever the reason, I liked going to camp. I liked being outdoors, swimming a lot, and learning camp songs. Each summer before camp, I cheerfully marked and packed everything I owned, except my bike. Like my faithful dog, it stayed behind, waiting for my return. Bike camps hadn’t been invented yet.
Today, there are all kinds of camps, focusing on specific sports or skills. There’s soccer, horseback riding, science, computer, music, and biathlon camps. And, there are bicycling camps. I decided to find out more about these. With a little research, I found three in the New England area – two in New Hampshire, one in Vermont. There may be more out there, but these were close.
The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) offers Teen Wilderness Adventures, focusing on specific outdoor skills. There are two “Mountain Biking in the White Mountains” overnight camps – one in July (8-12) and one in August (12-16).
AMC partnered with Great Glen Trails to give teens the chance to “hone their skills on dirt roads, single track, and double track” and to learn how “to shift like a pro, cross streams and logs, make field repairs, climb and descend with confidence, and be comfortable with varying terrain.” The five day camp includes instruction, camping, meals, and transportation, as well as group equipment and bike rentals if necessary. The cost is $1092 fro AMC Youth members and $1201 for nonmembers, with scholarships available. Two AMC staff members work in conjunction with a Great Glen Trails Guide, and group size is limited to provide lots of individual attention. These camps are for beginner to intermediate riders ages 13-16.
Last Tuesday, I met up with July’s group at Great Glen Trails. Though it was raining, the nine campers’ spirits didn’t seem dampened. While the crew cleaned up after lunch, Great Glen’s Guide, Meghan Skidmore, challenged the kids to a “slow race” where the winner was the last one across the line. The boys used “track stands” and “bunny hops” to keep their bikes upright, but barely moving forward.
When the race concluded, we rode back to the lodge to fill Camelbaks and I had a chance to talk with the campers. They came from all over New England –Bangor and Fryeburg, Maine, Hamilton (3), Newton, and Acton, Massachusetts, Portsmouth and Tamworth, NH. Their mountain bike experience varied – some were beginners, one was a Kennett Mountain Bike Team member. One of the Hamilton riders was an experienced road biker, but wanted to try mountain biking. He figured the White Mountains was the best place to do it. A repeat camper said he came back because the camp was fun and he learned a lot about riding.
We mounted our bikes to pre-ride the Summer Mountain Bike Series short race course. Along the way, Meghan discussed strategies to handle single track challenges like roots, rocks, and slick bridges. She showed long and short course racers where their courses diverged. AMC staffers, Peter and Althea, followed behind, making sure everyone was okay. The afternoon ended with 7 of the campers racing either the short or long course, while the others cheered them on.
The camp schedule consisted of two days at Great Glen, camping at the Caddidlehopper Station, and riding the roads and single track, practicing mountain bike and mechanical skills. Wednesday, the campers headed to Moose Brook State Park to try out their single track. That night, they camped at Covered Bridge Campground on the Kanc. Thursday, the riders rode in Conway, exploring “Sticks and Stones”, the Eastside Trails, and the Moat trail system. By Friday, those campers had sampled almost all the mountain biking the area had to offer and learned a few things about riding. And, yes, they had fun, too.
South of here, in New Boston, NH there’s another bike camp, Riverview Bicycle Camp. In its second year, this day camp (8a.m.-4p.m.) is “designed for kids with an interest in bike riding of all types. RVBC provides a balance of bicycle riding with traditional summer camp experience.” Campers age 7-16 can ride road, mountain, or BMX bikes. Riders practice their skills in an indoor arena, or on a pumptrack, rail trail, race course, or single track. In addition to riding skills, campers learn safe bike handling, bike maintenance, trail work and pumptrack design. There are two summer sessions – July 29-August 2, and August 5-9, for a cost of $300 for one week and $500 for two. There are sibling discounts, loaner bikes, and scholarships, too. Staff Members include veteran coaches, life long cyclists, and University of New Hampshire Cycling team members. Go to www.riverviewbicyclecamp.com to check it out.
West of the Valley, in Bradford, Vermont, Coyote Hill Mountain Bike Camp has adult and youth camps. They run two kids’ day camps (ages 8-12) – one in Hanover, and one at Abel Mountain. At Coyote Hill Youth overnight camps (ages 12-18), campers “learn bicycle mechanics, practice skills on the slalom course, and help build trails.” Trail riders and downhillers can find sessions that suit them. Check them out at: www.coyotehillcamp.com.
It’s summer – time to go to camp and ride!
Reminder: Local Family racing options:
Great Glen Summer Mountain Bike Series– Tuesdays, July 9-August 27, 3:30-7
Red Jersey Summer Series-Thursdays, July 18-August 1, race at 6.
Published in the Mountain Ear by Sally McMurdo