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Wheels in motion

Although Ashland has advanced mountain biking trails above town, its lack of beginner and intermediate trails is prompting a push for the city to build a skills park and “pump track” for younger riders to safely learn the sport and make friends in the biking community.

To that end, the Rogue Valley Mountain Bike Association staged an inaugural Kids Mountain Biking Clinic Sunday at Lincoln School, attracting more than 100 children plus their parents, so they could zig-zag on a cone course, practice standing up on bikes, roll over ramps, brake for stop signs and ride a narrow balance beam (close to the ground).

“This gives kids a chance to be outdoors in nature — in this digital age where it’s becoming increasingly hard to do that,” says RVMBA treasurer and organizer Casey Botts. “Kids do better when they’re interacting with peers. They don’t always want to do things with mom and dad. Peers challenge each other and build peer support and confidence and see the results of doing something they set their mind to.”

At Sunday’s event, for kids 3 to 8 years old, one child who had only biked on training wheels completely learned to ride and was engaging the course, he said.

Dad Steven Crowthers said, “I loved it. My daughter (Alice, age 3) loved it. It’s really exciting to see her play and see all the other parents. I want to see the cycling community advocate for introductory riding growth in safe ways. Children learn lifelong habits of a healthy lifestyle this way.”

“It was great,” said parent George Dohrmann. “My kids had a blast. It’s really hard to teach young kids how to mountain bike. The town has lots of advanced trails in the watershed but not a lot of space for the basics. This was a great opportunity to work on fundamental skills, obstacles, jumps — and an opportunity to connect with other parents who are doing the same thing.”

Ashland mountain bikers are a tight-knit group, and the RVMBA email list goes to 400 people, touching off word-of-mouth and allowing organizing of the clinic with no advertising, says Botts.

They’re asking city Parks and Recreation to look at possible park sites for a pump track, which is a circuit of rollers, banked turns and features designed to be ridden by riders “pumping,” that is, creating momentum by up-and-down body movements, in addition to pedaling.

Such skills parks, he notes, “are springing up all over the West Coast ... and it’s something Ashland needs as it will serve whole families and attract a lot of people here to bike.”

RVMBA also seeks creation of beginner mountain bike trails at the edge of Lithia Park, just below Glenview Street, a little-used area where they can’t be heard and, Botts said, now has much trash dumping, poison oak and homeless camping. It would be “low angle,” not for fast biking, and would be close to town, accessible to bikers who can’t bike up to White Rabbit Trail.

Bikers presented proposals at the Parks and Recreation Commission’s goal-setting meeting and they got on the list, with the skills park at No. 4 and the park trails at No. 8, he says. The group sees much community discussion and education ahead, as “we’re building a foundation to be part of the stewards of the watershed and working to support the needs of cyclists.”

The nonprofit RVMBA is a chapter of the International Mountain Bike Association. It protects and expands bike trails from Ashland to Grants Pass. It has proposals with the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and cities of Ashland and Jacksonville. They’re working with Ashland Woodlands and Trails Association to expand the trails in the Ashland watershed. In Jacksonville they’re working with BLM and the city to create a mountain bike park in and above Jacksonville’s Forest Park.

More events and clinics are planned. For details, see www.rvmba.org.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

The Rogue Valley Mountain Bike Association staged a{ } Kids Mountain Biking Clinic Sunday at Lincoln School.