The Underappreciated SPASH Mountain Biking Club


Athony James

NICA podium at Lowes Creek

Brooke Cherek, Hour 5B

One of the best ways to get involved in your high school community is to join the out-of-class sports and clubs, but sometimes these extracurriculars are very competitive and selective.  The SPASH mountain biking club has recently been gaining traction as an after school club and is on its way to gaining sport status with the school.  Many students don’t know about this club and what they are missing out on.  The SPASH mountain biking club is a great and inclusive team to join and presents opportunities for travel, exercise and getting outdoors.

What is it?

The mountain bike club is different from some other clubs in terms of location and how it operates.  Currently, the club meets after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:00pm through 6:30pm at Standing Rocks County Park where there are a selection of trails from beginner to advanced difficulty.  Students bring their own bikes or rent them for the season through members from the team.  

The actual riding is described by the SPASH mountain biking website as “a cross-country mountain bike team, a specific form of cycling which is set apart from road riding, downhill racing, dual slalom, trials, BMX, cyclo-cross, and track racing.”  This type of riding includes a variety of terrain on single track through the woods including rock gardens, table tops, minor jumps, downhill, and uphill climbs.  

Opportunities and Variety in the Club

The sport itself can engross riders.  Abby Cherek, who has been on the mountain biking team for 2 years, describes riding through the woods as an “exhilarating” experience.  “Everyone is really nice to each other and it’s not too competitive.  It’s also nice because you spend a lot of time outdoors and get to be in nature.” says Abby.  Being a part of the team can allow riders to spend quality time outside, whether it be enjoying the woods or seeing the different wildlife near the trails, such as deer and turkey.

While there are practices during the week, the mountain bike team offers a chance to compete in races across the state.  According to some of the team members, the races are optional but highly encouraged by the coaches.  This means that there is flexibility in the club.  Some riders can train for the races and improve their skills, while others can use practice as a way to get outdoors and stay active while still having some leisure.  While at one of the races, I learned that one member even uses the time to help fix bikes that break down, one of his passions.  

Racing in the mountain bike club gives riders the chance to travel across the state and enjoy different activities there.  This season, members who raced have traveled as far south as Waterloo, Wisconsin near Madison.  While spectating at a race at Fall River, I noticed that there were food trucks and booths throughout the field, making the event seem more like a miniature fair.  Abby mentions that, “The races have a high energy with the music playing and all the people and the food trucks there.”  

New Steps Towards Inclusivity

In recent years, the mountain biking team has been taking steps to encourage riders of different backgrounds to join.  According to Abby, “They make a good effort to involve a lot of different people in the sport, especially female athletes.  One of the big things with mountain biking is that it used to be a male dominated sport, but they’re making new groups that involve more women like GRiT, an acronym for Girls Riding Together, and also special biking clinics just for women.”  This helps get more women to participate in the club.  This overall changes the demographics of the sport nationwide with more clinics and groups for female riders.  Mountain biking is becoming a form of empowerment for young women across the country.  

Another way the club is including people from different backgrounds is helping riders financially.  The team director, Don Edberg, rents out bikes during the season for riders who need one or cannot buy their own.  The equipment for the sport can have a hefty price tag which, understandably, not every high school student has the funds for, especially with minimum wage jobs.  The team also raises money to help pay for registration fees for races, especially if the price is the only barrier keeping someone from competing.   NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association), an organization that develops student athlete programs for mountain biking across the US, says they are, “committed to fair treatment, equal access, opportunity, advancement and elimination of barriers to encourage participation for all.”  Overall, the mountain bike club is flexible to provide students with the equipment and support they need to enjoy the sport.

In high school, joining sports and clubs is a way to express yourself and find new passions in a safe and friendly environment.  The SPASH mountain biking club could be that new passion, so why not try it out?