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Canadian Cycling Magazine - - FEATURE -

oughly five years ago, kids from First Na­tions com­mu­nity in Boothroyd, B.C., were tear­ing apart fences and ex­ca­vat­ing around the base of the fire hy­drants in town. Of­fi­cials in Boothroyd looked into where the wood and dirt were go­ing. They dis­cov­ered the kids were build­ing struc­tures and jumps to ride their bikes on. In too many First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties, kids aren’t able to di­rect their en­ergy in healthy ways. Band lead­er­ship knew they had to find a way to help the youth get what they wanted, while keep­ing fences in­tact and fire hy­drants firmly in the ground.

Dur­ing meet­ings be­tween band lead­er­ship and plan­ning ex­perts, the band man­ager Ter­rie David­son leaned over to ask one of the com­mu­nity plan­ners – Pa­trick Lu­cas – a ques­tion: “What do you know about moun­tain bik­ing?”

Lu­cas, who was help­ing to cre­ate pro­grams and fa­cil­i­ties to im­prove the com­mu­nity, was a rider. He didn’t, how­ever, feel a strong enough con­nec­tion to the moun­tain bike com­mu­nity to be able to of­fer qual­i­fied ex­per­tise. Rec­og­niz­ing the op­por­tu­nity, he be­gan to reach out and ex­pand his net­work of con­tacts to pro­fes­sional trail builders, coaches and com­mu­nity builders. Lu­cas also reached out to the founder of the Sprock­ids pro­gram, Doug Detwiller, to dis­cuss how his pro­gram might fit in with the First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties where Lu­cas was work­ing.

Detwiller is a re­tired teacher who had spent each Mon­day morn­ing telling his stu­dents all about his week­end moun­tain bik­ing or ski­ing. The kids loved it be­cause it de­layed the start of school work. They would en­cour­age Detwiller to tell more sto­ries. Quickly, he re­al­ized that his sto­ries weren’t just a way to de­lay the start of the day, but also ground upon which he could build a bet­ter re­la­tion­ship with his stu­dents. Detwiller got some of his more chal­leng­ing stu­dents out on bikes and led them on rides.

“It was re­ally great for the kids to go ride through mud and hoot and holler and not have any­one look at them funny,” said Detwiller. “We were all just out hav­ing fun, and there was no judg­ment.”

As the Sprock­ids pro­gram evolved through­out the 1990s, the focus was re­fined to ad­dress is­sues around self-es­teem and anger man­age­ment. “As you start climb­ing ‘Anger Moun­tain,’ we try to help kids rec­og­nize it as it’s hap­pen­ing and then dif­fuse it – through moun­tain bik­ing,” said Detwiller. “It’s a re­ally pow­er­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. With Sprock­ids, we’ve also been able to build trust and ca­ma­raderie.”

For­get what you know about moun­tain bikes and what they’re sup­posed to do. Close your eyes, and think about ca­reen­ing down a slope, splash­ing through a pud­dle, and then laugh­ing as all your friends do the same. Imag­ine the hi­lar­i­ous looks of dis­gust on peo­ple’s faces later in the day, peo­ple who have no idea how you got so messy and worn out. Mean­while, you know that you’re too tired to do any­thing but laugh some more. Now think about the bike you rode while doing this. Does it mat­ter if it has a 1-by setup or drop­per post? Is it any par­tic­u­lar wheel size? Prob­a­bly not. Prob­a­bly, the bike you en­vi­sioned is like the you in your imag­i­na­tion, cov­ered in mud. Maybe cer­tain parts don’t work, and maybe you and the bike have scars from pre­vi­ous days of slash­ing and crash­ing down the lo­cal trails.

“At one project, a kid showed up on this bike that was in pretty rough shape,” said Detwiller. “The brakes didn’t work, so he’d just drag his foot on the back tire to slow

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