Helmets were snapped on as kids from all ages gathered at the Michigan Tech trails to learn the ins and outs of mountain biking in the Copper Country.
The program was created by the Western U.P. Health Department as an introduction to the summer biking season for beginner and intermediate riders.
“This area has had youth mountain bike outings since probably the early 2000s and this year some of the people that have held them in the past weren’t going to do it. So we decided to do it since we have so many mountain bike trails here and it’s just a great physical activity for kids,” health educator Arnie Kinnunen said.
Kinnunen is organizing the no-cost program and he says the benefits of mountain biking are wide-ranging.
“It’s great for your cardiovascular system,” he said. “It gives kids an opportunity to be outdoors. They’re away from the streets. And they can work on many of their skills including balance, eye-hand coordination, and help improve their confidence level.”
Each session starts off with a skills demo where the instructors evaluate the abilities of the riders so they can accurately split them up into groups. They also learn about biking safety and how to use those tips when riding.
Bridget Durocher, one of the instructors for the program, said the turn out has been great, which shows how popular biking has become.
“I would say mountain biking is one of the premier sports up here in the Copper Country, especially with Copper Harbor growing as it is,” she said. “Nationally, it’s growing and growing so we’re trying to get these kids interested and getting them some experience right from the start so that they feel experienced and able to go head and go out and bike on their own as they become teenagers.”
The sessions alternate locations between Michigan Tech’s trails and Swedetown Trails, but by the end of the program, riders will be able to go on any trail they want.