When the Mount Si Mountain Bike Club started in 2012, it was too small to actually compete. The six team members practiced together and occasionally with the Skyline High School team they were attached to for competitions, conducted under Washington Student Cycling League rules.
When the 2016-17 season ended in October, the team boasted more than 40 members, boys and girls, high school and middle school, with plans to recruit more of them all, but especially girls, for the start of the next season in February.
“It’s grown by leaps and bounds,” said Eric Yotz, one of about a dozen parent volunteers and a club board member for Mount Si Mountain Biking, or Mt. Si MTB for short. From what he called its “ragtag” beginnings with just the six high schoolers, “bikes in various states of repair and only a few adult volunteers,” the team has also evolved into a nonprofit organization governed by a volunteer board and competing nearly year-round.
Ragtag though they were, after that first season — February through May in the Student Cycling League, the team had real momentum.
“By the end of May, our kids didn’t want to stop,” said Yotz, who as a volunteer led many of the training rides. “They wanted to keep riding, and we did, too. While most teams (in the league) basically disband until the next year, what we did is we decided to become a nonprofit, get our own insurance, and just keep it going almost all year round.”
That opened the door for the team to really grow, Yotz said. “We keep riding, so we get riders from other teams. Issaquah comes and rides with us throughout the rest of the year. We’re open to any rider from anywhere.”
The rest of the year, the team competes in a variety of events, Yotz said. Competitions are by age group and the sport’s popularity means there are plenty of options for the team.
Option is an important element of Mt. Si MTB. Only two things are required to be part of this group: Payment of a $60 annual fee (which can be waived or subsidized if the rider can’t afford it); and signing of a liability waiver. The weekly practices, usually Friday afternoons when school lets out early, are not mandatory, nor are the weekend rides. There are no meetings to attend, no competition requirements and no geographical restrictions on team members, such as the school district divisions imposed by the Student Cycling League.
“At the beginning and the end of the day, it’s all about teaching our kids how to have fun on their bikes in the outdoors,” said Yotz. “We teach them skills, we teach them safety, and we try to teach them some common sense, as well.”
“It’s just remarkable how quickly these kids pick these things up, and at this point, we have some of the top riders in the state,” he added.
The main team practices on Fridays are on nearby trails, led by groups of two adults, who take the student groups on various rides according to their abilities. Yotz feels that the number of parents willing to take on this responsibility is another key to the club’s success.
“We have so many active adult volunteers that are ride leaders for us,” he said. “We can handle a lot of riders, divide them into groups by ability… that allows the outright beginners to go out and have a good day. And our more advanced riders, we can take them out and they can be challenged, or they can challenge us.”
The club also has excellent sponsoring partners, Yotz said. Singletrack Cycles in North Bend, Northwest Bicycles in Snoqualmie and Gerk’s in Issaquah, all offer discounted services and merchandise for team members and some have previously loaned a bike out to a rider for the season.
“We really don’t want cost to ever be a factor for kids who want to ride,” Yotz said.
The team celebrated its growth and the past season’s wins as part of a special movie night on Dec. 12 at the North Bend Theatre. A slide show of team photos played on the big screen as the team celebrated. The event included a screening of the new mountain-biking film, “The Moment.”
Mt. Si MTB will start a new season in February. Stay informed on team events at www.facebook.com/mtsimtb.