Instructor Savannah Rice has some basic advice for kids and adults who are interested in learning to mountain bike: “Go for it!”
“There are a lot of people willing to help you learn,” she says. “Don’t be intimidated.”
Rice, 25, has been teaching cycling classes and camps for Boise Parks & Recreation since 2009. “I love teaching because the kids are awesome, and they are happy to be outside.”
She marvels at the skills even young children can develop on over-sized bikes with just 4-5 gears. “It’s a lot of fun to see how much they can improve,” she says.
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A typical class will start with basic skills taught on level ground. Topics include how to shift gears and ride tight corners. For adults, she’ll also cover routine maintenance, such as how to change a tire or lubricate a bike chain.
After assessing the group, Rice will pick suitable trails to ensure no one is overwhelmed by the single-track experience.
Rice got her start in cycling at age 16 with the Boise Young Riders Development Squad (BYRDS) led by coach Douglas Tobin. “I grew up watching the Tour de France and always wanted to give it a try,” she says.
At BYRDS, Rice developed a love of racing and a rapport with the other competitors. “I learned a ton. We had excellent coaches,” she says. “And I am still friends with my teammates — it was like a family.”
Teaching gives Rice a way to share her love for the sport. She has taught women’s classes, kids camps and parent-child programs. “It’s nice to see parents interact with kids,” she says. “Parents can see what kinds of trails the kids can do.”
About five years ago, Boise State University professor Susan Shadle and her son, Noah, signed up for a parent-child mountain biking class taught by Rice.
Shadle hoped the class would teach Noah the fundamentals and give him experience riding.
“After all, it would seem a shame to grow up in Boise and not take advantage of the great terrain we have here,” she says. Noah, 16, now rides regularly as part of his cross training for the Bogus Basin Nordic ski team.
The class offered a balance of riding with instruction and technique, says Shadle. “It was appropriately paced for newbies. Some of the parents were mountain bikers, but it seemed nice for them to have someone else instructing their kids.”
It was a great start for what could be a lifetime sport for Shadle. “While I’ve not taken up riding regularly, I do go out occasionally with friends — my son would now leave me in the dust — and at least I’m not starting from scratch,” she says.
Amy Stahl is the community relations manager for Boise Parks and Recreation and the co-chairwoman of Let’s Move Boise.