The variety of bicycle trails around Eureka Springs attracts riders from all over the country, but relatively few local youth take advantage of this resource. Shawna Miller, an avid local rider, wants to begin promoting mountain biking for young riders and has launched an ambitious plan to have a varsity team this fall.
Miller teaches physics and chemistry at Eureka Springs High School, so she sees all the students in the high school every day. She would like to see some of those kids pedaling their way through the 80 miles of professionally built mountain bike trails surrounding the city. “I biked hundreds of miles last year on local trails, and I never once saw a local kid biking,” she said. “This needs to change!”
Miller has immediate and long-range plans to put more kids on two wheels. An upcoming event will give people the opportunity to try out a bike with expert guidance. On Saturday, May 1, anyone interested in mountain biking can take advantage of Try Out a Bike Day on the trails near the Great Passion Play. The afternoon will be divided into sessions from 1-3 p.m. and from 3-5 p.m. “We will have bikes of all sizes available for people to try,” Miller said. “We hope they’ll come out and learn a little about bike safety and discover how awesome this sport is!”
Anyone interested in this clinic can sign up on the Eureka Springs Mountain Bike Facebook page at ESMBteam.
Miller has become a strong advocate for bicycle recreation, especially for youth. “Kids need bikes, protective gear, and someone to show them how to approach the trails in a safe manner,” she said. “Local kids sometimes do not have some of the amenities found in other areas, but Eureka has unmatched resources for mountain bikers.” Miller noted that this area also has many local cyclists willing to share their knowledge.
Any exercise will benefit children, but Miller explained the research that shows particular advantages for bicycling. Young riders see increased attention spans and more positive moods, in addition to overall fitness benefits. Miller sees other potential developments from this program, too. “Students will learn how to maintain and repair their bikes,” she said. “They’ll gain an appreciation for the natural world, improve their balance, and have a whole lot of fun!”
She also expects students to help maintain local trails, a constant chore needed to keep the trails open.
While the general public may not think of mountain biking as a traditional school sport like football or basketball, Miller explained some of the important advantages of competitive cycling. “This sport is not just about winning and losing. No one sits on the bench, and everyone can participate in every race. Mountain biking attracts many students that would not otherwise join a school sport,” she said, adding that the structure and discipline of this sport can help kids navigate a difficult time in their lives.
Miller hopes to train with student cyclists throughout the summer in preparation for a varsity team for grades 7-12. The team will be a member of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. NICA provides extensive training and background checks for all coaches, insurance for student athletes, competitive meets for regional teams, and scholarship programs. “The NICA standards will ensure that our practices are safe and organized and that the student athletes are well taken care of,” Miller said.
A fundraiser currently going on to help buy necessary equipment for the team. More info at classy.org/fundraiser/3165049.