Confidence building, safe risk-taking, balance, coordination, love-of-the-outdoors, making new friends — these are some of the hallmarks of the programs and camps for kids offered by Rad Adventures. Rad Adventures Camps offers more than just time exploring and expanding skills on bikes. Words :: Kristin Schnelten.
Rad Adventures has been inspiring, teaching and encouraging kids for more than three years in and around the Town of the Blue Mountains and Collingwood, and is now expanding its brand of fun into five new locations this summer: Midhurst, Creemore, Meaford, Owen Sound and Port Elgin. After a year of isolation, lockdowns and endless screen time, it’s looking like it’s going to be a great summer. Get outside! Ride your bike! Make new friends! Learn new skills! And thankfully, mountain biking is the type of sport that lends itself to social distancing.
Laura Gallagher, Managing Director and Partner at Rad, is pumped for the summer ahead at the new locations: “We’ve chosen locations next to trail systems — some of them old railway lines, others single track. And in every location, we’ll set up dozens of Radtrax features and rollers, always a favourite with the kids.”
Radtrax — Rad Adventures’ signature mobile jumps, rollers and banked corners — are integral to the programming. “Some of the kids, even the tiny ones, just want to play on the ramps the entire day,” laughs Laura. “They have so much fun, doing jumps and flowing on their bikes on the Radtrax.”
Rad Adventures’ coaches do eventually pry campers away from the Radtrax and head to the trails, putting their new skills to work in single-file fashion on the dirt, rocks, roots and berms. The group emerges from the forest throughout the day for socially distanced summer camp fun: scavenger hunts, games and (at some locations) swimming. But at its core, Rad Adventures is all about biking.
Most campers have already mastered basic riding in their driveways and neighbourhoods before they arrive; it’s the specific mountain biking skill set Rad aims to grow. The curriculum includes at least one new skill every day, and Laura says,
“It’s really all about building confidence. We have some students who arrive at camp quite timid and risk-averse, but after a week, they’ve learned the concept of safely taking a controlled risk. That’s such an important thing for kids to learn.”
Learning in a kid-filled environment, from wicked-cool, enthusiastic teachers, seems to be the key. Avid mountain biker and parent Cyrus Irani hoped to pass his own skills onto his son, but Mac wasn’t exactly digging Dad’s teacherly moments. Frustration reigned. “It’s like anything else,” says Cyrus. “He needed to learn from someone besides me.” Three years ago a neighbour recommended Rad Adventures, Cyrus registered Mac, and Mac hasn’t missed a session yet. Cyrus admits, “He definitely has the mountain biking disease now.”
“He really feels like he owns it,” says Cyrus. Encouraged by his Rad coaches, last summer Mac and his dad built trails and features, filling their town-size yard. The two ride together every day, seeking out new trails and learning every twist of their local single track. “He’s developed so much independence, so much confidence — and he’s even passing on new skills to me now.”
Positioning your body for rollers and turns, learning to properly engage your bike’s components, selecting your line — many of the skills kids bring home from camp aren’t as bike-specific as they sound. “On a mountain bike your knees are bent, in an aggressive position. That ‘Ready’ position is a foundation, where you find balance that’s transferable to other sports,” says Laura. “Kids are just naturally in that position on a mountain bike, and they’re having so much fun. Now they’re learning some balance, and gaining confidence in their ability to move in that type of position.”
When it comes down to it, mountain biking is just a blast. And the better you are at it, the more fun you’re going to have. Sharing the stoke — the fun and the passion — with friends and family is part of what makes the sport so addictive. The mountain bike community around these parts is growing, in no small measure from the work of Rad. And, if truth be told, Mac is in on it, too.
“He’s just an ambassador for mountain biking now, introducing new friends to his favourite trails, sharing his skills, helping to protect the forests,” says Cyrus. “We were new here when he started, and it really helped him become familiar with the community and make new friendships. Now he’s all about encouraging other kids to take up riding.”