Mountain Biking is a big draw for families who live and play in Transylvania County. With vast community support, public schools are making the sport accessible every year to new students who embrace it for life.
On Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, at 5 p.m. the TCS Cycling Club will hold an open meeting for all interested riders, families, and community partners at Brevard Middle School. The meeting will provide students, plus anyone from the community who wants to support cycling for students, their next opportunity to join the club that spawned a movement.
Now in its fifth year, the Transylvania County Schools Cycling Club began with a few faculty members at Brevard and Rosmanhigh schools who wanted to expose kids to cycling. The idea was to support students who wanted a new way to get outdoors, then help them identify a group to ride with and provide support.
According to Brevard High School teacher Kevin Spradlin, one of the original faculty organizers, TCS Cycling met those goals early on.
"We rode once a week at various locations," he said. "In a place like Brevard, where do you start? With so much to choose from, students were often amazed at some of the cool spots they were riding right in their backyard."
Generous community support helped the club engage students who might have missed out, and keep them coming back as well.
"Sycamore let us use their rental fleet the first year, which sometimes meant the shop getting 10-15 rental bikes ready for our crew to head out," said Spradlin. "The next year, Wes Dickson donated six new bikes for the club to use as needed."
Coach Peter Haile, with racing and coaching experience at the collegiate level, serves a vital role for riders.
Accompanying students on the rides is also a valuable gift from the community. Consistent supporters include faculty members like Amy Schoenacher from Rosman High, and community members like Bill Tellman from Bracken Mountain Bakery, and professional guides from The Bike Farm.
Noelle Khare, a teacher at Brevard Middle School, saw the success of the club and joined up to provide access for younger students, starting three years ago. "She really jumped in, and since then it's taken off like crazy," added Spradlin.
The roster has climbed to roughly 50 students from around Transylvania County Schools.
Khare said recruiting sixth-graders was a great way to attract members, since eligibility for interscholastic sports doesn't start until seventh grade. This has created a unique window to teach and reinforce some of the most important lessons cycling has to offer.
"Of course, the reason for the club is to get kids out on bikes," she said. "Kids love riding with their friends, doing what people come to Brevard to do. We have a chance to teach stewardship, and as a teacher I love to work with them in a different environment altogether. It gives them a chance to school me for a change!"
Support from the school system to buy uniforms, and the efforts of Blue Ridge Adventures and other partners to nurture theCarolina Youth Mountain Bike League (CYMBL), helped the club take on some aspects of a team.
Though there is no official sanction for school cycling teams locally, Khare said the success of the club helped to inspire theCarolina Interscholastic Cycling League (CICL), an organization in Henderson County which is working to bring competitive cycling to area schools.
Connecting with the cycling team at Brevard College, observing their level of competition and watching them achieve on a national stage, has helped club riders see where cycling could take them after high school. For some, that has already meant cycling or being recruited for college teams, or working at local cycling manufacturers.
"Joining the club has improved kids' sense of self-worth," said Khare. "It keeps them active, and outside away from screens. And each ride is like a trip through nature. Research shows this vastly improves a child's ability to learn and focus."
With help from chaperones and volunteers, each ride usually features a student-to-adult ratio of roughly 3-to-1. Of the 50 students in the club, a typical ride might draw 20 or more riders.
Getting to the rides can be a challenge, but "parents are amazing and extremely supportive," said Khare. Carpools have been organized to help members get together for rides, which meet under close adult supervision throughout Transylvania County.
Next steps for the club include giving back to the community in thanks for the support, and looking at younger students who also want to join.
"We have had some of our riders work as cycling mentors with Trips for Kids out of Asheville," Khare said. "I'd like to trickle down into elementary schools, and offer a 4th-5th grade program with high school kids as mentors. The community has given so much; I want us to get involved in giving back."
Membership in TCS Cycling Club is open to students of Transylvania County Schools. To learn more about TCS Cycling, come to the meeting or contact advisor Noelle Khare at (828) 884-2091, email nkhare@ tcsnc.org.