A group of young girls ages 6 to 11 lined up with their bikes at Ramsay Park on Sunday afternoon, eager to learn about riding the park’s new pumptrack.
The free clinic was organized by Bike Santa Cruz County with the help of the city of Watsonville, along with the Santa Cruz Mountains Trails Stewardship (SCMTS), formerly known as Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz.
Organizer Drew Rogers said that it was the first official event held at the track, which celebrated its grand opening in March.
“It’s a great way to break [the track] in,” Rogers said. “By empowering young girls.”
The girls learned everything from terminology and bike tech to the basics of riding the track from Abby Hippely, an experienced mountain bike athlete and trainer. They started in the parking lot, practicing stopping and starting drills, balancing and how to correctly stand up on their pedals.
Then they progressed to the pumptrack, where Hippely demonstrated before she let each girl take a shot at riding through the turns.
A pumptrack is a circuit of hills, banked turns and features designed to be ridden completely by riders “pumping”—generating momentum by up and down body movements, instead of pedaling or pushing.
Joey Barrera was present Sunday to watch his daughter Jordyn, 8, participate in the event. He said she had tried out the dirt pumptrack at Pinto Lake, but hadn’t had the best experience.
“We saw this clinic as the perfect opportunity to help her learn more, and get more confident,” he said.
Carlos Olivarez also attended to watch his niece, 6-year-old Maya. He said they had visited the track earlier that week to practice.
“She wanted to get the initial fear out of the way before the event,” Olivarez said. “She kept progressing … every time she tried she got a little further on the track. Then she was just going all over. It was great.”
In addition to the clinic, various organizations set up informational booths on Sunday, including Bike Santa Cruz County, Trips for Kids and The Ride Guides.
Matt De Young, executive director of SCMTS, said he was glad that the event came together.
“Getting women and girls out there, comfortable on the track and trails is so important,” he said.
SCMTS officially announced its name change and rebranding on Tuesday. De Young said that it was due to a gradual shift in focus for the organization. It began as a mountain bike social club in 1997, but has become a key player in trail stewardship and construction throughout the county. They now work with state parks, local land trusts and cities, Cal Fire and others to create trails for biking, hiking, equestrian and more.
“We’ve been feeling that our name really isn’t telling the whole story of what we do,” De Young said. “We’ve really expanded our focus to being on trail stewardship and development. This [name] change reflects that.”
But mountain biking will still be a major focus for SCMTS, De Young said. They will continue advocating and fundraising for, building and maintaining biking trails and tracks, as well as holding more events like Sunday’s clinic.
“We build these facilities and trails so that these types of things can happen,” he said. “We want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy them.”