Mountain Biking Mentor Program Teaches Girls Friendship, Self-Growth

Aug 28, 2020

On a hot afternoon, a group of girls are going in circles playing musical chairs, except there are no chairs. Just orange cones. And they are all on mountain bikes.

Eight-year-old Everleigh Henry is one of the last to finish but misses the cone.

"I like bike riding," said Everleigh. "And I decided I should also learn about how to mountain bike."

Everleigh is one out of 17 girls in the Cody chapter of Little Bellas. The national mountain biking mentor program is a summer program for girls between the ages of seven and 12. It's geared toward kids like Everleigh who want to learn how to mountain bike. They do it through unique games like musical chairs and obstacle courses.

"We had obstacles right here, where we are right now. And we had logs and trees and it went down over there and came back," Everleigh described. "It was really fun."

Nine-year-old Charlotte Quick chimed in, "There's like a rubber chicken you have to ride over. And then you have to limbo under noodles... on your bike. And then you have to go in like, kind of a maze of cones. And then you have to go over some boards," Charlotte said.

Charlotte Quick (left) bikes the musical chairs as the rest of the group dances in the middle.
Credit Kamila Kudelska

Little Bellas makes a point that the adults are mentors not coaches. And Cody mentor Nyla Hurley said the reason is so the kids can have fun, make friends and grow while not focusing entirely on mountain bike skills. Hurley said Cody is lucky to have a great bike trail system, which has created communities already.

"We have a very strong female mountain bike community," she said. "And that's where we kind of were pulling our mentors in from, and a lot of those mentors have kids in the program."

Back when Hurley grew up in Cody, the trail system didn't exist.

"I wish I had something like this when I was growing up here. And I think female friendship, finding a love for a sport that you can continue on your entire life is really important," said Hurley.

That's actually a goal of the national Little Bellas platform.

"It was really born out of an effort to build community on bikes with women," said Sabra Davidson, the executive director and co-founder of Little Bellas. "We just noticed that there weren't women riding together. And in turn, there weren't girls and kids riding together. There was this drop off of kids going out on bikes

Davidson said the idea is for the girls to explore their own backyards.

"We wanted to bring the fun of exploring the outdoors and be with a pack of kids and having that be a part of their day. And teach them something that was inherently hard and challenging," she said.

Davidson said the organization is there to support the local chapters. They provide snacks, jerseys and all the equipment needed for training. In addition, if a girl doesn't have a bike or any type of equipment, Little Bellas provides scholarships and financial support.

Back at practice, mentors checked whether all the girls have their gear on correctly.

"How do we check our helmet? What do we do first? Your peace fingers and then you want to make sure it stays on the noggin," a mentor checked all the helmets.

Once all the girls have their helmets on tight, they decide what they want to do for the afternoon.

"Do you want to just hit the trail and see how far we can go today?"

"Can we do jump lines?" "Let's go see if it's open."

Everleigh biked quickly up the hill and squealed each time she rode down the hill. Something she couldn't do just a couple of weeks earlier.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Kamila Kudelska, at kkudelsk@uwyo.edu.