We ride because it not only provides transport but is also enriches us physically and mentally. Over the last nine months the benefits have been even greater, as we have all been faced with changes, uncertainty, challenges, and isolation. For many children and teens the shifts in routine were stark and severe. It has hit them the hardest causing anxiety and depression. Cycling has not only helped many cope but has also allowed them to discover a new pastime and passion.
With school moving online, extracurriculars cancelled, graduation, prom and other landmark social events derailed, our youth Mariposa Cycling Club members have used this time to challenge themselves, hone their skills, gain fitness and explore on their bikes. The team met weekly for rides on the Don Valley Trails from June to November. The kids in the club range in age from 10-18 and varied experience levels, making for great camaraderie and mentorship. Former professional mountain bike racer, Cameron Jette has been able to demonstrate the best lines to navigate the trails while Michael and Dede provided bike handling and other tips. The older kids have taken leadership roles in helping out the younger, less experienced kids.
Every ride has been an opportunity to explore, gain confidence and independence. All of which translates into character building, improved bike handling, safer cycling, more commuting by bike and perhaps for some, it’s an opportunity to build towards future of racing. Several of the kids on the team who had formerly focused on team sports like hockey and soccer, commented on how much they enjoyed exploring outside the rink or the field and training with less structure and new and exciting challenges. Out in the woods, they navigated roots, rounded berms at speed, cranked their way up tight switchbacks and landed gap jumps. In addition to riding the trails, kids could be spotted throughout the season with shovels building new jumps, repairing damaged trail infrastructure or adding to the height of the berms.
With the daylight hours shrinking, after school rides are no longer an option, but last weekend we took advantage of the balmy weather to ride a 75 km urban trail loop under the warm autumn sun and we plan to get the kids out to the Mattamy Velodrome at the end of the month. Now that they know the trails and the freedom they provide, many of the kids continue to jump on their bikes whenever they have an hour of free time to thrash through the woods.
The 75km loop was a great way for the kids, and a few of the parents, to see the city from a different vantage point. Starting in Leaside, we plunged into the Don Valley Ravine and rode South to the shore of Lake Ontario.
Under the DVP, along the Don River, near the lakeshore.
Up the Scarborough Bluffs.
Descending the Dorris McCarthy Trail.
Along the Waterfront on the Dorris McCarthy Trail.
Enjoying the gorgeous lake views on the bluffs east of the city centre.
A snack break of stroop waffles.
Navigating a construction diversion near the University of Toronto Scarborough campus.
Navigating single track on a bed of leaves.
For several of the kids, it was their longest ride ever and it was a great way to explore more of the city.
Although there was no racing this year, the club was committed to the weekly rides. Here’s what a few kids had to say about the season:
I really enjoyed getting away from the same places I see each day because of quarantine. – Cole Borthwick, 18
I like exploring new trails and improving my skills on the bike. My favourite skill that I learned was the bunny hop. After every ride, I felt more confident. – Sebastian Vega, 10
It’s been helpful being able to ride behind Cameron, as he is thoughtful and has really good insight on how to practice skills. – Ashlin Barry, 13
The rides have been the highlight of my summer and a great outlet through COVID. – Hudson Lubbers, 14
I’ve learned so many skills and I have become a much better rider. -Curtis Borthwick, 14
I’ve improved my mountain biking skills a lot and overall it’s been a really fun year riding with the group. – Will Meyers, 14
It’s made quarantine a lot easier being able to hang out with my friends on the trails. – Mack Feasby, 13
I like cycling because I get to go fast, get outside and ride with other kids. I really liked the Mariposa rides this year because when my dad separated his shoulder in the summer he could no longer ride with me, but when I joined the Mariposa club, I could ride again. Next year, I look forward to racing. – Morris Walters, 10
If you are interested in exploring the 75 km East Toronto Trail Loop that we rode last weekend, It is a combination of road, paved bike path, gravel and single track. Here’s a link to the map of the route and downloadable GPS files on Ride With GPS, Garmin Connect and Strava