Local nonprofit Moab Youth Cycling offers local elementary and middle school aged kids an opportunity to improve their mountain biking skills on area trails.
“It’s a non-competitive group,” said Peter Basinger, founder of the nonprofit. “We’re trying to get local kids on bikes to enjoy the trails and develop a passion for Moab mountain biking.”
Biking has been a big part of Basinger’s life for a long time—he’s worked as a biking guide and a bike shop mechanic, and competed in endurance races. In 2008, he moved to Moab for the biking, and has made his home here; he’s now a 4th grade teacher at Helen M. Knight Elementary School.
Basinger has also been involved in youth cycling programs in his home state of Alaska, as well as in Bend, Oregon and Durango, Colorado. Basinger said he modeled his idea for Moab Youth Cycling after the Durango group, called Devo. The goal of the group, he said, is to get kids excited about mountain biking.
In the fall of 2020, Basinger got a permit for the program and borrowed a van from Poison Spider Bicycles, a local bike shop. He started with just one group that met twice a week; the following spring, he expanded to two groups, each meeting twice a week. Moab Youth Cycling got its nonprofit status early this summer, and will be offering spots in two groups this fall for kids from 4th to 6th grade.
“It started real small, but it didn’t stay small for very long,” said Basinger. Melissa Edge also works at the elementary school and is, Basinger said, “the second half of Moab Youth Cycling.” She leads groups along with Basinger, and a couple of other adults also regularly volunteer to help lead rides. Basinger is hoping to get more adults involved so that kids of varying abilities can split into smaller groups.
Basinger notices kids gaining skills over the course of the program.
“It’s crazy how much they advance over those seven weeks,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing how quickly they improve and become intermediate or even advanced riders.”
Groups ride on local trails at the Bar M system, Navajo Rocks, Klonzo, Falcon Flow, and Slickrock.
“That one’s pretty advanced,” Basinger said of the Slickrock trail, “but a lot of the kids are ready for it.”
The instructors help the kids approach the trail in discrete sections, practicing small chunks at a time to help make it achievable. Basinger enjoys watching the kids improve.
“There’s a couple of crux moves on the trails that we encounter pretty regularly and it’s pretty cool to watch them get over it, or get to the point where they start to master it,” he said.
The next program starts this fall and registration opens on Aug. 23. The rides will start in mid-September, when the weather, Basinger hopes, has cooled off a bit. Each group has ten spots, for a total of 20 spots; one is an all-girls group, and the other is a co-ed group for elementary schoolers. Registration is through the group’s website, moabyouthcycling.org, and costs $200 per participant, though there are a few scholarships available. Basinger said the slots fill up fast—this past spring, the program was full about ten minutes after registration opened.
Basinger hopes to grow the nonprofit over the next few years and accommodate more kids. The group’s “growth plan” includes acquiring bikes to be able to loan to participants—right now all registrants must have their own bikes—and acquiring another van for transportation. Eventually, the program might include a group for advanced riders, summer events, travel to other areas, and participation in races or events.
In the meantime, Basinger is glad to foster the joy of mountain biking among the kids who participate.
“The biggest thing for me is just when they’re pumped about riding—they have a good time and they’re just glowing after they do a fun section of trail,” said Basinger.
What: Moab Youth Cycling fall registration
When: Opens Aug. 23
Cost: $200 per child for 7 weeks; groups meet twice a week