Ride On, Midland Mountain Biking Crew
Starting a new community program is no easy task, but CJ Brey, the founder of the Midland Mountain Biking Crew, was up to the challenge.
“We are here to learn and grow, to challenge ourselves and improve each day,” says Brey.
The Midland Mountain Biking Crew is a youth-focused mountain biking group for elementary through high school students. The crew meets on Wednesday evenings at City Forest in Midland.
“I grew up mountain biking; I just had a passion for it, ”says Brey. “I had an older brother in it, and I just thought it was cool when I was a kid.”
Growing together, on the trails
At the start of each encounter, Brey says the crew go through about 15 minutes of basics. They include everything from reminders on how to lubricate bike chains to the correct way to overcome obstacles. Then, groups form with coaches and set off on the trails.
At the start of each encounter, Brey says the crew go through about 15 minutes of basics. “All the teaching, all the learning and all the excitement comes peer to peer.” [exchanges] on the track, ”says Brey.
With education being the intent of the crew and the crew being open to bikers of all skill levels, Brey tries to place children in appropriate groups based on their performance.
“Cycling skills are not determined by age,” Brey explains. “Some kids learned to ride a bike at 2 years old, and some kids don’t ride a bike without training wheels until 5 years old.”
To make organization easier, Brey uses a color scheme that other MiSCA teams have successfully implemented.
According to Brey, the gender ratio in the crew was around 80% boys and 20% girls.“I exploded four different colors: green, blue, orange, [and] red – from the most basic to the most qualified, ”explains Brey. “We just looked at the children and moved them. ”
The coaches in charge of the teams are approved by the MiSCA. The coaches do the job of watching and instructing the kids as they ride.
“[Coaches] provide first aid; they carry tools and equipment, ”says Brey. “They stop the group, talk about the obstacles before tackling them, make sure that if you’re not comfortable going around it this time – or if you’re going to do it and you’re not sure. – they are there to watch.
If more coaches are registered, more children will be allowed to register.One of the trainers is Blair Stewart, an engineer at Thermo Fisher Scientific and a born and raised Midland resident.
“I’m a trainer at heart,” says Stewart. “[I] also coached baseball, softball. It’s something that I love to do. Great fan of recreational sports. [It’s] good to provide a place for children to be outside for exercise.
Stewart’s family – his wife Becka and their two sons Koen, 11, and Macklin, 5 – are also on the crew. Becka coaches; Koen and Macklin go upstairs.
“It takes a little more energy,” says Koen, a fifth-grader this fall at Plymouth Elementary in Midland. “I never really liked playing team sports. [Mountain biking] is the only sport I love.
As for what Koen would say to other kids who are considering joining the Crew: “I would say that would be a really good thing to try. All the coaches are great, friendly and relaxed.
Groups are formed with coaches and set off on the trails.The Midland Mountain Biking Crew has other options for riding the trails besides belonging directly to the Crew – once the season begins Brey will be running open outings on Saturday mornings on different trails in the area for all children who wish to go out. .
“Whether it’s at Mid-Michigan Community College, or any of the area locations, not just City Forest, [also] Pine Haven, ”says Brey. “We’re going for an hour-long ride, at nine o’clock on a Saturday morning, to get all those who wanted to ride, who can’t ride with the team, over there.”
Assemble the crew
When he lived in Ohio, Brey often took his son Jack for mountain biking. Brey’s wife Jennifer found them a local mountain bike club for kids run by a teacher who had built a small trail in the woods.
“I checked his story to see if we could sign up for it,” says Brey. “It was already full, no surprise, but they had open races […] and when we were in columbus i took my son to a race and met the guy who rode him.
The races are an opportunity for kids to show off their tricks and have a fun adventure on trails they wouldn’t usually explore. This teacher enrolled around sixty children in the first year. The second year, they had to cut it to 200 children.
“I saw the numbers and I was like, ‘Holy cow, when we get back to Midland, I want to set up something like this,’ Brey says.
After returning to Midland in 2019 and taking the time to settle down and find a new job, Brey and his wife were able to put plans in place in the winter of 2020.
“My wife sent me a link to MiSCA, which is the Michigan Scholastic Cycling Association,” Brey explains. “[…] I followed the link and contacted the organizer and found out that yes, in fact there are MiSCA teams all over southern Michigan.
“We are here to learn and grow, to challenge ourselves and improve each day,” says Brey.MiSCA takes care of setting up insurance, hosting online platforms for registration, background checks and certification of qualified coaches.
“[MiSCA] put together a six-run series for kids in the fall, and it goes from grades one to 12, ”says Brey. “And I said ‘man this is super cool I wanna do this’, and [the organizer] was like, ‘go ahead.’ “
After receiving the green light from MiSCA, Brey created a Facebook group, found a name for the group, and contacted his friends and the immediate social network. They decided that the City Forest in Midland would be the perfect place to meet.
“We had, in that first meeting, probably six parents who came out,” Brey says. “I’m like ‘okay this is going to be fun, this is not going to be something huge’ and then three weeks later we had to turn off the taps to 50 registered families.”
Brey opened registrations for the 2021 season on March 31 and in the first two weeks received 30 registrations.They typically had around 25 of the 50 children registered on the city forest trails, but sometimes had more than 70 people with them, including coaches and parents. The gender ratio, according to Brey, was around 80% boys and 20% girls.
“At the end [of that first season] we had almost as many parents as we had children on bicycles, ”explains Brey. “It was a huge victory; [I] I didn’t see it coming – [I] had no idea [about] development and return, the whole community around what I was creating.
The returns were enough to convince Brey he should do another year. It opened registrations for the 2021 season on March 31 and in the first two weeks received 30 registrations. At the time of writing, Brey has closed registrations with a total of 56 children registered.
“The secret is more and more coaches and get them registered at level 2 and level 3, ”explains Brey. “[…] If we could have more, we would allow more children.
Future tracks for the crew
Membership in MiSCA gives the Midland Mountain Biking Crew the opportunity to attend six races in southern Michigan, known as the D&D Bicycles MiSCA Race Series. Last year, according to Brey, around 250 children would attend each race – around 600 are expected to attend each race this year.
MiSCA takes care of setting up insurance, hosting online platforms for registration, background checks and certification of qualified coaches.“We are running out of places to run with maximum capacity,” explains Brey. “You go there, you basically set up a tailgate area for your team with your tent, your food, your drinks and everything. Everyone goes down and then they have races all day long, all around the course.
Brey notes that families will be heading to the running area the day before and predicting the route – some will even choose to camp in the area.
“[That’s] my goal, ”says Brey. “To have a campsite and before the game the day before – ride, grill for the team – really […] make it into something special, where the kids really settle down with each other.
The races are not competitive, which means there are no prizes awarded for the winners, but it is an opportunity for the kids to show off their tricks and have a fun adventure on trails they want. would generally not explore.
“There are scholarships available there,” says Brey. “You know, you can go to college and do that, but most of them are just group outings – the kids are having fun. Most of our hikes are just that, it’s a good, fun adventure ride.