A second-grader at Bijou Community School, Jonathan Bender signed up for bike club because it’s fun, and because his dad wants him to keep getting better at riding so he can hit tougher mountain bike trails with him.
“It’s good practice,” Bender said while taking a break from the obstacle course set up near the school’s playground as part of the after-school program.
Classmate Zayne Saelee signed up for the club to learn more tricks on his bike. Cooper Long, an aspiring BMX racer, said he signed up for the club for more practice on his bike. Long said the bike ramps scared him at first. Now he flies off them faster and faster each week.
Bike club is one of many volunteer-run afterschool programs the Parent Teacher Association at Bijou Community School sponsors. Its instructor, Pete Fink, a self-described bike geek and avid mountain biker, said the club is as fun for him as it is for the students who show up each week. Fink enjoys seeing them learn to ride over the teeter-totter and ramps and on the skinny rail.
Bike club lessons focus not only on how to ride better and more safely, but also on things such as how to air up tires or put a bike chain back on.
“Things like the teeter-totter, where the kids have to practice a lot, and then have that epiphany moment when they finally make it and have that teaching moment,” Fink said.
“It’s like the skinny has been challenging you for two weeks and you haven’t been able to get it, and then you do. And that is like every other challenge in your life. It takes practice and consistency. You keep practicing and you try and you try and you try until you figure it out.”
Fink has been teaching bike club at Bijou Community School for five years. He started when his own son, Zane, was in kindergarten. The goal is to help raise the next generation of South Lake Tahoe bicyclists and make sure they know how to ride safely.
Fink teaches two clubs, one for students in grades one to three and one for students in grades four and five.
As a member of South Lake Tahoe’s Parks and Recreation Commission, Fink also continues to push for creation of a bike park at Bijou Community Park. The park has been on the table for several years awaiting city approval, but was put on hold as the city completes a parks and recreation master plan for its facilities, Fink said.
The first phase of the bike park would include a skill zone and “pump track,” a course to learn how to keep and build momentum without pedaling by using core muscles. A second phase would move the BMX track over from the middle school, where it has been operating for years on a string of temporary permits from the school district. A third phase would include an area with ramps and tabletop gap jumps.
The bike park would be a draw for local residents and tourists alike and give all children and adults in the community a safe place to learn to ride and practice, Fink said.
“A bike park is a good space for kids to learn skills. It’s good for adults to learn skills. And from the proposed location at Bijou Park you can get on a world of mountain biking trails out there. I think our community would really benefit.”