Cambrian: Opinion

Wheels are turning as youth bike program grows

From left, Alexander Burton-Linn, John Mettier, Julio Gomez, Kaley Nye, Stephanie Nye, Anhase Martin, Henry Wright and Emiliano Pena are part of Aaron Linn’s bike program for youth.
From left, Alexander Burton-Linn, John Mettier, Julio Gomez, Kaley Nye, Stephanie Nye, Anhase Martin, Henry Wright and Emiliano Pena are part of Aaron Linn’s bike program for youth.

Aaron Linn cooked up a new idea this year — an idea with wheels rolling now to bring youth into the outdoors, get fit and have fun.

Linn calls the Cambria Bike Kitchen (located behind Black Cat Bistro) the clubhouse for the young bicyclists and Linn’s sous chefs, as it were, aka a small army of volunteers and donors.

Formed as a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit in May, the kids bike program has a mission to introduce bicycling to local youth. About 15 boys have joined the group and take weekly bike outings with Linn at the helm. Girls are welcomed, too. It’s free with the cost of bicycles, parts, and other essential equipment coming from a Cambria Community Council grant and donors. The youngsters are introduced to both road and mountain biking.

When Linn was 12, a substitute teacher at Santa Lucia Middle School introduced him to competition cycling. A year later, Linn placed in the top 10 in a national championship and “I was hooked on cycling,” he said.

One of the goals for the Cambria Bike Kitchen is to prepare the young cyclists for National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) events and programs. NICA offers interscholastic mountain biking programs for student-athletes across the United States. It was founded in 2009 to “provide leadership, services and governance for regional leagues to produce quality mountain bike events, and support every student-athlete in the development of strong body, strong mind and strong character through interscholastic cycling,” as per NICA’s website

Linn harbors no doubt that “we could have future stars of the sport and many in our midst, if we support such programs as running and cycling which often go overlooked and (are) underfunded.”

“Not every kid is geared for football or basketball,” Linn said. Also a soccer coach, Linn has watched one of his players, Anhase Martin, improve his endurance since joining this weekly cycling program. “This is a healthy activity for our local kids.”

Anhase Martin, a participant in the program, takes a break during a Fiscalini Ranch trail ride. Aaron Linn

The program is also intended to educate youths on the mechanics of a bike, as well as traffic rules and regulations.

Grant and donor funding has made it possible to provide not only bicycles but also the proper gear, which ranges from appropriate clothing like biking shorts, gloves and well-fitting helmets to wheels, spare tubes, tires and lighting systems.

Linn does not take full credit for the new program, which he said would not exist without local support, volunteers and donations. His grant request listed the following: “Jim Pitton has instigated the kitchen with the help of Jim Aaron, (and) Justin Smith. … Clay Akey, owner of Cambria Bicycle Outfitters, has graciously given us the space we call our kitchen … (and) we created a pump track where the kids and others can hone skills on mountain and BMX bikes. We were joined by Kaley and Stephanie Nye.”

Pitton is charged with regulating the funds allowing Linn to serve as the team’s lead coach with the help of the Nyes, who administer to the team’s growing needs. The kids are charged with maintaining their bikes, working hours at the pump track, and helping to develop new trails as they are made available.

Former Cambrian Patrick Hampton donated cycling jerseys and helmets, while Jade Leherman also made a substantial equipment donation. Linn noted that other locals have donated tires, wheels and more — and what the kids program can’t use is donated to another group in Fresno.

The list of new volunteers continues to grow and give to this effort.

Like all good ideas formulated in a kitchen, Linn enjoys watching this first group of youngsters progress in fitness and enthusiasm for being in the outdoors.

Charmaine Coimbra’s column appears the fourth Thursday of each month and is special to The Cambrian.