“It gets them off their cell phones,” Kevin Adams, co-founder of Verde Valley Wheel Fun, says of the kids in his program. Based in the Sedona-Oak Creek area, it’s a multi-faceted project for students in grades three through 12 that promotes interest and involvement in all aspects of mountain bicycling.
Established in 2019, the Arizona Qualified Charitable Organization oversees the program, which provides bikes, helmets, hydration packs and training at no charge to participating students. Adams recruits his riders at after-school mountain bike clubs, school-break camps and Riding for Focus, a middle school physical education program. The organization is also developing bike-skills parks on public school properties.
“What we’re trying to do is get the kids’ confidence up by building skills,” says VVWF executive director Brad Viereck. “During the fall camp, the confidence level has gone from maybe a 10 to a 60. The younger kids see the older riders doing jumps and they think, ‘I can do that.’”
Camp participants learn basic bike skills and safety protocols through games, individual and group coaching, and organized trail rides.
“We teach the kids how to be prepared and how to be safe,” says program coach Jen Mabery. “They learn who has the right-of-way along with proper trail and road etiquette. It’s a bit like herding cats, but I tell you what, I think what is the best thing for us is that energy. It’s really important how we talk to the kids. We lift them up!”
IF YOU GO:
Verde Valley Wheel Fun
Watch the PHOENIX magazine video at youtube.com/watch?v=chnnngWWc8Q.
Saving Arizona backcountry treasures with HistoriCorps.