MTP Goes MTB, Welcomes Spanish-Speaking Club, Launches Spring Ride Season
Major Taylor Project bike clubs in Tacoma and Seattle are kicking off their spring season with lots of exciting rides, including the Ride for Major Taylor on April 24.
Tacoma MTP is partnering with the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance to get teens onto knobby tire MTBs so they can shred the singletrack at Swan Creek Park.
Highline High School MTP welcomes Spanish-speaking students.
Register for the Ride for Major Taylor on April 24! Proceeds support our efforts to get more youth on bikes.
The Major Taylor Project is about to get muddy.
Cascade’s Tacoma MTP is partnering with the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance to offer mountain biking skills classes and rides in Tacoma’s Swan Creek Park, home to a new 50-acre mountain bike trail network. It marks the first time MTP has offered a 100% mountain biking focused club.
“I’m super excited. Getting youth on bikes is the coolest thing,” says Tacoma MTP Ride Leader Levi Hamilton, pictured atop this post. “I love mountain biking, so I’m really happy they will get that opportunity.”
Evergreen will provide the instructors, Cascade will bring the MTP youth, and the Youth Experiential Training Institute will provide the mountain bikes for the six-week program, which will meet every Tuesday to ride the trails at Swan Creek, on the Eastside of Tacoma.
Mountain biking is one of the many exciting new opportunities for MTP youth as the Seattle and Tacoma spring MTP bike clubs kick off their six- to eight-week seasons. The Major Taylor Project supports Black and Indigenous teens and teens of color as they connect with the outdoors, develop leadership skills, and gain bike knowledge.
"We're Back. We Persevered through COVID"
Seattle MTP has five spring clubs operating out of Highline High School, Tyee High School, Dimmitt Middle School, Cascade Middle School, and the Log Cabin community center at Steve Cox Memorial Park in White Center. Tacoma’s two MTP bike clubs will operate out of Swan Creek and IDEA High School.
An MTP student works on a bike during last winter's Build-a-Bike program at Magnuson Park Community Center.
After two difficult years during which MTP clubs dealt with school closures, and the logistical challenges of conducting youth programming during the pandemic, 2022 marks a big opportunity to expand bike riding opportunities for youth in South Seattle and Tacoma.
“We’re back,” says Seattle Major Taylor Project Manager Joel Allen. “We persevered through COVID and learned how to be more nimble and do things differently.”
One big difference: some MTP clubs now operate out of community centers instead of schools.
“Riding out of community centers gives us a larger reach and allows us to build more community relationships,” Allen says. Over the winter, Allen led a Build-a-Bike program out of Magnuson Park Community Center, an eight-week program that lasted from January to March and concluded with participants receiving their own bike, helmet, and lock.
Build-a-Bike offers the chance to learn important bike maintenance and wrenching skills.
When Spanish-speaking students signed up in large numbers for the Highline High MTP club, Cascade realized there was an opportunity to make MTP more inclusive. Cascade’s Venezuelan-born Fleet Manager Javier Salazar is stepping up to lead this program in Spanish, with assistance from Allen and school staff.
Salazar, a skilled mechanic who primarily manages the Education team’s massive bike fleet, is eager to support MTP and put his native language to work. “I’m really excited for this opportunity to reach more teens by delivering programming in their primary language,” he says.
Javier and Bandito.
Recruiting for MTP Bike Clubs
It was a busy winter for Allen, who not only ran the Build-a-Bike program but also visited high schools throughout Seattle to recruit teens. “I bring my bike to the playgrounds, and sometimes I shout like an old-school carnival man: ‘Bike club here! Bike club here!’ Students are attracted to my bike and come over to talk.”
Allen says he handed out waivers and program materials to more than 300 youth this winter. MTP serves youth aged 12 to 18. “The numbers are good for all the Seattle clubs,” says Allen, who joined Cascade last fall after seeing much success as the program coordinator at Bike Works.
Allen and the MTP ride leaders have an exciting spring season planned for the South Seattle clubs. In addition to traditional road riding, Allen says the Seattle clubs will participate in different styles of riding including mountain biking and gravel rides.
“Longer road rides will consist of Cascade events,” Allen says, noting that he will be looking for strong riders who can participate in the Ride for Major Taylor this Sunday, April 24.
The Ride for Major Taylor is a popular Cascade ride with long (63 miles) and short (26 miles) routes that both start and end in the White Center Bicycle Playground in West Seattle. The longer loop includes a ferry ride to and from Vashon Island and a ride down the length of the island before returning to White Center along scenic Alki Beach.
A finish-line party will await all participants, with food from Ezell’s Famous Chicken and banh mi sandwiches for vegans and vegetarians. Ride for Major Taylor is a great opportunity to do a beautiful STP training ride while supporting MTP.
Longer Days=Longer Rides
Back in Tacoma, Hamilton is happy to be working with MTP while attending Evergreen College, where he is finishing his second year and studying environmental science. He is an MTP alumnus who joined the program in 2017 and became an MTP ride leader in 2019. He was eager to step up and run the Tacoma IDEA club when Tacoma MTP Manager Josh Stowell went on paternity leave recently.
The arrival of longer days means Hamilton can lead longer rides. “The IDEA club will offer more traditional road rides, but we also hope to organize some gravel rides,” Hamilton says. “I want to get them opportunities to do longer distances now that it's spring.”
Shredding Swan Creek Singletrack
The Swan Creek Park MTP club is a great new partnership between Cascade and Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance–Washington’s largest mountain bike advocacy group. Stowell, a former BMX racer and skilled mountain biker, worked to arrange the partnership with Evergreen before departing on paternity leave. Thanks Josh, we look forward to riding with you in Swan Creek upon your return!
The MTP mountain bike rides will all take place in Swan Creek Park, a wonderful recreational asset for Tacoma residents, located near the Eastside Community Center, with a pump track and trails of multiple ability levels. See a trail map here and below. In the future, there could be mountain biking field trips to other trail hubs.
In addition to trail riding, the Swan Creek club will participate in some service work by helping on a trail maintenance day. MTP teaches leadership and community service skills in addition to bicycling.
This spring’s mountain bike rides and classes will serve as a trial run for how Cascade and Evergreen can partner on more opportunities to get youth out into nature on mountain bikes in the future, says Kristen McClune, Evergreen’s education director.
“We are eager to work with community partners who want to get more kids on mountain bikes,” McClune says.