Based in the world-renowned riding mecca of British Columbia, the Aboriginal Youth Mountain Biking Program is born from a belief that riding mountain bikes is a great way to connect and bring communities together, and bring self-esteem and empowerment to youth.
Founded by Patrick Lucas, an avid mountain biker and a planner for Canada’s First Nations community development, and Doug Detwiller, a retired teacher and creator of Sprokids, the organisation encourages Aboriginal youth to participate in mountain biking at the highest level. Just as importantly, it also encourages First Nations communities to experience the great outdoors, reconnect with nature, and lead healthier and active lives.
“The Aboriginal Youth Mountain Bike Program is a group of riders and community leaders from First Nations communities, around the province, who are coming together to create opportunities to get Aboriginal youth out mountain biking,” says Lucas. “British Columbia is the spiritual home for mountain biking, and we owe everything we have to the First Nations on whose territory we ride. And this program is about acknowledging that and making sure that First Nations communities, and the youth in particular, are realising the benefits of this amazing trail system that we have in this province.”
It’s a view shared by Detwiller: “I think happiness is really when you want to get back to society. So I want to get young people involved in building trails, in building mountain bike parks, in getting back to discovering nature, and discovering the land. It’s important that if we want to maintain the natural beauty of anywhere then young people have to discover it, and they have to take ownership of it.”
To achieve its goals, the organisation partners with community councils and tribal leaders, instigating a series of programs that help establish mountain biking as a viable option for First Nations communities. In doing so, it nurtures leadership and teamwork, self-confidence, and a love of sport among the Aboriginal youth. Crucially, these programs are also designed to support trails that are sustainable, respect Aboriginal Rights & Title, and encompass the role of First Nations as the stewards of their own land.
The programs themselves can take on a variety of forms, including multi day youth camps, mountain bike instructor training, community rides, building bike skills parks, trail planning and development, and bike maintenance.
Clearly, it’s an organisation underpinned by a strong passion for two wheels, an appreciation of the land, and the potential these two forces can usher. “I believe that mountain biking can be a means of bringing people together. A means for reconnecting, for reconciliation. The Aboriginal Youth Mountain Bike Program is all about bringing the mountain bike community together, the First Nations communities together, and building amazing trails for the future, about getting out and having fun, and shredding on our bikes,” explains Lucas.