SARATOGA SPRINGS – A group 15 children of Saratoga Race Course backstretch workers received new mountain bikes and helmets from a local non-profit Saturday.
Saratoga Shredders, a Saratoga Springs-based non profit organization whose mission is to get more girls and children on mountain bikes, gifted the 15 children new bikes held a bike safety and skills clinic for them Saturday morning.
“Giving the ability for all people to be able to ride bikes is really a focus of our organization,” Saratoga Shredders founder and executive director, Anna Laloë said. “No matter what the background is, or the financial situation, the socio-economic reasons for them not to be able to ride , we’re trying to kind of break down as many barriers as we can for entry into the sport that way.
Mountain biking can be a cost prohibitive sport Laloë said. She explained Saratoga Shredders offers scholarships for their own programming as well as bikes to kids who can not necessarily afford a bike to join their program.
Saratoga Shredders holds one or two events during the year called Shredders Outreach events Laloë said.
“We contact another nonprofit in the area that has a need, and has children and youth development as part of its mission, and this is one of those events,” Laloë said. “The New York Racing Chaplaincy runs a kids camp during the summer for the kids of backstretch workers in Saratoga.”
The 15 children in the camp program received brand new mountain bikes and helmets and were able to attend a bicycle safety and skills clinic, Laloë said. The 15 children ranged from age five-to 14.
The 15 new bikes and helmets cost a total of about $5,000 Laloë said. She explained they were able to be purchased with grants from The Christopher Dailey Foundation and The Common Roots Foundation.
Saturday’s clinic taught the children about bicycle and helmet safety, as well as bike riding skills depending on their skill level. Laloë explained that with a skills clinic, they generally have to assume about half of the children have never ridden a bike before. She said for children who have never ridden or gotten on a bike they may be teaching them how to ride a bike. For children who have biked before and are comfortable riding on a flat grassy area without assistance they set up a skills course.
“We have wooden features where the kids can ride up and over them,” Laloë said. “We have these skinny bridges where they can ride up a little ramp and over to the other side. We have a couple of what we call teeter-totters, imagine like a seesaw but very low six inches off the ground.”
Saturday’s event was the second event of its kind Laloë said. She explained last year Saratoga Shredders teamed up with the Schenectady Boys And Girls Club to give out bikes and teach bike skills.
The physical, emotional and social side of bike riding has been great for kids to find in the last two years Laloë said. She explained it was one of the few safe things kids could do together while still socially distant.
“Its the confidence that they build riding with their peers through difficult terrain” Laloë said. “In mountain biking specifically we’re on trails. When they are looking at an obstacle in front of them, a log or a hill or something and they are looking at it like, ‘can I get over that feature, can I do this?’ and that’s a totally transferable skill. We do that every day, facing our fears and deciding if we can go out there and try and accomplish them or wait the next day and try again.”
Saratoga Shredders has expanded and now has five programs from the Albany area up to Queensbury for children in Kindergarten through twelfth grade.
“It’s instilling confidence and empowering these kids through the sport of mountain biking,” Laloë said. “It really translates to school work, home life, so many of these girls are coming home and teaching their dads how to put their chains back on their bikes, or teaching their brothers how to jump over curbs, things that aren’t the traditionally a girls sport, and girls activities they are able to bring to the table and have more confidence riding with other girls in Saratoga.”
This fall, Saratoga Shredders is offering girls-only and co-ed mountain biking for grades kindergarten to twelfth based in Saratoga Springs, Albany and Queensbury, Laloë said. Saratoga Shredders is sponsored by Teakwood Builders, Grey Ghost Bicycles, Kindest, Women’s Care of Saratoga/Glens Falls, and Trek Saratoga.