Nonprofit uses mountain bikes to build confidence, self-esteem in middle, high school girls |

Nonprofit uses mountain bikes to build confidence, self-esteem in middle, high school girls

Girls on The Cycle Effect’s Summit County teams pose for a photo Wednesday at Epic Discovery Breckenridge at Breckenridge Ski Resort. The Cycle Effect is a local nonprofit that helps middle and high school-age girls get into competitive mountain biking to build confidence, self-esteem, bright futures and community. Wednesday’s trip was made possible by a donation through EpicPromise.
Eli Pace /

Anyone who’s ridden a mountain bike long enough knows that, at some point, gravity usually wins.

Many competitive racers proudly bear the stories — and scars — from these mishaps. Some spills certainly hit harder than others, but as the saying goes, what’s more important is how someone picks herself back up.

The people with The Cycle Effect, a relatively young nonprofit that’s been working with girls out of Summit and Eagle counties, know this. In fact, the group whose mission, quite simply, is getting more teenage girls into the high-intensity action sport is even counting on it.

At its most basic level, The Cycle Effect helps girls grow into strong young women by offering them a beginners’ mountain biking program and showing those girls they not only have what it takes to conquer trails but everything they need to find success in life.

The girls can come from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. Some might have faced financial hardships; some have dealt with other disadvantages. The uniting factor isn’t the life experiences, according to Carla Johnson, The Cycle Effect’s Summit County program coordinator. Rather, it’s that the girls all want to ride mountain bikes, and the coaches and volunteers at The Cycle Effect have proven they can make that happen.

“We’re really good at getting the bikes and all the gear,” Johnson said. “We provide the helmet, the gloves, the glasses, all the parts — all of our girls are outfitted with extra bike tubes,” for example.

While bikes, jerseys and other essential items are taken care of by the group, The Cycle Effect has also secured a handful of sponsorships with brands like Clif Bars to provide the girls with snacks, drinks, energy gels and anything else they might want on a ride. Should they compete in any of the Summit Mountain Challenge Series events, Johnson said even the girls’ entry fees will be covered.

The Cycle Effect started five years ago in Eagle County and quickly spread to Summit, where the program is now in its fourth year. Altogether, The Cycle Effect serves over 120 girls annually, and the program has 40 girls enrolled locally with two teams in Summit County.

The Summit North team is primarily based out of Silverthorne and Dillon while the Summit South team is comprised of riders mostly from Breckenridge and Frisco.

“But really, we have the two teams not necessarily based on physical address,” Johnson explained. “It’s really wherever makes the most sense for the girls to get to the practice location that makes it the easiest and most convenient for the family.”

The teams meet for practice twice weekly, coming together on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. During the school year they’ll typically meet up at the rec centers in Silverthorne and Breckenridge, but during the summer they’ll powwow all over the place, trail and weather dependent.

The girls have to complete a minimum of 20-25 hours of community service for the almost year-round program, and they also get a handful of fun group outings, like last Wednesday’s trip to Epic Discovery Breckenridge. The excursion was compliments of Vail Resorts’ charitable efforts through its EpicPromise, which has supported the nonprofit in a variety of ways.

Additionally, a number of girls who’ve ridden with The Cycle Effect’s Summit County teams have gone on to compete for the club mountain biking team at the high school level. The team isn’t affiliated with the high school itself or sanctioned by the Colorado High School Athletes Association, but The Cycle Effect is still proud to be transitioning the highest number of girls ever to the club team this year.

One of those riders is 16-year-old Barrett Wagenseil.

Wagenseil is still pretty new to mountain biking, and she doesn’t think there’s any way she’d be riding with the Tigers club team this fall without first spending the summer with The Cycle Effect and its coaches.

“This is my first season mountain biking,” Wagenseil said, recalling that her first time on the trail with The Cycle Effect was punctuated by a wreck.

“But I was able to get back up on the bike and continue,” she added. “Definitely throughout the summer, I’ve gotten 100 percent more comfortable going downhill on a bike, getting used to switching gears and everything. I think what helped me is the team and the coaches — everyone is so supportive and even just having that whole vibe.”

Now Barrett said she feels better prepared and more confident, so much so she feels ready to jump right into competitive mountain biking.

“It’s definitely helped a lot with my confidence on a bike and my confidence in general,” she said. The club team’s first race of the year will be Saturday at the Frisco Bay Invitational.

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