(May 24, 2019) The fourth, fifth and sixth graders who participate in the mountain biking club at Berlin Intermediate School are apparently learning more than just how to ride a bike.
“It’s preparedness for life. It really is,” said program organizer Tres Denk. Assistant Principal David Gell said about 20 students have participated in the BIS and Beyond After School Academy program and he’s been pleased with the its progress since it started last year.
“Students learned how to properly maintain a bicycle, ride properly, safety measures, and how to navigate obstacles typical of biking trails found on the Eastern Shore,” Gell said. “Aside from instilling a love of mountain biking, Tres also hopes students will teach others about the sport and build support for the maintenance and creation of local trails.”
Denk is the president of the Eastern Shore International Mountain Bicycling Association, an organization that strives “to create, enhance and preserve great trail experiences for mountain bikers on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay,” according to the mission statement.
Denk recalled a newspaper article from 2009 informing people that bike trails were open at the Pocomoke YMCA.
“So the next day, I went down and started the whole thing, started riding bikes, started building trails there, and it just grew from there,” Denk said.
He, along with a group of other dads and their kids, embarked on this mountain biking journey.
The organization also works to develop trails throughout the area, according to the website.
Denk has had a 30-year love affair with mountain biking. He said it started when his roommates took him on a bike trip to Frederick, Maryland.
“So I went out to western Maryland, [and] I came back my bike was all busted up, [the] front wheel was wobbly, I had to take the brakes off to even come home, and I went right back to the bike shop, [but] I was like, man, it was the coolest thing I ever did,” Denk said. “So that was what excited me about it … how much fun I had with those folks I was riding bikes with, this group effort.”
In addition to helping the cyclists learn some social skills, he also hopes to instill responsibility, teamwork, patience, and physical strength to the mountain-bikers-in-training.
He said he continues his own trip down memory lane as he sees the children learn to ride bikes of their own.
“The thrill that I get from someone else having that ‘I did it’ moment … when someone learns to ride a bike for the first time, I can see the picture of me, one year old, standing on my pop-pop’s bicycle, you know, six years old getting my first bike, doing a wheelie on my bike with my friends in the neighborhood,” he said.
Denk said the association and the club at Berlin Intermediate School also allows him to give back.
“And it kind of [comes] full circle now. I feel like I’ve done something for my community,” he said.
Additionally, Denk said he’d like to use his budding business, Beach to Bay Bicycle, as a way to pursue other opportunities for bicycle fans like himself.
“That way, I can bring the trails to the people,” he said.
As the father of two boys, Denk pushes safety and accessibility.
“I’m trying to make the place safe for bikes,” Denk said.
He said he always wanted to take his children to school via bicycle, but safety concerns have prohibited him from doing that.
“I live two miles from school, and I can’t ride my bike to school,” he said.
Denk said he’d like to see mountain biking programs in county schools, but more importantly see today’s participants someday volunteering to teach others.
He added the older students could come return to help teach the younger children, “where it keeps going around, just like a bicycle wheel itself.”
For more information on the Eastern Shore Mountain Bicycling Association, visit the organization’s website at esimba.org.