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Flagstaff Youth Riders hosts summer biking camp for kids

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Flagstaff Youth Riders (FLYRS) has hosted its final week of camps for the summer, with kids between the ages of 2 and 13 practicing their trail riding skills across the city.

Junior FLYRS program manager Stephanie Adams described the camp's focus as “a combination of building foundational skills, building friends and also falling in love with the trail stewardship."

The camp has been operating since FLYRS started in 2016, but has only this year expanded to run seven weeks (in the past, it ran two to four weeks each summer). While camps in June last a full day, the July programs run from 9 a.m. to noon, to avoid the afternoon monsoon rains.

Some kids are repeat campers, while others come from across Arizona to get out of the heat.

Each day of camp, families bring their kids to a trailhead around Flagstaff -- locations such as Sinclair Wash, Fort Tuthill County Park and Campbell Mesa -- and the kids start riding almost immediately. A bike ride both starts and ends the day, with snacks, practice and games taking place in between.

The idea is to have campers on trails that are manageable yet challenging, Adams said. She added that the kids were riding as many as 9 miles a day in the half-day sessions.

FLYRS Bike Camp

Charles Frye holds an impressive track stand during a game of Foot Down on a recent Tuesday morning with the Flagstaff Youth Riders (FLYRS) bike camp. The game involves participants riding around in a small circle and the object of the game is to be the last rider to put their foot down.

“We do these rotating locations so kids can get a variety of different terrain and experience around Flagstaff, because one of the challenging things about mountain biking is sometimes you can get stuck with what you know,” she said. “ ... It’s good to see the other areas so you can expand your mountain biking skills and try lots of different things.”

Some of the camp’s past typical locations have had to change because of forest closures, Adams said, but there are still plenty of places available. Only one week was canceled due to closures earlier in the summer.

Since the camp accepts riders aged 2 to 13 years old, the participants are placed in groups based on age. Every group has two coaches, who ride at the front and the back of the kids for safety and to assess their riders’ skill levels.

Groups containing kids 7 years old and younger stay on concrete and doubletrack trails such as ones at Foxglenn, Buffalo and Thorpe parks so they can practice braking control and body position with more room. Older kids, on the other hand, may be on a singletrack trail in the forest. 

FLYRS also tries to spread the groups between locations to minimize the impact on a trailhead and other recreationalists. The camp teaches kids about trail etiquette and stewardship, such as showing respect to nature and other trail users and doing their part to clean up.

FLYRS Bike Camp

Everett Kruse rides his mountain bike around a small trail near Sam's Club in late July during a Flagstaff Youth Riders (FLYRS) bike camp, a small warmup before his group rides out to Fischer Point.

Adams said the focus, especially for the younger campers is “to build team camaraderie in a sport that’s very individualized.”

FLYRS programs for students in middle and high school include more competition, but for kids up to fifth grade, the goal is have fun and build a foundation they can use throughout their life.

“We just want them to fall in love with biking, fall in love with the trails, have a great time with their peers and, through all of that, build great foundational biking skills,” she said.

More about FLYRS, including upcoming programs, can be found at flyrsaz.com.

FLYRS Bike Camp

Levi Hill rides his bike around a small trail near Sam's Club on a Tuesday morning in late July during a Flagstaff Youth Riders (FLYRS) bike camp, a small warmup before his group rides out to Fischer Point.

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