richmond composite

Clif Bar Event Brings MTB Community Together

On a Wednesday evening in late March, 100 people found their way inside the auditorium at Clif Bar headquarters for a gathering to celebrate high school mountain biking. Over two hours, food and drinks were enjoyed, stories were told, the documentary “Singletrack High” was shown and a cycling community came together.

Team riders (L-R) Hunter, Donovan, Alex, Harrison, Emilio, Lucas and Jacob share their stories about riding with Richmond Composite on stage at Clif HQ. Photo by Briana Marie. 

Team riders (L-R) Hunter, Donovan, Alex, Harrison, Emilio, Lucas and Jacob share their stories about riding with Richmond Composite on stage at Clif HQ. Photo by Briana Marie. 

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People arrived into the lobby of the auditorium to pizza and friends new and old. High ceilings and walls full of art tell the story of Clif Bar, a company born on a bike. The office facilities celebrate all things outdoor adventure and community connection, making it the perfect setting for our event. There are bikes on walls, hanging from the ceiling, in photos, and rolling through the door with incoming attendees. We were in good company. 

I take the team on a brief tour of the office. To new eyes, this “office” looks more like an engaging museum. We stop to look at the photo display of the Clif Pro team. It’s a wall full of large format pictures of some of the strongest women mountain bikers in the world. Stories about Clif Bar starting the Luna Chix pro team in the early 2000's as one of the first all female (and dominant) mountain bike team are shared.

Photo from Clif Bar Pro Team http://teamlunachix.com/

Photo from Clif Bar Pro Team http://teamlunachix.com/

“There’s Katarina Nash. She’s local and has participated in multiple Olympics in multiple sports. She’s fierce on a bike and skis but as kind as they come when you get a chance to meet her.” Then I point to a photo of another rider, posed on a rock in matching blue kit. “And this is Hannah Finchamp. She’s just a couple of years older than you all are. She was a standout athlete in NICA and now she’s a pro. These women are all complete badasses.”

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Next we walk past a display of images from an event called Cykel Scramble. It takes a minute to understand what is going on in the pictures. “Is that man riding a bike decorated as a rocket?” One team member asks. “Yep” I reply, “and that’s a nun hopping over backhoe tires.” It’s not the usual bike scene but it’s an important stop on the tour to show that fun and bikes can collide in all kinds of interesting (and weird) ways. “Teams dressed up for this event” I tell them “and then rode a relay race in a bike obstacle course. It was ridiculous and ridiculously fun.” 

We finish the tour next to some bikes on display hanging above a door opening. They are acompanied with raceplates and plaques commemorating wins in major mountain bike races from around the world. They represent achievements of strong female mountain bikers and hang each day as a reminder of the success of the Clif Pro Team. For us they are a light in the distance, hardly visible, flickering in the fog. The team knows what they’re seeing is incredible, but the full context isn’t realized yet. I repeat, “The women that have raced on this team are amazing, not just for their race awards but for their determination and perserverence coming up in a sport dominated by men. These women are humble and kind AND will also rip your legs off on a trail.” Some of the team chuckle, some gasp, some eyes get wide. All reactions that collectively show "Whoa!" We wrap up the tour and hear a call for everyone to enter the auditorium. The festivities are about to begin.

Photo by Briana Marie

Photo by Briana Marie

Clif Bar Sports Marketing Coordinator Lucas Euser take the stage and kicks off the evening. He shares a variety of insightful stories from his own experience racing bikes in high school and on into a professional road racing career. “Tonight is special for a number of reasons,” Euser begins. “20 years ago today I lined up for my first mountain bike race. I was 13 years old.” He goes on to describe a pioneering time for high school mountain biking, peppered with anecdotes from his early days racing, joining a team and the beginning of what would become the Norcal League and later the national organization for high school mountain biking, NICA. 

Lucas connects bikes throughout time to social change and adventure alike. What would happen to these cyclists in the next 20 years? What would they do with this bicycle they were building this relationship with? Where might the bicycle take them? Then he handed it over to our team to jump on stage and provide a window into our world through a bit of storytelling.

Seven of the 15 members of Richmond Composite are in attendance at the event and all seven of them step onstage to sit in a semi-circle together facing the crowd. We hand out microphones and as they adjust to the bright lights and tall chairs, I ask the team, “How many of you have gotten on stage in front of a big crowd with a microphone to answer questions before?” Nervous laughter, head shakes and then a smile and one hand goes up. “Really?” I ask. “Well that’s what we’re about to do. Relax, there are no wrong answers, just imagine it’s the end of a normal practice and we’re circling up to share stories about our day like we always do...only this time we have microphones, lights, tall chairs, and a bunch of people hanging out to listen in the darkness.” A little laughter helps ease the nerves and we settle in.

I’ve prepared a number of questions for the kids, but as usual, the plan is only as good as my ability to adjust in the moment to what is actually going on rather than what I might have planned. I start with some easy ones - what’s you’re name, grade and how long have you been riding with the team? “About two weeks.” Says one rider. “Since the beginning.” Says another, as if the beginning were some long distant event in the past and not just six months ago. Being one of the founding members of the team is still compelling and comes with a certain air of respect. He’s seen some things, is wise beyond his 14 year old stubble. 

As we move into the more interesting questions, the kids loosen up and start having fun. They’re telling stories, listening to each other and playing off of each others' experiences to help paint a picture of what it’s like being a rider on team Richmond Composite.  

Thier unique personalities begin to emerge. They are heartfelt, quirky, serious, and silly. They share their experience starting mountain biking and joining, for many of them, thier first team of any kind. And the audience can relate.  Trying on bib shorts for the first time and then figuring out how to pee with one on. How a hill or obstacle can be so difficult at first try and then just days later be conquered. The challenge and the triumph. The amazement of being able to do something you never knew was even possible. The simple things like being outside in nature and truly appreciating it. Meeting new people and making new friends. Pushing yourself to your limit in a race for the first time.

The kids take us through all the hallmarks of being on a team and finding a new love for mountain biking. It's like witnessessing a transformation mid-process for seven young people. These moments are so raw and fresh and still being formed. Just like the young people themselves, in development, in motion, becoming who they are going to be.

We end the interview as we often end our practices, races and meetings—with gratitude. Both in the words expressed directly to the audience for their support of our team and in the stories kids shared that brimmed with excitement and thanks for all of the good they’ve experienced by participating in this sport. Kids are grateful to be able to "play" biking with new friends and coaches in beautiful parks and mountains around their home and greater Northern California. During a time in life often marked by turmoil and a yearning to connect, here are seven young people getting connected to their bodies, their place, hard work, reward and a new growing community.

“Look out into the audience,” I speak into the mic. “We are your direct team here on stage. Out there in the audience is the larger community you stepped into when you joined this team.” The kids peer out through bright spotlights to make out 80 shadow-like figures beyond the stage. “These are the people who support you with their time, bikes, equipment, donations and stoke. They are here because they believe what you’re doing is good. They want to see you thrive. Take a moment and breath this in.” And for the first time all night, and maybe ever as a team, we are quiet. 

Thanks

 We have a lot of thank yous to share from this event. Thank you to:

Sunny Mckay for spearheading this entire event from concept to execution. Holly Streblow for coordination and promotion. Katie Wade, NICA and Clif Bar for wrangling donations for our raffle. Rotten City Pizza for the delicious pizzas that filled everyone’s bellies. Pedal Born Pictures for producing "Singletrack High" and letting us show it. Clif Bar employee volunteers for staffing the event. Richmond Composite Team Riders for helping promote the event and telling your stories on stage. You are brave and amazing! Clif Bar for opening your doors to our team and high school mountain biking in Richmond and beyond. Briana Marie Photography for the great photos and support of our team. The Richmond Composite coaches, who give their time and energy to building, supporting and growing this team. Countless donors and contributors and, finally, a huge thanks to all the attendees. Your support of our team is what allows us to keep getting more kids on bikes in Richmond. THANK YOU

More videos from the evening on our YouTube page.

Winning the Fun Category (Race 2 Recap)

Race Week

When Monday of race week rolls around the mind begins to shift into planning mode. Logistics and prep take a front seat as plans begin to shake out.

Are you coming? Do you need a ride? Where are you staying? Are you camping? Are you racing? Is your family coming? Is your bike in working order? Have you registered? Do you have a sleeping bag? And on and on and on.

Add in a few practices during the week and the days leading up to the race seem to fly by in a blur of to-do lists and endless follow up. But then you wake up and it’s Friday morning. You pack the car, check your final to-do list and like pushing the pedals at the beginning of a long ride, before you know it you're off and the adventure begins.

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Race Day Eve

After a pretty steep first race learning curve we were feeling more settled as we drove down to Monterey on Friday afternoon for our second race. We left earlier, traffic wasn't as bad, the playlist was fire and the conversation moved from race questions and anticipation to immigration, school, work, the weather. We arrived to the race venue at Laguna Seca to the roar of Porsches burning rubber on the nearby car race track, an audible reminder that we too were there to burn some laps on the adjacent dirt. 

Six of us suited up in the parking lot, fastened helmets and made our way to the starting line to ride a lap together and check out Laguna Seca for the first time. After a short fire road climb the course hit singletrack and then picked up speed on a wide open fire road descent. It was short lived though. Before we knew it we were grunting up a paved climb that led into a super steep and rutted dirt section in the trees. After we punched up to the top things leveled out just long enough to catch our breaths before turning downward on a flowy singletrack trail that brought smiles to everyone's face. 

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From chapparal to open fields, the trail twisted and turned through open meadows, alive with the green of springtime. The course was as lively as the dozens of other preriding teams out on course with us, exchanging hellos and “Hey aren’t we lucky to be out here?” sentiments. 

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We made our way up the infamous “Hurl Hill“ without losing our lunch (bonus!) and kept right on going through to the feed zone stopping to take in the sweeping views and talk strategy. “When you get to this part of the course on your last lap, grab a gear and TURN IT UP all the way to the finish!”

We collected in the parking lot and chatted about how each rider would approach the course the next day-when to go hard, when to ease up and recover, when to make a pass or let someone go. Then, we packed up the bikes and drove to our nearby campsite. 

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At the campsite we got settled into our sites, unpacked and started setting up tents. With the sun setting overlooking a valley below we raced to blow up sleeping pads and stake down everything before our natural light was lost for the day.   

We loaded up again to head to dinner where we’d meet up with another part of our crew, two more student athletes and another coach. We ordered two extra large pizzas and gathered together to catch up and wait for two delicious pies to come our way. Hungry, we dove in as soon as the pizzas hit the table, but not before snapping a pic of our stellar crew. 

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After dinner we caravaned back to the campsite where we got to work lighting a campfire and settling in for our nighttime activities. Lily and Alex had joined us in the car that arrived for dinner and we not planning on racing the next day. They took it upon themselves instead to bring the night activities and food extravaganza. As soon as the fire was lit, the bacon came out, the jalapeños were cut, a pot went on the grill with eggs inside and the picnic table turned into a bustling food prep area. We would be dining on jalapeño poppers with cream cheese and bacon to start and subsequent courses would get more interesting. 

 

After some good laughs and delicious culinary adventures kids started peeling off to their tents, the telltale sign it is time for bed. As the logs turned from flames to embers students could be heard drifting off into dreamland. 

Race Day

We awoke just past dawn to dew covered tents and a misty morning with fog flitting through the adjacent hillsides. Tents were shook, slumbers interrupted and student grumbles heard. “It’s race day! It’s race day! Get up, it’s race day!” 

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We loaded up again and took off to the race venue to set up our team canopy tent and get ready for the day ahead.  We arrived around 7:20am and the venue was already abuzz with activity. Grills were going, coffee was being poured and we were running around fixing things, headed to registration, greeting arriving riders and coaches and getting the blood flowing for a long day ahead. 

Before we knew it it was time to warm up. Coaches and student riders jumped on bikes and took to some nearby white gravel roads to spin up the legs and get ready to explode on the race course. We passed by San Francisco Composite as we warmed up, going in opposite directions as we got in the zone.

After warming up we headed back to our team area for last minute tasks including water bottle fill ups, snacks and some mechanical fixes. Then we shuttled up to the start line to find our place in our race groups. It was Harrison’s first race and so he chatted with other riders from Alameda and Oakland as they waited nervously for their turn to race. 

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In the first wave of Richmond Composite riders was Sophomore Harrison Rivera. He was a mix of nerves, excitement and pure steel cool. As he  settled into the starting shoot and awaited his turn, waves of racers ahead were released. Then it was Harrison’s turn. 

The countdown ensued and his wave was off. Spectating you could see something wasn’t right with Harrison’s bike right out of the gate. He was frantically mashing the pedal down and then rotating it back half a turn before mashing it again. He was going nowhere. His chain, we’d find out shortly, had sucked down in between two chainrings and would need to be yanked free by hand. Coaches and another non-racing student rider jumped in to help Harrison free himself of his mechanical issue and hopefully continue the race. We got lucky and after fussing with the chain for a minute or two the pedals were turning again and Harrison was on his way, powering up the starting hill motivated by the setback to play catch-up. Within a short minute Harrison could be seen flying solo down the open fire road descent with determination in his eyes. He was finally off.

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In the next wave were three of our Freshman riders, Emilio, William and Sergio. Although it was the second race for all of them, nerves had been creeping into their minds all morning. Some manifested the nervousness with focus and quiet. Others darted around physically and verbally like an animal pacing, ready to make an escape dash at any moment. 

Their race started and riders began scrambling in the chaos for a better position as they worked their way up the starting gravel hill before the trail narrowed to singletrack. Teammates, parents and coaches cheered like hell for our riders. 

After the dust had settled on the last wave of racers our remaining team switched gears to support and cheer mode. Four non racers started the long journey out to the feed zone and beyond to Hurl Hill to provide mental support, water and nutrition as riders came close to finishing each lap. 

William had a crash that took him out of the race on the first lap and wound him up in the medical tent. When we found him he was telling stories and in good spirits wrapped in an emergency blanket eager to share what had happened. Harrison finished a second lap and called it good for his first race. He’d had a crash too and many subsequent issues with the chain that got stuck at the beginning of the race. He was beat! Emilio and Sergio had gone back and forth their entire race and came to the finish line just one second apart from each other--a great site to see. 

We ate lunch in the Berkeley High tent (Thank You BHSMTB!) and then circled up for our closing gratitude circle. Harrison got a lot of love for racing his first race and overcoming many challenges on the course today and somehow coming out all smiles. New parents came out for the first time to witness high school mountain biking and were blown away by the support and community present at these races. Four of our team riders (Donovan, Alex, Lily, Lucas) who came to support but not race this weekend got lots of shout outs too. They brought so much spirit and enthusiasm to our race weekend and exemplified what a team is all about. 

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Our final race in Monterey is in less than two weeks and then we're heading north to Sacramento, Clear Lake and Petaluma for the remaining races of the season. If our team keeps showing up how we've been showing up--with positivity, enthusiasm and community spirit--then we'll continue winning in the fun category. And if there's one thing Richmond Composite is serious about it's winning all the fun

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Special Note

Join us in person on Wednesday March 28th from 6-8pm at Clif Bar in Emeryville for a team fundraiser including food, drinks, a short talk with student riders and coaches and a showing of the incredible documentary "Singletrack High".

Info & Tickets can be found at https://richmondcomposite.brownpapertickets.com/

What happens at a Fun Ride?

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When you arrive to a Fun Ride you see bikes everywhere. They are leaned up against trees, on their sides in lines and likely being pedaled around a skills course made of orange cones. There are people too, the friendly kind, ready to say hello, extend a hand and welcome you to the group. 

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We circle up and introduce ourselves to the group and get oriented to the bikes we’re about to ride—brakes, air, shifters, seat height and more. Then before you know it we’re all pushing the pedals, off to ride the skills course and practice some new mountain bike skills like “ready position” or switchbacks!

After we practice, we go explore. At our October 22nd Fun Ride we rode along the Richmond Greenway, a largely paved bike/pedestrian pathway that runs though the heart of Richmond. We stopped to play in the future site of “Dirt World” where someday (hopefully soon) Richmond will have a world class dirt pump track and skills park. In the meantime we’ll still enjoy the dirt rollers and mini pump track. 

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At our second Fun Ride on Saturday November 4th we were riding at Miller Knox park along the shoreline near Point Richmond. We started on grass and did our best to avoid pavement as we snaked our way through picnic areas and BBQ pits toward the gravel and dirt trails out by the point. Whoops and hollers were heard as tires spit mud out in a rooster tail out the bike—signs that we were now indeed mountain biking. 

Once out at the point we took in the views. We could see the Golden Gate, Bay and Richmond/San Rafael bridges as well as seemingly every Island in the Bay. We took it all in, handed out some maps to help show where we’d be going next, snapped a few photos and jumped back on the bikes. 

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We continued our ride out along the Bay Trail, a protected bike path that runs along much of the Richmond area shoreline. We stoped to share some Richmond history and see how our piers and shoreline is being used today. Oh, and of course we ride!

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We reached our turning around point at the end of a leg of the Bay Trail and had to take a couple more pictures, tell a few more stories and point out where we’d be riding November 12th at Alvarado Park which could be seen as we traced the Wildcat Canyon ridgeline to it’s northern terminus.  

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We turned around and jammed back the way we came, making sure to hit as much dirt, gravel and some fun singletrack on the way back, practicing our ready position and switchbacks with finess! When we returned high fives were given generously, favorite parts of the day were shared and a hearty “See you next week at Alvarado Park!” Was exclaimed. “Hands in. Richmond Composite on three. 1...2...3!”

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Want to get involved? Join us for a remaining Fun Ride by clicking this link. All are welcome and we’ll even bring you a bike! We ride again: 

Sunday November 12th @ Alvarado Park - 10am-12:30pm

Sunday November 26th @ Point Pinole - 10am-12:30pm

Volunteering in Richmond for Coastal Clean Up Day

Saturday September 16th was Coastal Clean Up Day, an international event where people around the world volunteer to help clean up litter in our communities and creeks that end up in the ocean. We teamed up with Trips for Kids (from Marin) and YES Nature to Neighborhoods to volunteer and help get local Richmond area youth on mountain bikes for the first time to learn some skills, ride the Richmond Greenway and of course pitch in for Coastal Clean Up. 

Sarah practices her "smooth and even" braking with textbook two fingers on each brake lever

Sarah practices her "smooth and even" braking with textbook two fingers on each brake lever

After a great introduction students got on their bikes and Trips for Kids led a fun orientation to the bikes--how they brake, shift, how to check the air in the tires--and we were on our way weaving through an orange cone skills course laid out on the grass at Nicholl Park. 

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After mastering the skills course we hit the Richmond Greenway, having to hike our bikes up and over the BART tracks on a tall staircase. Students were getting the best of urban riding right out of the gate including learning how to navigate city obstacles like huge concrete stairs and learning how to carry a bike safely. 

Making out way over the BART tracks and safely down the other side to access the Richmond Greenway

Making out way over the BART tracks and safely down the other side to access the Richmond Greenway

Once we hit the greenway, we were off! We wound our way down the paved path until meeting up with other volunteers from the community for a clean up. Over the next hour we spread out in teams on foot and proceeded to clean up the area around the Richmond Greenway next to Dirt World. When we were finished we celebrated the dozens of bags of trash we'd picked up and marveled at the many strange findings--fake tree with christmas lights, stripped bicycle with a santa hat seat cover, Rick James LP album cover--wondering where they are came from and how we could each take action to reduce our consumption moving forward. 

This was all picked up from the Richmond Greenway in about 2 blocks distance. We passed much more along our way that day that needed picking up. 

This was all picked up from the Richmond Greenway in about 2 blocks distance. We passed much more along our way that day that needed picking up. 

After the clean up we made our way to the western edge of the greenway before turning around and making our way back, stopping at a number of sites along the way to take in some of the beauty, mystery and challenges that make up Richmond. We ended with high fives and Clif Bars back where we started. Students shared something they were going to take away from the day. I can't remember all the words, but the general feeling was of gratitude, responsibility and a high level of stoke to ride bikes together in their community. 

We've got some fun announcements very soon that came from this great day out. Stay tuned!

50 points if you can tell us who this mural is of?

50 points if you can tell us who this mural is of?