Information for Riders and Parents 2021-22

Head Coach: Doug Diego
League Website: https://www.norcalmtb.org/
NICA: https://www.nationalmtb.org/

ABOUT

  • Founded in 2001, the ECHS MTB Race Team is a Division 1 member of the NorCal Racing League that has inspired a broad cross-section of teenagers from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds toward athletic accomplishment, respectful teamwork, and personal responsibility through mountain biking.
  • The ECHS MTB Team has “club” status but operates much like any other sport at El Cerrito High and, as such, joining the team requires a serious investment of time, energy, focus, and finances. 
  • No experience or bike necessary! We have loaner bikes available for new riders and our sponsoring bike shop, Mike’s Bikes of Berkeley, offers discounts on new bikes, parts and tune-ups. (Note: due to COVID loaner bikes are in short supply this year)
  • Races are designed so that beginners, intermediate and advanced riders compete with riders of similar ability and experience. Girls and Boys race separately in Freshman, Sophomore, Junior Varsity and Varsity categories.

WHY JOIN THE TEAM?

  • ECHS MTB team members work hard and those who commit to the process are often transformed. Nearly every athlete (and parent) describes their participation as life-changing in a remarkable way. 
  • Students learn bike riding and maintenance skills, receive valuable coaching, and push each other to achieve. Riding with a team makes training seem like fun instead of hard work; improvement comes quickly and steadily. 
  • The priority of team coaches and managers is to provide motivated students the direction and camaraderie that will help them achieve both competitive success and personal development  in a safe and enjoyable manner.
  • Cycling is a family-friendly fitness activity that can be done lifelong, with great social qualities. Groups of cyclists (except when climbing difficult hills) can talk and joke as they ride.

SEASON AND COMMITMENT

  • The ECHS MTB Team is a Winter and Spring sport. The season begins on December 1st and goes through May. Student athletes often do a Fall Sport like Cross Country, but it is too much of a commitment to do another sport in the Winter or Spring.
  • Starting in December, the team practices 4 days a week: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday after school and Sunday Mornings.
  • The team participates in 6 league races during March, April and May. We may also do 1 or 2 non-league races as practice.

HOW TO JOIN THE TEAM

  • There are no tryouts! If you participate and try, and keep trying, you’re on our team. We have a proven history of creating capable and confident riders year after year.
  • Registration for the team will begin in September and close on October 31st. All the registration details are here.
  • Club Day – You can learn more about the team at Club Day and we will hold an online meeting in September to discuss the season. Dates are TBD.
  • Mid-September – there will be an optional informational meeting for riders and parents.
  • Mid-October – there will be a mandatory meeting for all riders and parents/guardians, at ECHS
  • Early November – attend the kick-off gathering and submit all required paperwork

ABOUT MOUNTAIN BIKING

Is Participating Dangerous? Forget what you have seen at the X-Games or in commercials. There are several different types of mountain biking. We are not a downhill/freeride team. We are a cross-country mountain biking team. The average racing speed is usually around 10 to 12 miles per hour, but faster when while descending. This is an endurance sport where the fittest athletes win. The races are won going uphill, not down, and coaches will emphasize this–and riders will experience it–throughout the season..

We do our best to minimize the risks to the athletes. Certain risky behaviors are forbidden and we teach each athlete bike-control skills early in the season to minimize the risk of crashing. We do our best to minimize risk; however, we cannot eliminate it. Any sport that requires the participant to wear a helmet is a sport that involves the possibility of injury. And despite our best efforts, crashes and injuries do sometimes occur. As a crucial safety measure, all team members are required by law, by the League, and by the team to wear a helmet whenever they ride a bike, whether with the team or not. Expulsion from the team can be the consequence of not wearing your helmet every time you ride. 

All rides are led by coaches who are licensed through NICA’s Coach License Program. Coaches have experience on the trails we ride. They carry rider emergency contacts and we do our best to provide ride leaders (parents and coaches) with a first aid kit.

How We Build Our Team and Train:  The training scheme is a carefully planned schedule of training rides that gradually increase in distance and difficulty over a seven month timeframe. The time frame must be long to insure that the athlete progresses at a rate gradual enough to avoid injury and long enough to achieve peak fitness by season’s end and the championship final race. This “gradualism” based training scheme cannot be artificially compressed into the normal sports season time frame without diminishing its effectiveness. We are not able to provide one-on-one coaching, and attendance is crucial to be able to progress as a group. It is essential that no one fall behind by missing practices.

The training is done in three basic phases so that everyone is adequately prepared once the racing begins. The first is the “Base” or endurance phase where we ride at low speeds, teach handling skills (for safety) and gradually increase the ride duration to build a solid foundation of cardiovascular fitness. The second is the “Build” phase to add strength and power by increasing the intensity of the training. The last is the “Peak” phase where we add fast-paced race simulation.

During practice rides, we split the team into fitness-based groups since our goal is to challenge but not overwhelm each rider. All groups do a similar type of ride, albeit at different paces. We do our best to design a training scheme for each rider appropriate for his/her level of experience, fitness, and personal ambition. Groups are co-ed where practical. The number of groups we can field on any given day is dependent on the number of coaches and ride leaders who are present. 

Each year, some new riders and parents are surprised when we tell them that by season’s end every rider will be able to easily ride for several hours in hilly terrain or do a hundred-mile road “century,” but it’s true! Athletes who follow our progressive training schedule will steadily gain fitness. However, those who miss practice will soon find themselves struggling to keep up, which puts an unfair burden on our coaches and isn’t safe for the individual. Therefore, attendance at practice must be monitored and riders who are consistently unable or unwilling to commit to three practices each week will not be allowed to continue on the team.

What to Eat: Athletes are expected to be informed and responsible about their eating habits. While this is not a weight-loss program, fat loss and increased lean muscle-mass are typical results of training. Athletes will need more high quality calories from complex carbohydrates and will also need more protein than is required for a non-exercising lifestyle. An inadequate diet will put the athlete at a disadvantage compared to those who are eating well. Make sure to eat a quality lunch on after school practice days and a quality breakfast on Sunday morning training days and race days.

Camaraderie for the Whole Family: Road trips to the races are great. Our team is made up of friendly, supportive families with whom it is fun to spend the race weekends, and you will discover that the other teams in the League are full of delightful students, with encouraging coaches and wonderfully supportive parents as well. At the races, the whole gallery of spectators cheer and ring cowbells not just for their own racers, but for yours too! This is a very friendly sport. 

Parents are encouraged to join their athletes in training, and their participation is critical and required on race weekends. For those on the brink of sending kids away to college and adult life, this is a special time to share. Many families have described the MTB team experience as incredible, eye-opening, and life-changing. 

We ride on some of the most beautiful trails in California –Tilden Park, China Camp, Joaquin Miller, Tam, Skeggs, Annadel, Crockett, Tamarancho, Fairfax, Marin Headlands, Mt Diablo, Rockville, Stafford Lake, Napa Skyline, Soquel Demo Forest.

Discounts on bikes: Mikes Bikes of Berkeley is our sponsoring bike shop and they offer team members a discount on Bikes, Parts and service. Please note that due to COVID bike and parts availability is limited.

TEAM REQUIREMENTS

Mandatory Equipment

The required equipment listed below is a big part of our efforts to ensure a safe riding environment.

  • Helmet. The helmet must have good ventilation, not be cracked, must fit well, and be properly adjusted. Skateboard helmets are not advised since they do not provide adequate ventilation. You can find great YouTube videos about helmet fit. Helmets must be worn ALWAYS when riding, whether with the team or on your own. We suggest a MIPS helmet.
  • Mountain bike. If you do not have a suitable bike, loaner bikes are available for free for the first year. Never buy a bike without consulting with the coaches. Discounts are available to all team members. You will need a bike that has an air spring suspension fork and not a coil spring suspension. It will allow for much broader and better suspension adjustments. A hardtail bike (no rear suspension, only front) generally is better for cross country competition and will lower the cost of the bike. It would be better for the suspension travel on either a hardtail or full suspension bike not to exceed 120 mm. Bikes with carbon frames are a bit lighter than those with aluminum, but might not be worth the extra cost. Any bike with 29″ wheels, hardtail, with air spring fork within the $1,500.00 to $2,000.00 range would be good for what we do. If you go below that price range, it won’t be able to handle what we put these bikes through: real mountain biking, for close to 2000 miles per year.
  • Clip-in pedals are recommended for both safety and efficiency.
  • Gloves. We recommend thin, long-fingered, padded cycling gloves.
  • Team jersey and shorts. The team jersey must be worn at all races. Team members can wear any combination of jersey and bike shorts for training rides. 
  • Proper clothing for the weather. Leg and arm warmers are highly recommended as temperatures can vary during rides. (Long sleeve jerseys, jackets, tights, and other such items are usually not practical for racing since they can’t be easily removed.)
  • Eye Protection. You can buy inexpensive glasses at any hardware store or you can pay more for cycling specific glasses. 
  • Lights will be required at all afternoon practices until the days are long enough that we are no longer returning at dusk. Red flashing light for rear of bike and white light for the front of the bike. Lights must be in functioning order at each practice, will be checked by coaches, and riders will be sent home if lights are not working properly.
  • Hydration. Riders must have either a Camelbak or two bottles of water and cages for carrying them.
  • Mini pump or CO2 cartridge, tire levers and tube for correct wheel size, multi-tool set (with chain tool), chain quick link for your chain size (11spd or 12spd chain).
  • Some source of calories. We recommend energy bars, shots, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
  • The coaches want to stress that riders will not be allowed to participate if they fail to show up at practice with the required items. 

Required Practices December – May

The team practices 4 days a week. Currently:

  • Tuesday – after school
  • Wednesday – after school
  • Friday – after school
  • Sunday – 8:30am – Endurance Ride. These rides will likely involve traveling around the Bay Area and will require parent drivers to transport riders and bikes.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday practice are MANDATORY. If a student has a valid excuse for an unavoidable conflict, s/he must contact the Head Coach by email or text by 9:00 pm the night before any practice to be missed (or as soon as possible in case of illness or injury). These absences must be kept to a minimum, especially in the first months of training, or the student may be dismissed from the team. Families that have plans to go away for school breaks should take into consideration the practice absentee policy. Please note that participation in another extracurricular activity that causes multiple conflicts is not a valid reason to miss practice. It is simply not possible for our volunteer coaches to manage practices if some riders aren’t progressing adequately and it isn’t safe for a rider to participate in more challenging rides without proper training. If you are interested in another activity, please compare activity calendars and submit a request in advance to echsracing@gmail.com. We will then let you know if it will be possible to combine the MTB team with your other interest.

Unless otherwise specified, weekday rides will be local and will leave from the El Cerrito Community Center on Moeser. Most Sunday rides will require that parents drive their student. These rides will meet in from the El Cerrito High School gym.

2022 Mandatory Races

  • Consider all races mandatory except in case of injury or illness
    • Pre-season non-school race in early February such as CCCX or Granite Bay TBF.
    •  Race #1 — March
    • Race #2 — March
    • Race #3 — April
    • Race #4 — April
    • Race #5 — May
    • Race #6 — May – NorCal Conference Championships
    • NorCalChampionship race (if qualified) in May
  • Each racer must have a parent/guardian at each race – to transport and support your own racer and to help the team.
  • Races are all-day events. Everyone shows up at the course at 7:30 a.m. to set up the team pit zone and stays until 4:30/5:00 p.m. when clean-up is done, the trailer is packed up again, and podiums have been celebrated. 
  • Races are always out of town, often near Monterey or Sacramento (sometimes in SoCal for the State Champ race), so many families drive the day before the race and stay overnight – sometimes involving a fun group dinner!
  • Pre-rides – These are very important to safety and strong results on race day and are led by a coach the afternoon before the race. Attendance is strongly encouraged.

Academics

We want each student-athlete to make academics a priority. Plan ahead for schoolwork–exams, papers, and projects–so you can balance schoolwork and cycling. Each student must have a GPA of at least 2.0. 

Smoke Days / High AQI

On days when the AQI is greater than 100, practice will be canceled or rescheduled. We are doing this for your safety, so please take our advice and don’t do your own ride on these days. If you are sensitive to air pollution and feel you shouldn’t be riding when it it “Moderate” (51-100 AQI), please talk to the coach.

Code of Conduct and Safety

We are committed to safety. We think about safety, teach safety, and require each rider to always ride in a safe and controlled manner. Riders who repeatedly flaunt our safety rules or engage in behaviors that present unnecessary risk to themselves or others will be dropped from the program. As visible representatives of El Cerrito High School, athletes are also expected to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with that status and follow the ECHS rules of behavior at all times. 

  • Never take risks – This is the number one rule: athletes that have a risk-taking attitude or are witnessed taking unnecessary risks will not be tolerated.
  • Wear a helmet whenever you ride – whether or not you are with the team. 
  • Always yield – Remember that bicycles in the backcountry can be an unwelcome experience for horses and hikers. Being sensitive to how others perceive you will assure a positive image for our sport. 
  • Pass with care – Let others know of your presence well in advance. Use a bell or audible greeting to avoid startling others. Be especially careful when passing a horse, as each will react differently; stop and ask the rider for instructions. By asking if the horse is easily spooked, you show an awareness of the rider’s needs and the sound of your voice will be reassuring to the horse. Sometimes it may be necessary to dismount and remove your bike from the trail to allow others to pass.
  • Stay on trails – Riding off-trail damages meadows and other fragile ecosystems. Never cut switchbacks as this accelerates erosion.
  • Control your speed – Safe speeds are relative to terrain and your experience as a rider. Be able to stop safely without skidding in the distance that you can see ahead. Approach switchbacks and turns in anticipation of someone coming around the bend.
  • Respect wildlife and livestock – Do not frighten animals. Close gates as you pass through.
  • Do not litter – Pack out what you pack in and if possible, carry out more than your share.
  • Ride only on authorized trails – Stay off trails that are closed to bicycles.
  • Plan ahead – The off-road bicycle will open new horizons to you. These should be approached with respect. If distances are involved, do not travel solo. Expect weather changes. Leave word where you plan to go and when you plan to return.
  • Minimize impact – The practice of minimum impact wilderness use is the philosophy of responsible off-road cyclists. Take only pictures.

Bike Maintenance

  • Bike Maintenance is crucial for safety and performance. Stay on top of it!
  • Clean your bike weekly. Some details here.
  • Repair your bike as soon as any problem arises. You can learn to do some basic maintenance and repairs with the help of YouTube videos and you should establish a relationship with Mikes Bikes of Berkeley, our sponsoring bike shop. 
  • Get your bike tuned up at least every other month.
  • Learn to repair flat tires and broken chains. Practice! Be ready to do repairs quickly during rides and races.

Bike Shop Rules

Our reputation is great at our sponsoring bike shop – Mikes Bikes of Berkeley – let’s keep appreciating them! 

  • Always bring in a clean bike.
  • Make an appointment in advance whenever possible.
  • Remember that other customers come first (after all, they pay full price).
  • Be courteous and polite.
  • No rudeness, bad language, or impatience. Such behavior reflects poorly on the team and may jeopardize the team’s sponsorship.

Costs of Participating

This is an expensive sport. Everyone will need a mountain bike that can stand up to intense rides and races on a variety of terrains, appropriate clothing and equipment, etc. There will be other expenses as well and they will add up quickly.

  • Team Dues – $315 – This covers the cost of a team kit (jersey + bib shorts), team insurance, team registration with the league, registration of team coaches with the league, coach training and licensing fees and team equipment purchases. Through sponsors and fundraising, we are able to help keep this cost down.
  • A bike good enough to race on – $1,200+ (The ECHS team has a limited number of loaner bikes for new riders )
  • Bike maintenance – budget $200-$500.
  • Bike clothes and shoes, replacement tubes, chains, other bike parts, race food, etc – $250+
  • Gas, food, and potentially lodging for races. Most races are a 2 to 3 hour drive; venues have camping options. 
  • Initial League registration fee and fees for each race – total of around $350-$400. (Scholarships are available, on a limited basis, for these fees, from NorCal. See league website for info, application deadline usually in December.)
  • Pre-season race registration fee – around $50
  • The team is fortunate to receive support from a number of local businesses and organizations. Please support these businesses and thank them for their sponsorship.
  • Scholarship Opportunities – If you are unable to afford these costs, we offer scholarships. See our registration page.

Student and Parent Participation 

  • Students are required to undertake at least 2 hours of community service during the season. This will most likely be done as a team by doing trail maintenance.
  • Parent participation is also crucial. Parents are needed to help organize the events listed above, to participate in the smooth functioning of the team by taking on leadership and support roles, to transport and support their student, to meet race-day needs, and to participate in fundraising efforts. This is a great community and participation can be a lot of fun. If you would like to ride with us, you can become a coach/ride leader. We also have many other volunteer positions needed to made the team run.

Communication

Read and respond to email daily! Email is our means of communication and it is necessary that the student and at least one parent/guardian check email daily and respond promptly to all correspondence.  

HAVE MORE QUESTIONS?

If you have more questions, please see our FAQ, read our Handbook or you can contact us.