Climbing Hills and Building Skills in CA’s Mountain Bike Club

June 18, 2024 4 min read

In Alberta, mountain bike trails feature steep hills, winding paths, and tight banking turns, offering riders a chance to see beautiful scenery while staying active. At Calgary Academy, an extreme group of students and staff navigate the ever-changing terrain, from moderate blues to challenging black trails.

On Friday afternoons, the Calgary Academy Mountain Bike Club (CAMBC) loads up one of the Knights buses wearing their leopard-print jerseys, a design chosen by its founder, CA teacher Jason Myslicki, to help identify students and match their bold attitudes.

The club has become a hit with students in its second year of operation, and Mr. Myslicki hopes to continue building on the excellent foundation he has created.

Fridays in the Foothills

CAMBC began when Mr. Myslicki was looking for his next passion project. An avid rider, he gauged interest in a bike-focused club. As a phys-ed teacher, he knew many students had experience using the school’s fleet of entry-level bikes in gym classes or mountain biking in their spare time.

The response was incredible, and now, in year two, nearly 15 students in Grades 7–10 and two teachers head to the Bragg Creek area to experience nature, make memories, and improve their skills.

With everyone on the bus, bikes are stored in a truck following behind. Mr. Myslicki says the energy is palpable on Friday mornings. He, the students, and his co-coach and fellow teacher, Sarah-Rae Myslicki, look forward to their outings. Even on a muddy trip to Golden, B.C., earlier this year, the students were excited and grateful to have such a unique school experience.

“I think the club changes the vibe around the school… These students are just so antsy to come and drop off their bikes in the morning.”

One of the most critical aspects of CAMBC is safety (with fun coming in a close second). Mr. Myslicki notes they don’t tackle flat terrain or beginner trails—students don’t need to be professionals, but they have to follow the group’s pace.

Mountain biking has inherent risks, from navigating the trails to warm weather. Before allowing students to participate in CAMBC, Mr. Myslicki ensures they can handle themselves comfortably so the students and coaches can stick together.

“If we have someone that can’t ride independently, that pulls one coach away. There’s a lot of risk factors when you’re mountain biking, whether it’s the actual technical biking, the fitness, or the wildlife.”

Persevering Through Valleys and Peaks

The best part of mountain biking is riding down the hills through trees and winding terrain—however, climbing to the top is the true test of a rider’s skills and endurance. It can be easy to use all your energy on the two-hour CAMBC rides. Mr. and Ms. Myslicki stress the importance of managing energy, nutrition, and hydration.

Burning all your energy in the first 20 minutes can make the rest of the ride up the mountain feel like an even steeper climb. At the beginning of the club season, some trails are easier to help students get started, but they become more challenging with time.

“One of our outcomes is to build that perseverance and resilience… It’s usually 45 minutes to an hour of climbing. Students have to learn to ride within themselves. Don’t worry about the guy or girl around you—find your pace, and you’ll get there.” – Mr. Myslicki

The challenges offered by CAMBC have been a hit for participating students. Grade 9 student Quinn R. says the club is something he looks forward to every week. Mountain biking from a young age, he’s enjoyed building his skills, watching his peers improve, and spending quality time with his classmates.

“Mr. Myslicki is a great coach. He’s super helpful. He doesn’t push us too hard, but he still challenges us… The club is one of the best parts of my week. If I’ve had a rough week at school and come to this, it just makes things better.”

Almost at the end of June, Mr. Myslicki has plans for CAMBC next school year. He hopes to schedule another biking trip and grow the club’s numbers, potentially creating intermediate and beginner biking groups. In the meantime, he’s happy to have made another year of memories.