By Tim Lima
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Not many local kids could be described as avid mountain bikers, but Howard Granat, a local mountain biking enthusiast, hopes an upcoming event can help change that.
“Single Track High: A Film About Kids Who Ride” will be presented at the Newburyport Public Library on May 1 at 6 p.m. The showing is open to the public and the goal is to get kids involved in what is a great sport.
Granat has had a passion for mountain biking that stems from his childhood and is leading the push for interest growth in Massachusetts.
“It is a team sport in many high schools and what we are trying to do is start at a grass-roots level in Massachusetts and New Hampshire to put together a league of our own,” Granat said.
Granat hopes that the film will teach teenagers about the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) and what it would be like to be a mountain bike racer for a coordinated high school or middle school team. Along with the film, Granat has had a role in several events, including a Kid Ride Series, through the New England Mountain Bike Association for kids ages 6 to 12 that has been held at Maudslay State Park for several years. A mentoring program is also being created for junior level racers for both road bikes and mountain bikes.
“When I grew up in New York, we took our bikes into the woods and raised hell,” Granat said. “I then went into racing BMX bikes. When I moved to Massachusetts in my 20s, I started mountain biking. It’s just a passion about this sport that I have had since I was young. There are a lot of kids out there that don’t do well with team sports, or are more of an individual team sport sort of person, so this would give them more options.”
The realistic hope is to begin at the bottom and grow the sport over the years.
“We are being realistic and figuring that it could take a couple of years,” Granat said. “If we can get six or 12 kids from around here to start a composite team, and can get a coach dedicated to the team, we would go to races already in place around New England. We would coordinate with teams in Connecticut, Maine and New York and coordinate to bring kids out to races. Right now, the key is getting a critical mass of teenagers who are interested and taking them under our wing.”
While teaching kids about the sport and what it could do for them, the event will also inform parents and kids about immediate ways to get involved. Several events are upcoming, including programs run by Newburyport Youth Services, summer camps and road races.
“We are going to be rolling out a different schedule of events that kids would have as an option,” Granat said. We will lay out different options for this summer, and are trying to pump it up and get some enthusiasm about the sport.”
The event will include free pizza and snacks and will display different types of mountain bikes from Riverside Cycle.