Hey there everyone!

I want to show you some of the portraits I created for the youths and instructors of ProAction Mountain Bike Club.

But first, a bit of background on this club and how I came to be involved with them.

ProAction is a fundraising organisations whose sole purpose is to raise money so that police officers in Toronto (and now Durham and Hamilton) can develop programs which bring police and youth together in meaningful, constructive programs.

Three years ago, Marc Hayford, of 54 Division in East York, Toronto started a mountain bike club for some of the underprivileged youth in his area. Working with funding from ProAction and support from various businesses, the club is able to provide a weekly programme to approximately a dozen youth each year. At the start of the school year, the youth are all kitted up with everything they need to enjoy mountain biking – bikes from Kona, and this year Trek, helmets, gloves, camelbaks – and the instruction starts. 54 Division and neighbourhood where these youth live is right beside the Don River and the hundred or so kilometres of mountain bike trail there. Every Thursday afternoon the cops and youth converge, unload their bikes from the trailer and head out for a ride.

Once winter comes, the bikes are stored away and the club shifts to indoor wall climbing. Come spring, they head out Milton to put their climbing skills to the test on some real rock walls and then the bikes come out again. On weekends, they might go camping, compete in a 24h mountain bike race or head up to Hardwood Ski & Bike for some intense training (that’s where I come into the story, but more on that in a minute!).

At the end of the summer, providing the youth have stayed out of trouble and kept with the programme, they get to keep the bikes and gear and the club starts again with a new group. Of course, the programmes graduates are always welcomed back for a Thursday ride with the new group.

So, this past summer, Hardwood called me up and asked if I would provide a lesson a group of Cops and Kids from Toronto. Sure, why not. Love riding, love teaching. What a great group I met. I quickly realised that these riders were not the usual group of uncoordinated, bike-clumsy teenagers we usually see in the school groups at Hardwood. I rapidlly started shifting gears and modified my programme to put these guys to the test. And then, I took them out on Sidewinder – but not before introducing them to Boneshaker on Radical.

Fabulous day. Exchanged contact details. Kept in touch. New group started this fall. “Can we set something up to give this new crew some awesome instruction and riding?” You bet.

And I got thinking. I was really impressed with what this group was trying to accomplish – introduce youth (high immigrant fraction) to mountain biking, show them the wonders of urban trails on the Don, develop cooperative relationships between youth and cops. I sent Marc an email saying next time they were up, I wanted to create mountain bike portraits for all the members. And so it was on.

Weekend before last, the gang was up here for some lessons and another crack at Radical and Sidewinder. We had to veto some trail features until they were more experienced when they come back again next summer. Speaking of which, the way these guys are riding now, I’m going to have to really pull out the stops to put together the next level of training. hmmm, maybe some big drops, log hopping and elevated skinnies?

Last week I drove down to 54 Division and joined the club for their last ride in Don. What a great place to ride. A bit muddy compared to here, but great, great trails.

I’m really looking forward to joining up with them some time this winter to go wall climbing with them and create another set of portraits – Stay tuned!  In the meantime, here are some of the portraits I created for these guys (Click the full screen button for awesomeness!):