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Rowan Rockhounds Mountain Bike Team to soon kick off season

SALISBURY — From kids riding a mountain bike for the first time to competing in races, the Rowan Rockhounds Mountain Bike Team is looking forward to its second season.

The National Interscholastic Cycling Association team, hosted by Skinny Wheels Bike Shop, is open to students in grades six through 12 who live in Rowan County. The team will have an information meeting from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Grievous Gallery, 111 W. Bank St.

The group rides will start in December and continue through the end of the race season in May.

Eric Phillips, the owner Skinny Wheels and organizer of Rowan Rockhounds, said last year the team got a late start and he looks forward to having a complete season this year.

“What NICA is trying to do is to provide an outlet for kids who are interested in biking, kids who may not fit in with other sports,” Phillips said. “Maybe they don’t want to play ball, but it’s giving them another option to be involved in a team environment where they can socialize and be a part of something.”

The mountain bicyclists can choose their level of commitment to the Rowan Rockhounds. Practices are held once or twice a week, with races on weekends.

“Racing is not a requirement,” Phillips said. “They can be on the team. They can reap the benefits of being a team member. They can come to practices. None of it is mandatory races or practices. It’s picking and choosing your own level of commitment.”

Races are categorized depending on age and skill, starting with three miles to 12 miles.

Connor Halpin, 14, participated with the team last season and plans to return this year. Connor said he had been a mountain biker, but joining the team taught him about nutrition and bike maintenance. It also improved his skills.

In the upcoming season, Connor wants to concentrate on endurance and reduce his race time.

“You have to keep pushing,” Connor said. “It’s exhausting.”

Phillips said he watched last year’s participants not only improve their skills and abilities but their confidence as well.

Connor says being on the team is a lot of fun. He looks forward to helping fellow members of the team.

He said his love of bicycling led him to volunteering at the Pedal Factory and doing trail work in Granite Quarry. He is also looking ahead to joining a college team and becoming an engineer at a bike manufacturing company.

Phillips said although it’s an individual sport, cycling is also a team sport.

“Nobody sits on the bench in a NICA league,” Phillips said. “Everyone can participate as much or as little as they want.”

Phillips said bicycling gives kids an opportunity to get out of the house and do something positive. 

“We are seeing kids who are typically not engaged in your typical school sport who either end up at home playing video games, not coming out of their rooms or they’re doing other things that may not be good for them,” Phillips said.

Racing does come with a price, but the Rowan Rockhounds will look to fundraising or sponsorships for those who need help. NICA membership offers discounts of bicycle parts.

The information session will include a presentation and time for questions.

Cyclists who are interested should respond at rowanrockhounds2020.eventbrite.com. For more information, email Phillips at eric@skinnywheels.com, follow at @RowanRockhounds on Facebook and Instagram, or call Skinny Wheels at 704-762-9537.

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