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Two-time Canadian champion leads the Rolph Road School Trailblazers

Campbell Bryson (centre) and the Trailblazers celebrate a good ride.

Campbell Bryson (centre) and the Trailblazers celebrate a good ride. Photo by Heather Gershon.

Torontonians are fortunate to have access to a wealth of trails for hiking, walking, running, inline skating…and for the kids of Rolph Road School, mountain biking.

Every Monday, when the weather is dry, the Rolph Road Trailblazers head to the Don Valley trails leading down from the Redway Loblaws and experience the thrills of mountain biking. This isn’t your stationary bike-type experience. With the constant variation of terrain and elevation, mountain biking challenges riders to use both upper and lower body muscles to maintain balance and tackle obstacles.

Doctors and sports specialists highly recommend that kids participate in multiple athletic activities rather than focus on just one sport in order to avoid both mental and muscle burnout. Engaging in various sports not only results in the use of multiple muscle groups, but also introduces kids to a wider peer group, and reduces the chances of children becoming bored with one activity. If kids discover the joy of multiple sports, they are more likely to want to remain physically active.

Eddie Gerson on the trail. Photo by Heather Gershon.

Eddie Gerson on the trail. Photo by Heather Gershon.

At Rolph Road, students are extremely fortunate to have Campbell Bryson as their physical education teacher. Not only is Bryson the coach of the Trailblazers, he also introduces the kids to sports they may never have had a chance to try, including Quidditch, cricket, beach volleyball on scooterboards, and luge on Mt. Rolph. It’s what you might expect from this phys ed teacher, a former two-time Canadian champion biathlete and Team Peugeot cyclist in Europe.

The Trailblazers are also fortunate to have parent coaches who assist Mr. Bryson. The parents, including Dr. Tim Marshall, a founder of Leaside’s own Morning Glory Club, and Heather Gerson, a certified instructor and member of the Wild Bettys Mountain Biking Club, are expert riders who provide the 25 or so Trailblazers with tips, encouragement, and a safe ride.

The Trailblazers Club is the only mountain biking club in the TDSB – testament to the many opportunities available to the students at Rolph Road.

The club members range from Grades 1 to 6 with both boys and girls participating in rides of 90 minutes in the valley. Bryson points out, “The kids love to ride the ’pump track,’ which is nearby. It’s like a rollercoaster. It’s excellent for practising bike control and introducing more advanced skills.” But while some of the riders have had previous experience, most in the club started as beginners who have gained impressive skills. For all riders, regardless of experience, the club focuses not just on fun and skill-development, but also on safety. Bikes are regularly checked, adults ride at the front and back of the group, monitors spot at challenging sections, and students are required to wear helmets and eye protection.

Callum and Norah Marshall. Photo by Heather Gershon.

Callum and Norah Marshall. Photo by Heather Gershon.

Grade 4 rider Eddie Gerson, a multi-sport athlete who participates at school and extra-curricularly in skiing, soccer, running, and cricket, loves the mountain biking club and points out that the “pump track is the best part!”

Meanwhile Grade 2 and 5 siblings Norah and Callum Marshall, who are seasoned riders, enjoy not only being with their friends and working on their biking skills, but also especially “the popsicles at the end of the ride!” Because who doesn’t love a frozen treat after a vigorous trailbike ride?