Mountain bikes are coming to the Houlton Rec Center this summer

HOULTON, Maine — New mountain bikes are already assembled and ready for Houlton Parks & Recreation Department pickup, according to Bike, Board and Ski in Presque Isle. 

The 15 new Specialized mountain bikes, paid for by a $13,000 donation from the Christopher and Nancy Pierce Charitable Foundation, will be part of a new mountain bike program for fifth- to eighth-graders at the center, Recreation Program Director Marie Carmichael said.

“It’s all new to us. It’s a great chance to get older kids outdoors,” Carmichael said 

Bike, Board and Ski  discounted the $650 each bikes, co-owner Andrew Bouchard said, adding that the rec center purchased hardtail — no rear suspension — mountain bikes. 

Kids who have been riding bikes already know how to balance, but with the mountain bikes, some may have to learn how to use a handbrake and how to shift, Bouchard said, adding that shifting is the hardest part for people.

“Learning when to downshift will help maintain speed even when going up or downhill,” he said. 

The rec center put together a hiking program last year to engage preteen kids. The program went well, Carmichael said. 

But the hiking program could only accommodate six kids. To expand offerings,  the rec center decided to use the Pierce Foundation money to buy the bikes and associated things like a bike tow so the group can travel to County mountain bike trails, Carmichael said.

With the help of the Presque Isle and Caribou recreation departments, Carmichael is learning and putting this summer’s program together. It may be a series of rides or even a camp, she’s not sure yet, she said.

Presque Isle and Caribou already have mountain biking programs in place.

Specialized, the maker of the Houlton rec center bikes, partnered with Stanford Medical School to research the effects of cycling on brain function and cognition in children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder.

The researchers found that cycling activates the brain’s hunting, gathering and foraging systems. These systems use a combination of spatial orientation, navigation, body awareness, memory, motor control, balance and coordination and executive functions like planning, the study said. 

The bottom line, cycling not only helps improve physical health, it improves brain health, scientists said. 

Carmichael is still working out the details. But some of the trips she’s considering include area trails like  Presque Isle Heritage Center mountain bike trails and  The New England Outdoor Learning Center.

“We’re looking forward to it and we will advertise the mountain biking activities in the summer flier,” she said.