It’s pretty easy for Adam and Kristin Labonte to get their three children to Great Glen Trails on Tuesdays for the M&M Assurance Summer Mountain Bike Race Series.
“My kids all love biking,” said Kristin. “They look forward to it. When they wake up, it’s ‘When are we going biking, when are we going biking?”
The Labontes have made the series something of a tradition, with the Berlin family — add Joseph 10, Julia, 8, and Aleia, 6 — now riding in it for the third year.
That means the little ones started on single speeds.
“They try and beat their times,” said Kristin.
The long-standing eight-week summer mountain bike series, a time trial, started Tuesday afternoon with 95 riders. Locals and vacationers — a Canadian family of four on holiday with their bikes saw the race tent, stopped to inquire about what was going on and decided to race — show up between 3:30 and 7 p.m. to ride the long 5-mile course, short 3.7-mile circuit and mini-course 1-mile loop on a mix of carriage roads and singletrack.
Open to all ages and abilities, there’s a low-key family friendly vibe to it. Do one race or do them all. Racers become summer friends. They encourage each other. Some chill and take their time. Others try to beat their personal time or others’ times while also developing better bike handling and race skills.
“Every year we have different courses,” says series organizer Eli Walker. “There are interesting twists and turns. This year there is a cool wooden bridge element that you ride over or under depending on the course you are doing.”
There’s even some single track for the ankle biters and novices on the mini-course.
“I like to lay out a course that sometimes can make people test their own boundaries a little bit,” said Walker “Give them a nice flow and make them see some trails they haven’t been on.”
Walker also likes to see riders gain a better skill set and confidence.
North Conway’s Judy Gagnon is in her second year of the series. A former road biker who did Cranc the Kanc several times, she feels safer in the woods. She took a mountain bike clinic with Chris Krug of Eastside Bikes a couple of years ago and now does the series for the fun and challenges. She even did some fat biking this past winter.
“I like to see how far I’ve gotten from the stuff I learned from that clinic,” she said. “This way I commit to the series, go for it and not be scared.”
Jackson’s Rachel Freierman is riding the series for a third year. A snowboarding member of the Wildcat Ski Patrol, winter’s her prime sports time, but the series motivates her to do more mountain biking. She used to race as a tween, but now likes to get out and beat her own time each week.
“Historically, I’ve been doing that,” she said. “The more I ride the course, the more it helps. I know where to shift and know what’s coming up.”
Another biking family is the Rothens of Bartlett — dad Jeff, wife Valerie and sons Connor and Taylor.
Jeff, a physical therapist, says the family’s been doing the series for about five years.
“This really is just fun to do,” he said. “You see a lot of the same people every year. This is just enjoyable to do, even for an old guy — I’m 60 — like me. I don’t take it too seriously. It’s not that kind of race.”
But he did have a small wager with his son Taylor centering around dessert that had to be bought by the mountain biker with the slower time.
The race also is a re-entry portal for some.
Like Adam Labonte. He grew up riding at Great Glen Trails. He left the cycling world for a spell and then returned with his family.
“Once my son started riding, he really showed a love for it,” he said. “We had some single speeds and now everyone has a mountain bike.”
Now the kids even make their own elements at home.
“They love to go out in the yard and bike,” he said. “They even put down some palettes and ride over them. They like to ride the rocks and roots and get really excited about it.”
They sound like a lot of the riders who make Tuesday nights at Great Glen a summer thing.