Profiles in Leadership: John Travers

Our Profiles in Leadership series will introduce you to some of the great people accross North Carolina who have been inspired to join the North Carolina Interscholastic Cycling League in our mission to get #morekidsonbikes.  We need YOU to help.  If you’re inspired, please consider attending our Leadership Summit on September 10-11, 2016 in Greensboro, NC.  Registration is open (and discounted through August 1st) – so please take the next step and register here.


Where are you from/what is/are your “home” trails?JohnTravers
I currently live in the Black Mountain/Asheville NC area and I mostly ride the trails in the Pisgah National and DuPont State Forests. I moved to this area about three years ago from the Philadelphia area.
How long have you been mountain biking?
I’m currently 59 years old and am a retired physician researcher. When I was a kid what we now call “mountain biking” was called “riding your bike in the woods” although very few of us had full-suspension carbon frame bikes and SPDs. When I was about 40 years old my wife, kids and I rented mountain bikes to downhill a summer ski slope while traveling in Park City Utah and the old “riding my bike in the woods” neurons in my brain started firing again. That’s when I was bitten by the MTB bug and I have been a fairly avid rider ever since. Since then I’ve ridden the Jura Mountains in France and Switzerland, the Dolomites in Italy, the Portugal/Spain border and Moab in southern Utah. If I was as proficient a rider as I am an avid one I probably wouldn’t have shattered my collarbone during a knuckle-headed fall in Italy a few years ago. We retired in the Asheville area, in part, due to the great mountain biking in the area.
What involvement do you have in the cycling or youth development community?
For the past three years I have lead a mountain biking club at the Black Mountain Home For Children, Youth & Families. The Home is a non-profit residential facility for children from birth through college graduation who have been abused, abandoned or neglected. Some stay only a few weeks while others spend a considerable part of their childhood there. We divide the children into two groups, age 12 and over and under age 12, and meet with them weekly throughout the year to ride the trails on the more than 100 acres of wooded mountain land at the Home. During school breaks we also take the kids on off-site rides both around the Asheville area and out of state. We have a fleet of bikes and other gear donated by members of the community.
What’s your motivation for getting #morekidsonbikes?
Although there was about a 25-year gap between my “riding my bike in the woods” and my mountain biking careers I have found mountain biking to be a sport that one can engage in throughout most of their lives. I know I will have to hang up my Stumpjumper one of these days but I hope to be able to ride into my seventies. I am hoping that by then they will have full-suspension walkers with hydraulic disc brakes and knobby tires. I hope to introduce a lot of kids to a great outdoor athletic activity that they can enjoy for many years to come.
Which is your favorite of NICA’s 5 core values and why?
It’s difficult to pick a favorite among NICA’s core values as they are all very cool. I guess I would have to say “Equality: no try-outs; everyone rides”. For me personally mountain biking has always been a fun and physical outdoor activity and not a competitive sport. For the kids that I work with who don’t wish to compete we will still have the Club. However, the NC NICA league will be a great opportunity to offer a competitive dimension for those that want it and are best motivated by it. The league will also be a great opportunity to teach young people about teamwork, sportsmanship and discipline. Back in the Philadelphia area I was a High School bowling coach (bowling is a lot more popular and a varsity sport up North). We had Varsity and Junior Varsity Teams for those that wanted to compete and a Bowling Club for those that just wanted to bowl for fun. It offered something for everyone, and everyone participated. If I am able to start a NICA team in my area the “no try-outs and everyone rides” value will make it easier for me to try and teach the kids a balance between individual effort, team effort, fun and competition.
Tell us about a kid that inspires you.
David (not his real name) is a 13-year-old who was a member of our mountain biking club until a few months ago. He had never mountain biked before joining our club. He was a bit shorter than the other kids, not terribly athletic and a bit overweight but he had incredible “heart”. Although he would typically lag at the back of the pack during our rides and took a little bit of ribbing from the more skilled riders he loved the riding and always had an incredibly positive attitude. He wanted to be a mountain biker. My main message to him was “ride your ride, nobody else’s, and you will get better”. He did improve and before long he came to see it himself. He took great pride in his improvement and the fact that he had become a mountain biker. It was tough saying good bye to him when he went home but it got a little easier when he assured me that he planned to get a bike and keep riding.

We need YOU! Please consider attending our Leadership Summit on September 10-11, 2016 in Greensboro, NC.  Registration is open (and discounted through August 1st) – register here.