GETTSYSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Cycling League (PICL) is coming to Gettysburg on Saturday, Sept. 9 for the ‘Still Grinnin’ at Granite’ event.
“We expect about 800 riders, which will put about 2,000 – 2,500 people on site for the weekend,” said PICL Executive Director Mike Kuhn It is loud and colorful, and exciting. We’re hoping the rain holds off.”
The PICL is one of about 31 leagues in the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. The organization and the league’s mission is to introduce kids and young adults to mountain biking to help them develop strong minds and bodies with a focus on character and community.
Kuhn noted that he believes all youth sports are important, but that cycling has some unique characteristics and benefits.
Biking is an activity that kids can participate in all throughout their lives, it can be done competitively in racing or for fun, it allows for freedom and can be an escape for some and parents can participate with their children.
“You get a kid on a bike, or honestly you get anybody at any age, and you get them on a bike, and you give them a couple of skills that give them the confidence to be able to ride a trail in the woods and [they’re] just smiling, [they’re] having a good time,” Kuhn said.
This is the eighth season the PICL has been in operation. They are comprised of 70 teams, some of which were developed by communities, and others are associated with school districts. Kuhn estimates that there are about 130 to 150 Pennsylvania school districts represented in the PICL.
From the Midstate, there is the West Shore composite that includes the West Schore school district, Cumberland Valley, and Cedar Cliff. There is a Carlisle composite that includes the Carlisle school district. Hershey, Elizabethtown, Dauphin, Susquenita, and York all have teams as well.
“Most of our student-athletes are part of teams, and teams are born when a community is interested in this idea,” Kuhn said. “The league helps the community figure out how to form the team.”
There are also about 40 independent riders who are not associated with a team because their communities do not have one.
The ‘Still Grinnin’ at Granite’ event is one of six events the PICL holds across the Keystone state each season from July to early November. The first event of the season was held two weekends ago in Boyce Park in Pittsburgh.
The events have competitive racing for different skill levels of riders, but racing is not required. PICL members have the ability to be a part of the league and improve their mountain biking abilities without the pressure of competing.
Each event has non-competitive adventure rides. The final event of the year, which will be at Raystown Lake in Hesston, Pennsylvania, will be exclusively an adventure ride event. The PICL will also honor race winners, season leaders, and riders who contribute to the PICL’s trail maintenance program at the culminating event.
The PICL places a huge emphasis on trail maintenance. This season alone the PICL student-athletes and leadership have contributed over 6,500 hours of time helping to maintain trails across Pennsylvania. Since the organization began tracking their hours, they have tallied over 25,000 hours of community service on the biking trails.
“We’re making a pretty big impact in terms of helping the communities, helping the trails, helping the parks, [helping] keep trails open,” Kuhn said. “We certainly feel like if you ride a bike on trails, you should be contributing to helping keep those spaces open and well cared for.”
Right now, PICL has between 1350 and 1400 youth riders across Pennsylvania. Kuhn wants to see that number grow as well as continue the organization’s efforts to advocate for mountain biking opportunities in urban areas.
“I think we’re just scratching the surface,” Kuhn said. ” I think 10 times [the number of current riders] is not an outrageous idea for Pennsylvania. We just want kids on bikes everywhere.”
The PICL has many other events scheduled for this season, including attending the first-ever National Interscholastic Regional Championships in Fair Hill, Maryland this November.
The upcoming ‘Grinnin’ at Granite’ event will be held this Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Granite Hill Camping Resort in Gettysburg.