Norte brings youth cycling to Glen Arbor

Photos by Gary Howe, Norte

By Aune Schut

Sun contributor

Norte is a youth cycling program rolling strong in Leelanau County. The nonprofit is dedicated to bringing people together and inspiring kids to be leaders. And it is spreading out and impacting more and more people.

Norte expanded into Glen Arbor just a few years ago and continues to execute its goal of teaching young people and community members about bikes and other ways to enjoy the outdoors. Norte’s core staff “Team Orange” is a group of skilled cyclists, mechanics, directors, and coordinators, who help by coaching or managing. You may have seen the train of young riders out and about around Glen Arbor or on the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. This summer, Norte has bike camps in Suttons Bay, Glen Arbor, Elk Rapids, and Traverse City. The camps are for adventurers between the ages of 5 and 12.

“I grew up biking in my neighborhood,” said Ryan Schut, the Norte coach who started Glen Arbor summer bike camps. “When I was young, bikes were my main mode of freedom. Norte offers structured programs while teaching kids how to be safe on two wheels.”

Riding a bike can be so thrilling for a kid, and Norte makes sure that children have the opportunity to experience riding a bike—but they also get the chance to do it safely while learning life-long skills.

Schut explained why he started coaching at Norte. “Living in rural Leelanau, we have a great trail system throughout the Sleeping Bear Dunes, including the Heritage Trail. I wanted to ensure more people knew about what we truly have to offer in Northern Michigan.” The Heritage Trail is an excellent resource for summer bike camps and other Norte camps because it is off the road, paved, and has perfect areas to instruct. The whole trail runs about 20 miles from Bohemian Road into Empire. In addition, the trail has access to the Dune Climb, Port Oneida, The Homestead resort, DH Day Campground, and Glen Haven.

The fun doesn’t stop at the end of the summer for Norte. In the spring and fall, this group also has local mountain biking camps and after-school bike clubs. Flora Wengreen is a young rider who has participated in all different kinds of Nortecamps. “Biking is a way to see nature from a different point of view,” she said. Not only is biking a great way to be active, but it also gives the opportunity to be outside. Flora highly recommends the mountain biking trails off of M22 on Wheeler Road. “Palmer Woods has a trail for all kinds of mountain bikers.” The Palmer Woods Nature Reserve does have a lot of trails, and each one can be used by any rider at any experience level. The reserve not only offers biking trails, but there are trails for hiking, skiing, and snow-shoeing!

Norte works hand-in-hand with parents to get their kids on a bike. In the end, Norte aims to teach every participant a lifelong sport, but in a safe and engaging way. Jenny and Court Wengreen, Flora’s parents, share what the program means for their family:

“We enrolled our children in Norte because the program gives them the opportunity to learn new skills and build self-confidence.” Developing independence and encouraging the young leaders of the next generation is super important for society, and Norte is helping to do that.

This summer, Norte is already working hard in Traverse City, Glen Arbor, Suttons Bay, and Elk Rapids to put on day camps for kids in grades first through eighth. During these camps, kids learn the rules of the road, while going on adventures and exploring the local community.

Click here to learn more about Norte Youth Cycling.