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Lorne Lovett knows all about the benefits of keeping fit. The guy's been running and biking and swimming and participating in marathons and triathlons (and even an "ultra" triathlon -- 10K swim, 420K bike, 85K run) for decades.
So is it any wonder that he enjoys spreading the word? A teacher at Skaha Lake Middle School, Lovett, now at the tender of age of 60 but looking leaner than a lot of guys half his age, is the driving force behind that school's cycling initiative -- an initiative that Friday morning saw 170 Grade 7 students bike across the city in one giant peloton to LocoLanding Adventure Park.
Actually, peleton might be the wrong word. The kids Friday morning weren't exactly in one big group. They may have started that way, but by the time they'd navigated the entire channel pathway and hit Loco, they were spread out over a couple kilometers. Thankfully, there were a lot of cycling teachers out there too -- one at every key juncture -- to make sure everything unfolded as it should.
And even though it was drizzly and cloudy and far from the near-summery day you'd expect on June 17th, the kids seemed to have a blast. Almost the end of the school year, a bike trip to LocoLanding -- we understand the sentiment.
"We start off in the fall with riding around the school, just in the parking lot and around the complex," said Lovett. "And we do drills and looking over your shoulder. Eventually we get to the point where they can go up curbs. Eventually they can ride in a line safely, without overlapping and knowing how to brake at speed, that kind of thing.
"Then we take them to the beach, in class groups. One of the kids will be a leader, and we'll just ride along. We'll do it two or three times a week. It's part of our PE program."
Lovett, who launched the initiative approximately "15 years ago, with one ride a year," believes bikes aren't just a way of keeping healthy and having fun, but an important transportation option too.
"If you're in Europe,' he said, "this is part of your life. It's a lifestyle choice.
"Like today, we didn't pay hundreds per bus to get us here. We didn't have to do that. And the money we saved paid for them to get in here. So they essentially get in here for free."
And it's not just about riding. It's also about maintaining the bikes.
"When COVID started," he said, "we made a decision at the school to buy ten bikes. We bought them (Trek Marlin 4s) at the Bike Barn and they gave us a good deal. So now there's ten of these and five others the school owns and I've refurbished.
"We bring them in and show the kids how to check the cables and tighten bolts and make sure the air pressure is up. There are a bunch of kids now where biking is their main sport."
Lovett, who personally owns numerous bikes and these days favours gravel bikes for leisure rides with his wife from their home in Kaleden, watched the last of his students arrive and smiled.
"The staff at Skaha Lake is really supportive of this," he said. "The administrations fantastic. They know it's the best thing for the kids.
"It reduces stress too. When they get here, you can just see the difference."
Students and cyclists Lauren and Hannah each said the initiative has made them feel more comfortable -- and capable -- on a bike.
"I didn't really bike much before this," said Hannah. "Usually I wouldn’t go biking unless I really had to, but now I feel more comfortable biking in front of anyone. I can go longer distances now too."
"We've been going once or twice a week," said Lauren. "I don’t really bike unless it's a school thing, so this really helped me in going as far as we did. Biking was really tiring, but this just improves it."
Comments that would undoubtedly make Lorne Lovett happy.
"These are 12 year olds," he said. "There are kids here who've never ridden before. And they've all bought in. You can see they've all bought in.
"It's like an adventure for them, and it's something they'll continue to do. I look at it like they'll become lifelong cyclists. And if we don’t do it early enough, they might not."