What is needed to participate / join?
Be a 6th - 12th grade student in Chesterfield County.
Connect with the Chesterfield Chain Gang Head Coach to express interest in the team.
Come to the team’s pre-season meeting (will be listed on website calendar)
Register with NICA (via the PitZone through a coach activated invite) before the team’s set deadline.
Any required waivers signed by a parent / guardian. This will now include COVID19 percautions.
A proper mountain bike, helmet, water, spare tube, water bottle / hydration pack, and tire lever.
A Chesterfield Chain Gang Team jersey (must be purchased by registration deadline in addition to any other fees).
Connect with all team communication avenues (announced at the pre-season meeting).
Be on time for practices and races; on time means unpacked & ready to ride!
A warm smile, listening ears, and a willingness to learn while having fun!
While the team has recently started racing the VAHS series, please note that the spring series (VAHS) may be limited to already established team members from the fall, unless the coach has approved established members, qualifing siblings, or experienced racers.
FYI: each race series comes with their own set of fees / costs.
Is mountain biking safe?
There are risks with any sport, but mountain biking is actually considered far safer than many mainstream sports. NICA relies on risk management practices to minimize danger at all of their races.
Where do you ride?
Chesterfield County and Richmond have many awesome mountain bike trails. Team practices take place on bike trails or fire roads in our wonderful area parks; typically Pocahontas State Park. The kids can see areas that they may not see on foot, developing a real connection to the outdoors. NICA & VAHS schedule their fall & spring race season in varying beautiful locations of VA.
Will my child be riding by herself / himself?
No; students will always be riding in groups with a coach leading and sweeping (following the group) during practices. The older, more experienced varsity riders may lead their groups, but there will be at least one matched experienced adult rider in that group as well. During races, the coaches will not be out on the course with your child, but there will be course marshals strategically placed throughout the course as well as sweepers who will follow the racers to make sure that everyone is ok. Safety at practice and at the races is always top priority!
When are practices?
While clinics and opportunities to ride as a team may be offered through the year (weather permitting), mid-summer is when Chesterfield Chain Gang team practices for the fall NICA series begin. Practice is generally held 2-3 times a week (location TBA); during the week & once on the weekend dependant on coach schedules. Advanced riders may have additional practice opportunities. Practice continues through the race series, concluding after the last race. Practice times may vary for the spring season.
What are the costs?
Fees are non-refundable. Pricing may fluctuate. Please note this is not an exhaustive list & subject to change.
Potential team fees to cover insurance at any non NICA season practices.TBA
Parking Pass at Pocahontas: daily & annual pass options.
Equipment Cost & Maintenance (bike, helmet, shoes, eyewear, gloves, multi tool, etc) - wide $ range.
Required Current Team Jersey Fee (riders must provide their own bike shorts): $40 - $70 depending on the style & purchase date.
NICA League Fee (fall series - paid to NICA via their ***Pit Zone): $100
Race Registration Fee: $150 for all 5 NICA events (adventure weekend plus 4 races - there is a deadline for this best pricing), or can register for races individually - $50 prior / $60 day of. These fees cover NICA race insurance, expenses, & training and are paid directly to NICA.
VAHS Race Series (spring series - paid to VAHS via BikeReg): $185 for a season pass with prices increasing after their deadline, $55 for individual races if not purchasing a season pass, plus VAHS requires a USA Cycling license which is typically around $40.
Families may opt to spend the night at various racing venues that involve travel (2 ½ hours tops is the furthest race venue used) which adds to the overall costs of this sport. Some venues offer camping options, but there is always the choice of nearby hotels.
Overall, the sport of youth mountain biking is still more cost effective than many traditional sports.
***The Pit Zone is NICA’s invitation only registration system. When the coach invites you to register with the team, you will receive an invitation email from the NICA Pit Zone. The invite comes from donotreply@nationalmtborg. If you can not find this email, be sure to check your spam folder. If you did not receive, check with your coach to make sure they invited you with the correct email address. Once you receive your invite, click on the invitation link & follow the registration process, making sure to fill in all info. Make sure to sign the electronic waivers and pay your registration fees. You will not be Practice Ready until waivers are signed & all fees paid.
Does my child have to attend all practices & races?
We expect & encourage attendance. As with anything, practice helps build skills & confidence. Also, practice attendance is one factor the head coach uses in setting up the starting line-up of the first race. The goal is to get the kids on their bikes as often as possible; to build fitness & endurance. If a practice cannot be attended, coaches must be informed as early as possible. Team members can sign up for all of the NICA races or pick individually if scheduling is an issue. NICA & VAHS will have registration deadlines for each race.
What are the expectations?
We want the kids (and team families) to have fun while improving skills in the great lifetime sport of mountain biking. Good sportsmanship is a non-negoitiable MUST in addition to adhering to the 6 pillars of character; respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, fairness, caring, and citizenship. Click HERE for the Chesterfield Chain Gang’s expectations & Code of Conduct. Click HERE for NICA’s Code of Conduct. All participants and families involved should remember that this is a volunteer run team that requires everyone to work together.
Other sports do not appeal to my child - how will he/she do in mountain biking?
A lot of kids have not found their niche in what may be considered more "traditional" sports - they just haven’t found a sport that appeals to them yet. Moutain biking may just be the perfect fit, but you never know until you try. NICA, VAHS, and the Chesterfield Chain Gang MT B Team is all about inclusivity. For many, especially in the beginning, the goal of mountain bike racing is just to finish. Every kid on the team gets to race, there is no “sitting the bench.” If they can finish, they will score points for the team, but it is more about accomplishing personal goals than getting a spot on the winner’s podium. An awesome aspect of mountain biking is that if your child enjoys it, a true lifelong sport has been found!
What is race day like?
Race day is fun! NICA (fall) & VAHS (spring) set the dates and venues of their particular race series. There is typically a pre-ride time offered the day before the race and always before the 1st race of the day. Teams ride together for pre-rides and adults must be approved coaches to pre-ride. NICA & VAHS will send out a flyer with detailed info and race category times. The Head Coach will always forward this info just in case. Teams are expected to provide volunteers for certain needs during the races. There are typically food trucks available, but families are always reminded to bring what they need for their family - food & drink. As a team, the Chain Gang does organize a shared food table (no peanuts). It is important to bring all gear, race plates (which will be handed out at the 1st race), and team jersey. Helmets HAVE to be worn at all times if a leg is over the bike. Team jerseys MUST be worn & race plates MUST be attached to bikes for the entirety of race day, including the pre-ride. Not adhering to these rules will cause the team to lose points. Good sportsmanship is required ALWAYS! Each racer is representing the Chain Gang and should do so in an honorable manner. The races start by staging the category about to race, followed by a countdown, then the horn, & its go time! Any venue will be different in regards to spectator opportunities. Cowbells are the sound maker of choice to cheer on the racers. The atmosphere is exciting and supportive! The racers at the JV and Varsity level, as they ride more laps, there are opportunities for team members to hand out additional water to them. We highly recommend planning to stay for the whole day if possible to cheer on all groups. A podium ceremony takes place after each race with medals for the top five. Each category is recognized as well as team podiums. A podium ceremony is held for each race followed by overall placements. Podium etiquette - those that place should shake, high five, or fist bump all others on the podium.
Are boys and girls scored separately in the races?
Yes; boys and girls are scored separately for individual standings, but the team as a whole is co-ed. Points earned by the individuals in their respective categories are totaled and the team competes against other teams for their overall standing in the league.
Do parents have to know how to bike?
No, but we encourage you to try it. One of the best aspects of mountain biking is that, unlike many other sports, it is a sport in which the whole family can participate. You can learn together!
Can parents bike with the team during practices?
Yes; we encourage parents to come out and ride. You don’t have to be an expert rider to help out the team, but anyone participating in rides MUST register with NICA, pass a background check prior to participating in group rides, and complete NICA’s online concussion course.
Are there volunteer opportunities?
Most definitely! We need parents help as this team is run by volunteers - we work together to make the best experience for the kids. Volunteer options will be offered from specific NICA race day needs & VAHS requirements to team specific help at practice and/or at a race. NICA & VAHS expect each team to provide volunteer help at races; these needs will be sent out via email or sign-up genius (an easy online sign-up). Parents that want to help by riding (ride leader or sweep) need to be registered through NICA, undergo a background check, and have concussion training. Volunteers desiring to become higher level coaches must also complete NICA’s MTB 101 course, risk management , first aid/cpr, and various other classes based on the coach level desired. Other important volunteer needs include, but are not limited to; parking lot parents during practices, race day “fuel” suppliers (food & water contributions for the team), race day set-up & clean-up, team photogs, fundraiser organizers, & the end of the season party planners.
What criteria must the coaches meet?
Chain Gang coaches are all registered in the NICA system, have undergone NICA training, have passed background checks, and have completed concussion training. There are three levels of coaching within NICA’s certification (find specific details HERE). Coaches during the spring have the NICA qualifications. There are opportunities for interested parents to become part of the coaching crew as the team is run on volunteers. NICA has varying levels of coach training to fit any parent wanting to get involved. More coaches create even more development opportunities for the kids.
Is my child’s bike ok to ride?
A safe bike is extremely important - working brakes, good tires, etc. We recommend visiting one of the bike shop supporters for a safety check and tune-up. Bike fit is also an element to be considered. Riding a bike that is too small or too large can make the experience unpleasant and even dangerous. Riding a true mountain bike is a must; a bike purposely built to stand up to the pounding of the terrain. If you need further advice, please connect with our coaches.
How do coaches communicate?
What are the different race categories?
There are five different categories in which athletes can compete; middle school, freshman, sophomore, JV, and Varsity. These categories exist for both girls and boys. In most cases, your child will race according to their grade. Occasionally, if a student is consistently placing at the top of their division, the coach can petition for the rider to race in a more difficult category. The Head Coach uses practice participation and time trials to determine 1st race placement of athletes with-in the team. After the 1st race, placement is determined by that 1st race time.