SoMont and Philly Wiss Teams Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Who is eligible to join the SoMont or Philly Wiss teams?
- What are our teams all about?
- Is mountain biking experience required for a student to join the team?
- I live in XYZ township or school district. Can my child be part of a team?
- My child attends a private school or is homeschooled. Can he/she join a team?
- When does the season start and how long does it run?
- Do you have weekly practices? What does a practice consist of?
- Where are practices held?
- Is attendance at every practice required?
- Can a student practice with the team without officially registering and paying the fees?
- What kind of time commitment can parents/caregivers expect?
- Is race attendance required?
- What kind of commitment do race weekends entail?
- How much does it cost to join the team?
- What kind of bike will my child need?
- Will you supply a bike?
- What equipment will my child need to participate on the team?
- What are “NICA” and “PICL”?
- What are the risks? Are you insured?
- Are coaches trained? Do they know what they are doing?
- How do I become a coach?
Who is eligible to join the SoMont or Philly Wiss teams?
Girls and boys in grades 6-12 as of the start of the fall school year are eligible to join a SoMont team or the Philly Wiss teams. Due to league rules, team members must reside the townships of Cheltenham, Abington, Jenkintown, Rockledge, Springfield, Lower Moreland, Upper Moreland, Hatboro-Horsham, Upper Dublin, and Wissahickon to be on a SoMont team, or in NW Philadelphia to be on the Philly Wiss team (see additional answers below for more info). If you do not live in our team area, please contact the state league (PICL) at www.pamtb.org/find-a-team
What are our teams all about?
The goal of our teams is to introduce boys and girls (6th to 12th grade) to the sport of mountain biking through both race and adventure events. We hope to instill kids with the habit of exercise and fitness along with a love for positive living and the outdoors. Additionally, cycling, a sense of self-reliance, and bike maintenance skills learned by the student athletes will remain with them for their lifetime, unlike traditional sports that typically have short athletic windows of time. Our team and coaching philosophy is to use cycling to transport our riders to a sense of adventure, exploration, excitement, friendship and good health. Unlike traditional team sports, EVERY kid on the team has the chance to participate, regardless of skill level. Our motto “No one sits the bench” says it all.
Is mountain biking experience required for a student to join a team?
No! Mountain biking experience is not required, although the student should know how to ride a bicycle without assistance. Any child in grades 6-12 (as of the fall school year) is welcome to participate. Our program includes training on the basics of biking and mountain biking, including proper bike usage (shifting, braking, etc.) as well as more advanced trail-riding skills as the athlete progresses. We’ve seen many kids come as 6th graders with very basic bike skills and progress through the season to become experienced and excited mountain bikers!
I live in XYZ township or school district. Can my child be part of the team?
SoMont’s team area encompasses the townships of Cheltenham, Abington, Jenkintown, Rockledge, Springfield, Lower Moreland, Upper/Lower Moreland, Hatboro-Horsham, Upper Dublin and Wissahickon.
Philly Wiss’s team encompasses all of NW Philadelphia.
The Pennsylvania league also has great teams in nearby areas, including the Lower Bucks County Composite team and Bucks County Composite team. Students should join the team that serves their township and/or school district. If you live on the border of our team area, please contact us to discuss which team you should be working with as there may be some overlap. If you are not in any of these areas, please contact the state league (PICL) at www.pamtb.org/find-a-team
My child attends a private school or is homeschooled. Can he/she join?
Absolutely! We welcome students from all schooling situations in our team area.
When does the season start and how long does it run?
Practice season starts in July and the event season starts at the end of August. Races and adventure weekends take place in August, September, October, and sometimes the first week of November. We usually have a wrap-up celebratory team banquet lunch in early November to end the season.
Do you have weekly practices? What does a practice consist of?
Yes, we have practice 2-3 times a week at local parks (usually Tuesday and Thursday nights, and Saturday morning). Practices may include skills-based instruction and drills, fitness-oriented drills, small or large group rides on local rail trails, easier “double-track” gravel and dirt trails, and more technical “single-track” trails as skills progress. Athletes may be placed in smaller groups depending on skills level for more targeted coaching.
Where do the teams practice?
SoMont primarily practices are at Lorimer Park in Abington or Pennypack Park in NE Philadelphia, near Rockledge/Huntingdon Valley. We also occasionally practice at the new Twining Valley Park bike area.
Philly Wiss primarily practices in Wissahickon Park, starting from either Blue Bell Park, Scout House or Pachelle Fields.
Other locations are occasionally used as well as other local trail networks such as Nox, Neshaminy, Core Creek.
Is attendance at every practice required?
No. While we encourage student-athletes to attend as many practices as possible, we realize there are many other home, school, community, and sports commitments that compete for time. We’re very flexible and don’t want this to be something that keeps a student from joining the team. It is not required to attend every practice, but be aware that if the athlete’s skills have not developed to a certain degree they may not be able to participate in certain rides or races for their own safety. Please talk to the Head Coach if you have questions or concerns about practice attendance.
Can a student practice with the team without officially registering and paying the fees?
Due to insurance regulations from the national organization (NICA), students may only participate in one regular-season practice/ride without officially joining the team. A parent or guardian will need to sign a one-time waiver to allow this to happen. After the “free” practice, the student must be registered through NICA to attend more practices or activities.
What kind of time commitment can parents/caregivers expect?
The time commitments are those of practice time and travel to/from practices and races/events (races/events are optional). Students will be supervised by trained coaches during practice time and races, but due to insurance regulations riders will need to be transported to the practice/race locations by a parent or caregiver. Teams generally practice two nights a week and Saturday mornings for two hours. Fall race season usually has 5-6 races/events across Pennsylvania, ranging from 1.25-6 hours away from the Philadelphia area. See the “Practices” FAQ entry for more details on weekly practices and the “Race Weekend” FAQ below for details on races.
Parents/guardians are not expected to stay for practices, and for insurance and safety reasons are not allowed to join in on team rides unless the adult is at least a NICA-approved coaching assistant (Coach Level 1). Many parents will drop off their kids for practice and then go for their own ride on the nearby rail trail or park trails (or bring a good book and relax and read!). If you are interested in helping out as a volunteer or coach, see the info below.
Is race attendance required?
No. Although NICA/PICL is a youth MTB racing league, athletes are NOT required to go to races. Our primary goal is to get “More kids on bikes” and to teach the lifelong skills of mountain biking while building community and character. Some athletes come to each race, some may only come to one or two, and a few may not come to any at all. But, we highly encourage all athletes and families to at least come visit the first race event even if not planning to race. You have to experience a race weekend in person to fully grasp how cool and energizing it is for the kids (and adults)! Athletes race with kids of similar ages and abilities, so even the most non-competitive kid is likely to have fun at a race.
What kind of commitment do race weekends entail?
Race weekends do require a certain commitment of time and money, and as previously noted you do not have to attend all the races (or any of the races, although we hope you will!). Riders will be supervised by trained coaches and volunteers during practice and races, but riders will need to be transported to the practice/race locations by a parent or caregiver.
Since PICL is a Pennsylvania state league, races are held in locations throughout the state, from the east side (Allentown or Chester County area) to as far as Pittsburgh.
The PICL event calendar can be found here.
Race weekends usually entail a commitment of at least one day. Depending on the particular race, middle schoolers may race on one weekend day and high schoolers on the other. Races are staggered throughout the day based on the group they are in, so students should plan to be there all day from about 7:30 a.m. to later in the afternoon. If possible, we encourage athletes to be there on both days, regardless of the day they are racing, to support the other athletes on the team.
Parents/caregivers must drive their student(s) to the event, and most stay around during the day to cheer on the other racers, help out, and enjoy the community feel and race-day “vibe.” For races farther away, often team families will camp together at a nearby campground or stay at a “team” hotel to foster team community.
How much does it cost to join the SoMont Youth MTB or Philly Wiss teams?
The fee to join the local SoMont or Philly Wiss teams is $100 for 2023. Those fees are collected and administered by our parent non-profit Independence Youth Cycling.
The national/state league base registration fee is $220, which covers insurance, events, coach training, league administration etc.
To participate in events (competitive or adventure) the fee is $45 per event or $100 for a season pass which covers all events. There are six league-wide events this season.
We realize that costs can be a factor in deciding whether to participate in any youth sport. Our club does fundraising to keep our team costs as low as possible, but if the registration costs will be a significant burden on your family please contact the Head Coach privately about our financial aid programs. We also have some loaner bikes for athletes to use if they are in need and cannot afford to purchase one. We want to “Get more kids on bikes” and don’t want cost to be an overriding issue for anyone!
What kind of bike will my child need?
Students should have a properly fitting, good-quality bike in good repair. You do not need to buy a high-end mountain bike for your student to ride successfully, but cheaper department-store style bikes likely will not be up to the task. For new athletes, a SoMont coach will check out their bike before the first practice to make sure it’s safe to ride. Coaches may suggest or make very minor adjustments, but if there are bigger issues we will refer you to one of our sponsoring bike shops (Circle Cycle, Keswick Cycle, Trek Springhouse) for more assistance.
In previous seasons we have had a few of the younger kids riding and racing on bikes with 24″ wheels due to sizing issues, but generally speaking a bike with 26″, 27.5″, or 29″ wheels works better for trail riding. If your child does not yet have a suitable bike of the correct size (a bike that fits properly is important for safety reasons), please contact us before your first practice and we can provide suggestions or possibly arrange for a short-term loaner bike. Some families have had success buying used bikes from Craigslist, local bike shops, and other team families. Again, if you have questions or need help, one of our coaches will be happy to talk with you.
Can SoMont or Philly Wiss supply a bike?
Independence Youth Cycling does maintain a fleet of used bikes and helmets. These bikes can be made available for new riders at “Try It Rides” or other pre-season promotional events. Independence Youth Cycling can also offer used bikes in the fleet to riders as loaner bikes for a period of time. Please contact a Team Director if a bike is needed for a Try It Ride or otherwise.
What equipment will my child need to participate on the team?
Some basic equipment is required for your athlete’s success, well-being, and to handle basic bike repairs on the trail. If you have any questions, please talk with a coach before purchasing any items and we’ll be happy to walk you through this list. Or, visit one of our sponsor bike shops, Circle Cycle in Huntingdon Valley and Keswick Cycle in Glenside.
- [Required] A good-quality bicycle that fits properly and is in good condition (see “What kind of bike will we need” FAQ)
- [Required] Helmet (riding is absolutely not allowed without a helmet)
- [Required] Some way to carry enough water for the practice or event. Water bottle(s) and bike-mounted carrier(s) or Camelbak-style hydration system – equivalent of one bottle for every 45 minutes of anticipated exercise; note that disposable water bottles do NOT work well in bike-mounted cages and usually end up falling out. Most athletes use a hydration backpack of some sort (aka Camelbak).
- Cycling gloves provide protection against falls and trail branches, etc., and better handlebar grip
- [Required] Spare inner-tube that matches the student’s tire size and some way to carry it at all times while riding (seat bag, hydration backpack, etc.)
- Eye protection – basic, clear safety glasses available at most home stores for $10 or so are fine
- Tire levers
- Biking-specific multi tool for basic repairs
- Small bike pump either carried by the rider or mounted to the frame
- Proper clothing: We highly suggest that students wear cycling-specific shorts for comfort, either road-style Lyrca or the baggier mountain-bike style, although that is optional and regular shorts may work fine for shorter rides. Synthetic performance-type shirts work best for practices, especially in the warmer months.
What are “NICA” and “PICL”?
NICA is the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, the national body that sanctions the state leagues. PICL (pronounced “pickle”) is the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Cycling League, our local state chapter under the auspices of NICA. The national league provides insurance, coach training and certification, and other needed services. PICL manages the local races and provides local coach training and other support services.
What are the risks? Are you insured?
As with any youth sports activity, inherent risks are involved. Our trained coaches go to great lengths to keep our riders safe and reduce the risks in our sport. SoMont Youth MTB Team operates under NICA’s national insurance program. Contact one of our coaches for more information.
Are coaches trained? Do they know what they are doing?
Yes, all SoMont coaches have been certified by the national organization (NICA) at one of three levels. In order to work with the student-athletes, all coaches must pass a national and Pennsylvania background check and take yearly online training courses in coaching philosophy, concussion protocol, etc. Higher-level coaches (2-3) must have Advanced First Aid or Wilderness First Aid and CPR certification, attend a yearly coach training weekend, and take advanced mountain bike instruction classes. You can view the requirements for the different coaching levels on NICA’s site. SoMont’s coaching philosophy is fun and character development first, coupled with skills and fitness. Our team “vibe” is fun and encouraging!
How do I become a coach?
Interested in becoming a volunteer youth MTB coach? We’d love to talk with you! Coaches have as much fun as the students! While some biking experience is required, you don’t need to be a hard-core “trail shredder” to be a great coach. Most importantly, you must enjoy working with kids of all skill levels and adhere to our coaching philosophy of fun and character development first. First-year coaches are general volunteers (“Level 1”), and help with rides, practices, etc. All coaches must complete the national NICA coach registration process (also see “Are coaches trained” FAQ) and a background check. The requirements for a general volunteer (Level 1) can be met by taking the required online webinars and undergoing a background check. All adults that work directly with students must be a certified NICA coach level 1-3. Coaches pay a small yearly NICA insurance fee and a background check fee. For more info on becoming a coach, please e-mail us. We also welcome parents/caregivers who want to get involved with team-related activities, but aren’t interested in becoming a coach, to become part of our Parents’ Council.