DULUTH, Minn. — Mountain biking is gaining popularity among Minnesota high school students as an alternative to more mainstream sports.

The Minnesota High School Cycling League has 1,300 student athletes from more than 100 schools, compared to 150 athletes when the league began in 2012, Minnesota Public Radio reported .

The sport appeals to many students because all athletes get to ride, regardless of their experience, said Brian Hayden, coach of the Duluth Composite Team. About 70 percent of league members hadn’t ridden a mountain bike before joining a team.

The program is open to students in seventh through 12th grade.

The regular season has six races and courses are about 4 miles (6.44 kilometers) long. Individuals and teams get points based on where they finish.

Joshua Kleve helped found the league and said it’s more than just a racing organization.

“We’re looking for more ways to just get kids out, get kids on bikes, and get kids involved in this lifelong sport,” Kleve said.

Some participants enjoy the sport because it’s less competitive than other sports such as hockey and soccer.

“I quit soccer the summer after sixth grade,” said Jake Torch, a sophomore at Duluth East. “It got a little bit too competitive for me. I wasn’t a huge fan of the practices, but then I went here, and it was just riding, that was the practices, which I thought was pretty great.”

Many students who participate in the league also get their parents involved in the sport.

“It’s been fantastic to see my son’s skills progress,” said Erik Torch, Jake Torch’s father. “I was always in front of him until last year, then last year he kind of took off, and there was no catching up to him.”


Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org