Carroll College Bike Donation

Single Track Minds

An idea born on Helena’s trail system and brought to life thanks to the synergy of local businesses is helping Carroll College students have some fun and stay active in one fell swoop.

Shortly before the start of the 2015-16 school year, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) donated $25,000 to Carroll College to purchase 11 mountain bikes for the Carroll Adventure and Mountaineering Program (CAMP). Those bikes, purchased locally from Great Divide Cyclery and Big Sky Cycling and Fitness, arrived at the campus complete with helmets and repair kits.

“We’re always committed to investing in the communities we serve, and this is a unique way to do that, all while supporting Carroll College and the local economy,” BCBSMT spokesperson Jesse Zentz said. “We hope this helps Carroll students take advantage of the amazing mountain biking opportunities Helena has to offer. It’s a great way to have fun and shed some calories.”

The idea developed during a chance meeting of CAMP director Bradley Maddock and BCBSMT senior director of public relations John Doran, when the two were taking part in the filming of a promotional video touting the mountain biking scene in Helena. Doran liked the idea of how many larger cities offer free commuter bikes, but wanted to put a Montana touch on it. With Helena’s prominence as a mountain bike destination, he leaned more toward knobby tires than commuter. Meanwhile, Maddock had a need at CAMP, as many Carroll students don’t own their own mountain bikes, and the program had none to offer.

After working closely with Great Divide Cyclery and Big Sky Cycling to maximize the number of bikes while maintaining quality, BCBSMT purchased a wide range of bikes in August of 2015 and delivered them to Carroll College. The Specialized, Trek and Giant mountain bikes range in size, and all offer a great ride. Most are full suspension, but the selection does feature some hardtail options (front suspension only).

“The bikes have been an enormous addition to the CAMP program,” Maddock said. “Many students have found a new outdoor passion and are becoming avid users of Helena’s singletrack. It is really neat to see the students become so excited about a new outdoor sport. Mountain biking our award-winning trail network is one of my favorite parts about living in Helena, and it is really cool to see the students develop skills on their bikes, and take to the trails on their own.”

The bikes were a hit in the fall and their popularity should increase as word spreads. Through the first two months of school, Maddock conducted Mountain Bike Mondays to give students ranging from first-time riders to more experienced riders a chance to hit the trails in a group format. During the week, Maddock estimated that seven bikes per week were checked out individually throughout the fall.

And boy, do the bikes turn heads and elicit smiles. In early September at an event to kick off the Mountain Bike Mondays program, passersby on campus stopped to gawk and the bikes as ride participants prepared to pedal to some nearby trails. Great Divide owner Dan Barry was part of that initial ride and has high hopes for the program’s future success.

“I’m really excited to work with two main staples in the community, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana and Carroll College,” Barry said. “Both have been wonderful to work with and I feel honored that they came to us. Our business is to get people on bikes, not only for entertainment, but for good health.”

Big Sky Cycling owner Jim Barnes expanded on Barry’s thoughts.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for Carroll students, living in a community that’s so close to the mountains with easy trail-riding access,” Barnes said. “There are a lot of kids who come to Montana, because they want to get outside and do some of this stuff, so this just makes it easier. That’s what drew me to the state and I never left. And because these are performance bikes, it will make it fun.”

The hope is to maintain a long-term relationship with Carroll while using the partnership as a pilot program for possible opportunities at other Montana colleges and universities.

“Helena is a great place to mountain bike, but it’s not the only place to mountain bike,” Zentz said. “This idea could work really well at other colleges around the state in the future.”