Winter is Coming

Winter. For most of the US that word means putting on layers of clothes, scraping ice and snow
off of the car before driving to work on salted roads, and placing the bike in a seasonal
hibernation of sorts, only to be admired as one walks by and longs for the thawing of the
trails. For some, winter brings with it great fun, especially for those who like to play in the snow whether on skis, snowboards or just riding a sled. For others winter is a dark, dreaded time of year used predominantly to catch up on missed television shows while sitting on the couch under layers of blankets.  Ahh, but for us in Florida, winter means something different.

Normally this is my favorite time of year to be on a bike. No yellow flies mixed with 90% 
humidity. No forest floor covered with poison ivy and filled with tics. Instead it’s weather that
makes me feel like I can ride all day and brings a smile to my face. However, this winter has
been a little different. It’s the year of memes saying “Welcome to winter Florida” or ones that
portray Floridians as the cowardly lion in the face of temperatures below 32. And yes, here in
Tallahassee we had snow! Enough snow that we had a snow day and school was cancelled! My
family and I played in the snow…in Florida.

So this made training with the Red Hills Composite Team a little interesting on our first week
back to school. We missed one practice due to the snow day, and the following practice I
decided we train indoors. Now we are a first year team with a modest budget. So no indoor
trainers or spin bikes. I have a room at school with some mats so we performed a core routine. 
This was quite the experience for all of us! As I am a new coach this was my first time leading a
practice performing core exercises. The plan was to go through 9 exercises twice. We made it
but this was definitely a first for the team. I’m just glad we had the mats with all the falling we

Then we did our Saturday ride. Another fact of being a Floridian is that none of us, unless you
are a skier, has real cold weather clothing. So we looked like a hodgepodge of cold weather
clothing that found its way on our backs from the very back of every closet. But we had fun. We rode on a technical trail at a slow pace. I wanted the athletes to experience a trail with some obstacles as well as numerous turns and roots that are the norm on many Florida trails. This was the first time I really challenged the team and they persevered! I know they wanted to stop before the ride was finished but they pushed through and best of all, they motivated each other. It really is a great thing to hear the kids cheer each other on. What I learned about our winter training so far is this: have fun, challenge each other, support each other and buy a pair of insulated gloves! 

Maxwell Gledhill
Red Hills Composite - Florida's First NICA Team

Hello everyone and welcome to the Florida Interscholastic Mountain Biking site. My name is Maxwell Gledhill and I am a public school science teacher, advocate for NICA and a member of the Florida League Development Committee. We are working hard to bring NICA to Florida and we welcome your interest and support in this movement. From time to time we will post happenings, thoughts, and results of our endeavors. Please enjoy the site and let's make mountain biking the new normal. Below are some thoughts on my new team and the experiences so far. 

Think back to your time in middle or high school. No really, take a moment and re-live those years....welcome back. What came to mind? Awkwardness, confusion, discombobulation, uneasiness, nervousness, joy, excitement, embarrassment. All of these, and more, are emotions that youth of America experience on a daily basis. Many overcome these feelings by the time they are in 8th grade, only to succumb to them again as a freshman. By the time they become a senior most no longer feel emotions relating to awkwardness but it's the unknown future that looms over their shoulders. Stepping out on your own and being independent is a challenge in itself. So what does any of this have to do with mountain biking?

Well, cycling is a sport anyone can do. Cycling is a sport one can participate in their entire life. Cycling is a sport in which every member of a team can earn points for that team, but they can also challenge themselves as individuals. Cycling is a sport that leads to adventure and exploration if one allows. Most importantly, cycling develops confidence, determination, independence, self-reliance, grit and a love for the outdoors. Think about a ride in which you were exhausted or frustrated due to a mechanical issue, but you kept going. You finished the ride or fixed the issue and pedaled back to your car. This is what cycling can do for student-athletes. It instills confidence and demonstrates that hard work does pay off. 

Red Hills Composite is the name of Florida's first NICA team and we are composed of 4 middle school aged student-athletes from two different schools. Three of the riders are new to the sport and one has experience and loves riding wheelies and jumping over anything in his path, be it a pebble or a log. I am a new NICA coach but experienced in mountain biking. Please follow me and my amazing team of awkward, confused, nervous and excited student-athletes (and coach) as we forge ahead into the unknown territory of mountain bike racing (we will be racing with the Alabama league). I can tell you from my experience in the pre-season that this is going to be a great year and NICA is going to be an amazing addition to the sunshine state in so many ways. Most importantly, these four student-athletes are becoming confident, strong cyclists that can't seem to stop smiling. 


Red Hills Composite. Maxwell Gledhill on left and assistant coach on right. NICA Florida will ensure every kid has an opportunity to ride. If you wish to assist with this please see the Get Involved page. 


Maxwell Gledhill