Words and photos: Mike Blewitt

We've had some great nominations for our Pearl iZUMi Local Hero competition, and this issue we're introducing Mike Farrelly, who lives in the Samford Valley, Queensland. According to nominations, “Mike is easily the biggest champion of kids MTB in South East Queensland.” Mike looks after the administration of Coot-tha Kids, and has even developed a handbook to help others setup their own programmes for getting more kids on bikes. “His efforts have helped hundreds of kids to experience MTB for the first time.”

Nominations have also stated that “Mike loves making sure more kids get into the sport. He has connected all kids' coaches together, as well as helping coaches with setting up businesses. He is passionate, enthusiastic and most importantly kind. Mike makes sure everyone is included and is approachable.”

Mike Farrelly is our latest Pearl Izumi Local Hero.

“I didn't start Coot-tha Kids, let's clear that up!” Mike said when we caught up with him. “I was riding through Gap Creek and I saw this crazy Frenchman called Frank Fontaine with a group of kids that were having the time of their lives! It was wonderful to see this organised mountain biking for kids.”

While Mike has been riding bikes since growing up in London, seeing kids out learning the right skills and having fun got him inspired, so he got his kids signed up, and got involved.

“I tend to bring order and structure to things, that's my skill set.” The programme was already popular but it lacked structure,  “We're fully accredited and insured now, all the coaches are MTBA accredited, they have First Aid certificates and they have their blue cards. We also have park use consent for anywhere we go.”

Beyond skills on the bike, Coot-tha Kids operates more broadly, as Mike explains.

“We also have a code of conduct. While they're in the forest, they're learning: don't build illegal trails, don't cut Strava lines, don't drop litter, give way to other riders... it helps them be safe and meet people as well. One of my best friends is someone who I met when we both gave way to each other on the trail, and started chatting. We teach more than just how to ride a bike.”

And this is no doubt why the programme has been said to create a community feel, not just an out of school sports option for kids that don't like ball sports. “We don't have an overly competitive feel, riders support each other and encourage each other to give features a go. I love that positivity and for me, kids don't have acess to mountain biking like they do for ball sports.” It's that last point that Mike is passionate about changing.

“For mountain biking, we're one of the few places in South East Queensland with a dedicated kids' programme. We've helped clubs nearby get programmes up and running, and we're in the process of getting Ironbark Kids going as well.” The idea is to create a structure where kids can learn to ride mountain bikes – even if it's something their parents don't do. The group will often help make bikes safe and fit for purpose for new kids, just part of creating a supportive network amongst the group. It all sounds great – but there are limits and Mike wants other people to get in and create their own kids riding group.

To facilitate that, along with the coaches, Mike has written a curriculum that covers key skills and how to progress, along with a handbook for setting up a kids' programme like Coot-tha Kids. Mike wants to see more kids enjoy riding off road, and find the sporting options away from the playing fields. And based on the growth so far, it seems the momentum is building. But, what does success look like?

“Smiles,” Mike said simply.

Who is your Local Hero?

You can nominate your local mountain bike hero on AMBmag.com.au/win, and each issue we will pick one rider to be the Pearl iZUMi Local Hero. They'll get some fresh kit sent out from Pearl iZUMi, and we'll find out a little bit more about them.

Have you got someone in mind? Jump onto our website and tell us a little bit about your local hero. Let's hear more about the riders who make mountain biking great in your area.

Full terms and conditions are online.

What will your Local Hero win?

Pearl Izumi Australia will kit them out top to toe in their latest trail gear:

  • Pearl Izumi Jersey or Tee
  • Pearl Izumi bibs or short liner
  • Pearl Izumi shorts
  • Pearl Izumi gloves
  • Pearl Izumi socks

Check out the full range: pearlizumi.com/AU/en_AU/.