SABR board member Annie Poubeau recently met with Little Harbour Elementary School Physical Education teacher Sean McGrimley to discuss the elementary school biking programs. Sean also coaches the Portsmouth High School (PHS) cycling team.
Portsmouth High School
The PHS cycling team was originally created in 2014 by Rich Matthes, a few dedicated community members and interested high school students. Rich also created the local nonprofit Seacoast Velokids. Sean worked with Seacoast VeloKids at his local elementary school and then took over coaching of the PHS team in 2018 and has been involved with the Portsmouth cycling team ever since. This school year, the team counts about 20 active riders; in the fall they ride mountain bikes, in spring it’s mostly road riding. Because cycling is not yet a varsity sport in New Hampshire, and there are only a few other high schools offering this type of program, the PHS team competes mostly with private schools. The team usually practices at Stratham Hill Park with occasional trips to other local trails. Sean would like to expand the current cross-country trail system behind the high school in Portsmouth with a network of single-track trails for beginner to intermediate mountain biking as well. If you would like more information or would like to help support the cycling program at PHS in any way, please check out the website http://www.phscycling.com/.
Little Harbour Elementary School
Sean has built a strong biking program at the Little Harbour Elementary School in partnership with Seacoast Velokids. Last fall — thanks to support from Velokids, which provides after-school programs and lends out bikes to teachers — Sean was able to use a dozen bikes and offer special programs for his students during his PE classes. Some of the elementary school children had never been on a bike before and Sean found it rewarding to see them enjoy this new sport.
Sean would love to create a program called Bike Days that would introduce biking to even more kids from all the Portsmouth elementary schools. The program would include a bike rodeo, mountain bike obstacles, and a variety of biking activities. Additionally, he would like to expand the Physical Education curriculum to include sports such as biking and skateboarding.
Sean would also love to see more safe riding paths for younger kids in Portsmouth. New Hampshire has sponsored a program for over 10 years that encourages elementary and middle school students to safely walk and ride to school on two designated days of the year (one in October, another in May). As a Physical Education teacher at Little Harbour school, Sean has been involved in past bike/walk to school days. As COVID recedes these days will resume. Long-term, Sean and SABR would like kids and adults to be encouraged to ride their bike every day not just on designated days.
New Franklin, Dondero, and Middle Schools
Other Portsmouth schools have participated in biking programs. Velokids has offered its elementary school program to New Franklin and Dondero; where the program originated when Rich had kids attending Dondero Elementary. The Portsmouth Middle School Physical Education teacher Kathy Birse-Seigel leads after school mountain biking groups and continues to offer small riding groups for the students who would like to refine their cycling skills.
Another statewide program that successfully promotes biking for kids, school staff, and others, is the CommuteSmart challenge. May will be the time for local schools to compete in the number of trips logged by kids and teachers, and administrators alike. For the past few years both Portsmouth Middle School and High School have seen a high number of participants. To learn more about how you, your kids’ school, or your company can participate in the spring statewide challenge, check out the website https://commutesmartnh.org/spring-statewide-challenge/.
When school is over
For when kids are out of school, Sean is planning to offer summer biking camps to upper elementary and middle-school-age children through a small company called Flow Adventures. Sean founded the company with Don Mills, a Physical Educator instructor at Phillips Exeter Academy. Sean and Don have completed online coaching classes and are getting ready to organize their first summer camps under Flow Adventures LLC in 2021. For more information on camps, please visit the Stratham Parks & Recreation website at
For more information and to stay informed about events and rides offered by Seacoast Area Bicycle riders this spring and summer, please send us an email at [email protected] or visit us at www.seacoastbikes.com