Frequently Asked Questions

How do I make the team? Are there team tryouts?

The Tam High Mountain Bike team does not have team tryouts. Everyone who is interested can sign up and become a team member as long as they are in good academic standing, participate regularly as a team member and are cleared by a physician to engage in sports. The beauty of mountain biking is that no one ever sits on the bench and every single rider can participate in every practice and every race!

I am new to the sport and I have little experience. How can I integrate into this team?

The Tam High Mountain Bike Team is here to accommodate all levels of riding ability and experience. We have a minimum of 3 different ride groups which train at levels appropriate to the rider’s ability and experience. Anyone who knows how to ride a bike can quickly learn the basics of safe mountain biking. If you are new to the sport, be sure to ask your coaches, as there are no questions not worth asking!

My son or daughter doesn’t know much about mountain biking or cycling. Will they be taught preparedness, safety and the basics of bike mechanics?

Yes, many of our ride leaders and coaches have been riding mountain bikes and other bikes for decades. Athletes will be taught what to bring to be prepared and how to ride safely on the trails and on the surface roads to reach trail networks.

What if I don’t know if this sport is for me and I want to give it a try? Do I have to commit to the full season?

There is a trial period in early January where you can give the team a try. If you decide it is not for you, you will be refunded your dues by the designated date. That said, since mountain biking is an endurance sport, it requires some commitment over many weeks (or months) to get into shape, and this can make the difference between a very fulfilling season and a season that is less than satisfying if you do not put in a consistent effort.

Where, when and how often are team rides?

Our team training rides are held 3 times a week, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Wednesday rides start from the school at the parking lot by Gus Gym at 3:30 P.M.. Friday’s stationary bike workout is at Body Kinetics at 4:00 PM which is a health club conveniently located at the corner of Camino Alto and East Blithedale. Sunday’s rides start in Downtown Mill Valley on the square at the Depot at 9:00 a.m.

How do practices work?

The TeamSnap app reminds team members and volunteers about practices. Please sign up and download to your mobile phone when you get the invite.

At the start of each practice ride the team is divided into three groups based upon ability – A, B, C.

Each group needs to have a NICA-certified coach or Ride Leader accompany them.

Ride volunteers are distributed throughout each group (ideally), and there is always a ‘Sweep’ ride leader taking up the rear.

How do I sign up for the club?

Fill out and submit the membership form. This is the first step of the process.

How do I then become a fully engaged team member who is allowed to train and race with the team?

Once you fill out the membership form, you will be added to the team roster and distribution list. Then you will be sent an e-mail invitation from the Pit Zone by a coach via N.I.C.A.. Through the Pit Zone you will pay your team dues, fill out important paper work and pay for individual race fees. Other necessary Tam High School forms are found on this web site under the Register tab. No student athlete is allowed to ride along with the team without all of the necessary paperwork, including Liability Form and Medical Release. There are no exceptions. Even though you may have sent a medical release form for another sport to the Tam administration, you must submit an additional copy of the form to the Club separately along with the other paper work, and the Mountain bike activity must be checked off for approval by doctor. The first official team ride is November 19th-20 which is the team skills clinic and campout at Tamarancho. All those who have filled out the paper work and paid the team dues are eligible to ride with the team.

What do I need to bring to team rides?

  • A well maintained mountain bike designed for trails and fire roads- a hardtail is the preferred type of bike
  • A certified mountain bike helmet meeting safety requirements- see Norcal website for more details
  • Proper clothing for potential weather changes, especially an appropriate lightweight rain/ windbreaker jacket
  • Water, either in a water bottle, or a hydration pack worn as a backpack
  • Snacks and nutrition bars
  • A repair kit, an extra inner tube and pump to repair flat tire
  • Gloves are highly recommended
  • A bike bell to alert other trail users of your presence on the trail

What is the Pit Zone?

The Pit Zone is an online resource that the team uses. It is administered by a team coach as well as by the Norcal cycling league. This is where your athlete gets registered as a Norcal racer and pays for each race, It is also where ride leaders are registered and certified to become Ride Leader Volunteers for the team.

How many practices am I required to attend?

Our team policy is at least 1 practice a week for those that choose not to race. That said, we do not recommend fewer than 2 to 3 rides a week. Some athletes can only make one team practice a week but train on their own due to other commitments.  This is important because if you only train once a week, you will find it increasingly difficult to stay with the group and your experience will become less than satisfying.

I hear that many team members train more than the 3 team practices. How does this work?

Many of the athletes do train on their own or with team mates. We encourage new riders to pair up with one or two team mates of equal or similar ability and choose a route within their abilities. We stress safety and riding in numbers and within the buddy system. This allows for watching out for each other and helping out if a team mate needs assistance.

We encourage team members to sign up on Strava on their phone too. This keeps track of their daily and weekly mileage, how many vertical feet of climbing they’ve done and it also compare their progress with others and  helps to encourage their team mates virtually, even if they are not riding together.

There is also an App called Life360 which allows parents to keep track of their athlete’s progress virtually on a map, showing their location at any time during their ride on a phone.

How much will I have to pay for a season?

The Mountain Bike Club is not a sport financially supported by the Athletic Department of Tam High. Therefore the Club supports itself through sponsorship money and dues paid by individuals who are members of the Club. At minimum, families should expect to pay these amounts for their involvement with the team:

  • $280 – Tam High Mountain Bike Club Team dues
  • $200-$250 – Team uniform and several kits of cycling training clothing
  • $750-$850 – travel and lodging expenses for the 5 Norcal races
  • $175-$225 – Certified helmet and shoes
  • $300-$500 – Bicycle maintenance
  • $300- Races are $50 per race for race fee directly to Norcal

Total range: $2,000- $2,400

If your son or daughter does not have a bike in sound working condition, a reasonably good new racing bike can be purchased for around $1,000 or more, or a used bike can be found for $500 to $1,200 on line. Check our bike Classified ads on this web site, or Craig’s List for current options.

Is there financial assistance? This is more than my family can afford.

Financial assistance may be available to those in need. These are available on a case-by-case basis, evaluated by the Team Director and Board Treasurer and based on the available funds accrued through fundraising and sponsorship efforts. This information is kept confidential.

If you are in need of financial assistance you can fill out the Scholarship Application and submit it to the Team Director, Mike Van Allen.

If your son or daughter has no bike, or an appropriate mountain bike, there may be a loaner bike that your athlete may be able to borrow. Ask a coach if there is one available to the team.

Trips For Kids in San Rafael has a pretty good selection of used and donated new equipment for sale as well, such as gloves, helmets, clip-in shoes, jerseys and riding shorts. Check out their inventory of reasonably priced merchandise.

What is the right type of bike for training and racing?

This is a very common question for incoming Freshmen or new riders. Based on the terrain and trails we train on, and the courses we race on, the hands down choice is a hard tail 27” or 29”. The hard tail means it does not have rear suspension, only front suspension. A 29” wheel size will be suitable for most, although some smaller riders may prefer the slightly smaller wheel set such as 27”. The lighter the frame, the better, but the lighter the frame, more expensive it tends to be. Carbon fiber frames are the frame of choice for many, as it’s the best combination of stiffness, durability and weight.We also highly recommend clipless pedals/ shoes.

How can I as a parent be involved with the team?

Involvement with the Club is one of the most fulfilling parts of this sport for any family. Parents have many opportunities to get involved with the team on multiple levels. This allows parents to stay connected to their kid’s athletic pursuits while interacting with many other like-minded parents. The feeling of camaraderie created by this team is unlike any other high school sport. Parents can become involved by:

  • Becoming a ride leader and riding with the team during team training
  • Becoming a Board member by assisting in making decisions and running the team
  • Volunteering in the dozens of positions available during race day
  • Cheering from the start, finish and on the course during races
  • Providing assistance with your talents that may include videography, photography, team party planning, meal planning, team graphics and artwork and more!

When do the races start?

There are generally 6 races in the season. The races begin in the Spring usually the first week of March. Races continue with one very two weeks until mid May. The State meet is in late May and this is the final race of the season. Once the race schedule is published it is available on the Norcal site.

What are the Norcal races like?

They are very exciting events, run much like a professional bike race. There are multiple categories for girls and boys and the courses are fun, challenging and diverse. They vary in distance from 12 miles for the Freshmen races to up to 24 miles for the Varsity races. The courses are set on a circuit that allows for multiple laps so you can see the racers coming around multiple times. The courses have varied terrain with uphill and downhill aspects which require bike handling skills and good endurance capacity as well.

You can get a very good sense of what races are like by reading these race reports which were written by our own athletes from a first person perspective or watch these videos on Youtube.

Where are the races and how does the team get there?

Race venues for the 6 races are generally between 1 to 3 hours drive from Mill Valley and most are less than 2 hours away.

We anticipate that the races this year will take place in Petaluma, Laguna Seca (Monterey), Fort Ord (Monterey), Vacaville and Granite Bay (Sacramento). The State meet will be in northern California in 2017 after two years in Southern California. The course location is to be determined.

Each athlete is responsible for their own transportation to and from the events. Athletes may carpool and generally arrive the afternoon before the event to pre-ride the course.

Is everyone on the team obligated to race?

No. An athlete is not obligated to race, but we highly encourage every Club member to try it at least once. The majority of the athletes who sign up for the Club do so to improve their conditioning and riding skills and to race in most if not all 6 races.

What kind of food and nutrition is required?

Nutrition is a very important part of endurance training and racing. Check the team blog under Training for pre-race and post race as well as pre-training and post-training foods to eat. In addition, this year, we will be providing a lunch talk series to educate the athletes on pre-training ride nutrition, training ride nutrition and post ride nutrition as well as hydration recommendations.

Who do you recommend for bicycle maintenance and parts?

One of our sponsors and team partners is Tam Bikes on Miller Ave. If you have a bike that needs attention, a new part or are looking for a new bike, they are a great choice and we hope you will pay them a visit. They have been a long time sponsor of the team.

Who are the Coaches and how do I contact them?

The coaches this year are Sean Perry Head Coach, Patrick LePelch, Head Coach/ Team Director and Assistant Coach Mike Van Allen. All coaches are certified N.I.C.A. (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) coaches and are Wilderness First Aid Certified. More can be learned about each coach here and how they can be reached.

Who is on the Board of Directors and what does the Board do?

The Board is a volunteer group enthusiastic and dedicated parents of athletes on the team. This year there are 7 Board members. They meet 6 to 8 times a year to discuss team policies, develop student programs and social events, determine dates for key activities and discuss finances and team purchases. Meet the Board members and what their positions are here.

2017 Board of Directors- Tam High Mountain Bike Team

  • Board President- Patrick LePelch, Head Coach/ Team Director. The Team Director facilitates decision-making in all aspects of the team, both through his involvement with the Board but also through team management, team communications and team coaching.
  • Board Vice President- Mike Van Allen, Assistant Coach. The Vice President assists with Board decision-making. Mike is also  in charge of team Public relations, Social media, print media liaison as well as Ride Leader Coordinator
  • Team Events Parent Volunteer Coordinator- Nessa Brady. The team volunteer coordinator organizes the team parents in team events and team races.
  • Equipment Manager- Roger Howard. Keeps track of team equipment inventory, the team trailer and assists with transportation of equipment and arranging equipment in the team trailer. He also identifies what equipment needs replacement or maintenance.
  • Events Planner and Fundraising Coordinator- Suzanne Twing. Manages and plans events such as the Team Fundraiser, Team parties and other social events.
  • Treasurer- Bill Smith. Maintains the team’s budget and accounts and assists with the scholarship fund.
  • Ride Leader/ Coach- Den Satake. Assists with ride leading, coaching and providing input regarding the team’s needs.

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