Riding through time with Norte

Riding through time with Norte

My family’s early years with toddlers and young children had a predictable rhythm — often involving an excursion timed to the season.

For example, on Christmas Eve, we walked or skied in the woods late at night. We’d set out orange slices, popcorn, and cranberries near pine or spruce tucked in the woods for the animals. Then, when the snow melted, we took puddle walks on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College to let the kids splash and play until they were muddy and soaked.

In spring, we picked strawberries, ate until we were full, and made jam that never lasted long enough. In the summer, we spent afternoons jumping waves and eating popsicles. Then, finally, we gathered all three children and the dog out for the fall for an annual picture in front of sunflowers. Their daily growth, now apparent when marked by the towering stalks. These seasonal markers contributed to the rhythm and joy of our home.

However, one seasonal marker held our attention and excitement more than most. And that’s the Iceman Cometh Challenge, which happens every second Saturday of November and is quickly approaching.

Austin, now almost 18, and Avery, nearly 16, first rode in the Sno-Cone race in 2009. Packed with other riders at the starting line, I can still see Austin’s wide-eyed look before the crowd yelled, go, go, go! He looked at us for reassurance; we proceeded to smile and cheer for him to use his pedal power. Then, when it was Avery’s turn to go, her little legs kicked into gear with a determination and ferocity we didn’t know she had. I ran behind her on the course, cheered her on, and felt my heart swell with pride and excitement. We had similar excitement when our youngest, Ella, hit the racecourse in the years to follow.

How can people so little be so assertive, courageous, and strong?

The collective energy at the Sno-Cone race rivals the cheers for the professional riders. It is empowering to witness bravery in the face of a new experience and inspiring to see sheer determination from children. And the encouragement and genuine joy rippling through a crowd of parents, siblings, grandparents, and strangers are palpable. These moments are powerful, memorable, and kept us returning.

With growth, time, and practice, Sno-Cone racers become Slush Cup racers and, eventually, full-on Iceman racers. Our family has every race plate and medal from these years, marking time progression like the photos in front of sunflowers.

Iceman is the largest mountain bike race in North America. With 5,000 riders annually, this event is a highlight for many in the Norte circle. So if you have a young rider itching to roll for the first time, there’s still time to register for both the Sno-Cone and Slush Cup. And we will be there to help.

Norte and Liderato, our Youth Leadership Council (many themselves experienced Sno–Cone riders from years ago), are going all in this year with our support. You might see us helping set up for the race or chatting with racers at the Grand Traverse Resort the day before the race. Then, on race day, we will be assisting and cheering on the Sno-Cone racers and cleaning up the next day.

It’s going to be a happy, healthy, strong weekend to remember. Join us at Iceman!

Thank you!

Let’s ride,

Jill Sill
Norte Interim Executive Director

P.S. As I looked through photos of our Iceman experiences, fond memories came rushing back. I wonder if some of you might share some of your memories with us. Do you have an early photo of one of your children in their first Sno-Cone, Slush Cup, or maybe their first epic run from Kalkaska? Please share it with us on social media leading up to the big race on November 6. The whole Norte team would love to go back in time with you.


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Meeting the Challenge — Exceeding Expectations

Meeting the Challenge — Exceeding Expectations

I remember the day it popped into my head: “I think I’ll ride my bike around Lake Michigan.”

Maybe you’re picturing it right now: an oddly-shaped oval around the big lake — a clear blue vision of wide-open water, sandy beaches, and bustling summertime Midwestern culture. And, a lot of road. It’s an easy thing to imagine, no?

It seemed impossible. Impossibly long. Impossibly expensive. Impossibly dangerous. But then I thought of my mother.

My mother was a CEO and a runner. A world traveler and a grandma. She did all of those things 100 percent. So when she died unexpectedly seven years ago, she had one final lesson: if there’s something in life that you really feel like you need to do, don’t wait. 

So in May, with the support of my family, I loaded up my bike with food, water, and a ridiculous amount of camping gear, and I hit the road. It didn’t take long to realize things would be much more challenging than I imagined. On the first day, I encountered a washed-out bridge, an unexpected detour, and a series of steep, sandy hills. I was legitimately lost a few times, ran out of water once, and pushed my body to the point of trembling exhaustion. Every night I stared up at the ceiling of my little tent, wondering how I would get through the next day’s ride.

But I kept pedaling — along the western coast of Michigan and the dunes of Indiana, into Chicagoland and then north to the endless verdant pastures of Wisconsin. I swam in the cool waters of the big lake. I watched one of the most incredible sunsets I’ve ever seen — a shimmering haze of pink and violet over the dunes of Van Buren State Park near South Haven. And I connected with old friends, new friends, and family along the way.

A week or so into the month-long tour, I realized my legs didn’t hurt anymore, and I was no longer bothered by headwinds, rain, or heavy traffic. Instead, I was now a dirty, sweaty vagabond with a ridiculous amount of camping gear, taking everything in stride.

As the miles ticked away under my tires, I found my reasons for taking the ride changed. It was less about the easy-to-imagine accomplishment of riding my bike 1,000 miles around Lake Michigan. Instead, it was now more about the journey itself — the lessons learned, the confidence I had found, and the new understanding of the places I was traveling through. A bigger, more grueling, and solitary version of Norte‘s Summer Bike Camp.

Towards the end of the trip, I took the ferry to Mackinac Island. My family visited every year when I was a child. I didn’t remember much about the island, but as I rode the ferry across the Straits on a cool, clear morning, I remembered this — my mother loved this place.

As the island came into view — an emerald forest ringed in soft sand, surrounded by the clear blue waters of Lake Huron — it made sense. Even with the tourist kitsch of the main street, time slipped away, and as I stopped at the top of a knoll overlooking the lake and breathed in the clean air and the history. At that moment, I felt my mother was there with me and heard her loud and clear:

If there’s something in life that you really feel like you need to do, don’t wait.

Keep the rubber side down,

Aaron Selbig
Norte‘s Systems and Communications Director

NOTE: Norte is hundreds of people with stories like Aaron‘s. People who see a challenge and dive in, motivated by sheer grit and a lifetime of experience seeing them to the end. All of them exceeding expectations. Let us know. What’s your big challenge

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Norte is…

Norte is…

Norte is a story, and if you receive this newsletter, your story is part of it. Maybe your story began from the beginning when Ty and Johanna Schmidt founded the organization. Perhaps you were on the first bike train. Perhaps your story started yesterday when you discovered you could rent a balance bike for your five-year-old—and we can even add a bell to it. It’s been eight years, and the Norte story includes thousands of people and countless smiles.

Norte is mighty. Norte is multitudes of staff, volunteers, supporters, mentors, partners, and young people. That’s how the gears of system change turn. Each part, however modest, is critically important to the healthy achievement of the mission and the drive to do something transformative. Norte is you. Norte is all of us.

Norte is also a promise: a promise to empower active-for-life kids, including kids at heart, and build happy, healthy, strong communities. Team Orange looks forward to delivering on that promise, so let us know how we can help.

Join us as part of Norte‘s story — What’s your role?


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What are your healthy habits?

What are your healthy habits?

We spend a lot of time here at Norte encouraging healthy habits.

One of the best healthy habits for kids is walking or rolling to school. That’s because the rewards for this daily habit have cascading benefits for kids and the community. The bell rings, the bike train begins, and students arrive at school fired up, ready to learn, and, before they even sit down, they have an accomplishment in the bag.

But healthy habits are not just for kids. So today, I thought it would be interesting to ask the Norte staff what three habits they practice—or try to practice—to apply the mantra happy, health, strong to their lives. I received a mix of responses with some intriguing insight into the reward mechanism that their habits generate.

Abby Havill, Program Coordinator

  1. Walks in the woods with my dog (Good boy, Topo).
  2. Mountain biking and alpine skiing
  3. Deep, deep breaths

Aaron Selbig, Systems and Communications Coordinator 

  1. Go ahead and eat the ice cream (just not too much ice cream).
  2. Make some family time every evening—eating dinner together, playing Quiddler or watching “Game of Thrones.”
  3. Running. I wasn’t always a runner; I was inspired much later in life by my mother, who ran to keep fit and clear her mind. She died seven years ago, but her legacy lives on, and these days, I run for the same reasons she did. After a few miles of running, I find myself entering a sort of transcendental state. When I find my rhythm, the miles slip away effortlessly, and I feel like my mother is running along with me.

John Deely, Wheelhouse Manager

I always try to show myself a little love every day with a handful of healthy habits.

  1. I try to eat well-prepared and healthy foods. I never drink alcohol or other things that contain too many chemicals or sugars. It’s boring, I know.
  2. I try to do yoga every morning (I use a YouTube channel called “Yoga With Adriene“), and the typical practice is about 25 minutes.
  3. I ride my bike or go to the gym at least five times a week, without fail.

I do other things, too, like mental exercises such as focusing on mindfulness and practicing gratitude in all things.

Wes Sovis, Donor Relations Specialists

  1. I exercise six days a week. Running, cycling, strength workout, rollerblading with my dog—doesn’t matter. I try to move for at least an hour, six days a week.
  2. I also try to make sure I get at least 8.5 hours of sleep per night.
  3. I eat a vegetable once a week. 🥕 [That’s probably not enough, Wes.]

Lauren Dake, Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator

  1. Building a run or bike ride into my daily errands—yes, I regularly run down the road with packages for the post office.
  2. Taking time to get together with friends—whether a morning paddle, walk, or glass of wine. We try to get together once every few weeks.
  3. I set the alarm for the same time every day for consistency. There’s not much of it around the house, but at least we wake up at the same time! ⏰

Jill Sill, Interim Executive Director

  1. I take the time to drink loose leaf tea. Tea made this way tastes so much better to me. This simple step requires that I slow down a bit in the morning. 🫖
  2. Podcasts have become my companion during busy days. They’re my insight into the world, other people and times, and their unique experiences. As a result, I feel more informed, more connected, and more empathetic.
  3. Saying “what are you hopeful for” when I can tell my children are going to ask for something. This little question allows them to share what they want openly and to feel heard. This practice is all in the name of conflict reduction, and honestly, that is a pretty healthy habit!

As for myself, I start the day with a warm ceramic mug of coffee while sitting on the front porch clearing my mind—I sometimes even forget to drink the coffee. Then, as with Wes and Abby, I share the affinity for taking a hike with my dog. Her free spirit always lifts mine. And, lastly, when I’m stressing, I need to jolt my consciousness away from worries—it can be a walk or deep breathing, or maybe playing loud music (maybe dancing), putting an ice pack on my head, or sneaking in a ten-minute midday nap—anything to reset the day.

What are your habits? What are the ones you’re working to improve? If you want, reply to this email. I’d love to hear about it.

Enjoy your day,

Gary Howe
Advocacy and Communications Director



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Giving back, rolling onward, creating smiles 😊

Giving back, rolling onward, creating smiles

Eight months have sped by since I joined Norte as the Donor Relations Specialist. Over that time, I’ve taken in so much; learning the ins and outs of a new database system, meeting dozens of new and exciting people, and, after a few frostbite-inducing shifts, learning that the Norte Clubhouse does have heat and a thermostat.

It’s been a whirlwind and a challenge, but for all the right reasons. I like my job. And I know why. Part of my job is to connect Norte‘s donors with our mission and help them see the impact their contributions are making at the community, family, and individual levels.

I get to show supporters the power of kids coming together and pushing themselves to their limits, trying new trails and distances, and smiling the entire way. It’s because of our scholarship fund and kids’ bike library that many of those children can join us, and it’s our donors who make both of those programs possible. So it’s a treat sharing those positive vibes and stories with our donors.

One of the most rewarding experiences has been working with our local business community through our Business Champions program. These businesses, big and small, donate to Norte annually to support our scholarship fund and keep our programs rolling. You know all those smile-inducing pictures from our Bikes for All meetups this summer? Those don’t happen without 4Front Credit Union stepping up to say it’s essential enough to sponsor — they even showed up with ice cream for everyone a couple of times this summer. How about our Balance Bike Meetups? We could not have a fleet of balance bikes on hand for use without Traverse Dental Associates.

When I talk to business owners, I’m floored every time by their willingness to give back. This past year is a testament to the strength of northern Michigan, and I invite you to join me in supporting the businesses that support Norte. I’m reminded every day that we’re in this together. “Buy Local” may be a pithy slogan but supporting local businesses has profound impacts that go far beyond a single transaction.

I consider myself very fortunate to work with so many great coworkers, volunteers, and donors. As I continue to grow into this job, my goals for the organization only get more ambitious because, with such a wonderful and generous community around us, the only thing limiting us is our imagination. So, with your continued support, we’re going to turn up the heat and accomplish some cool stuff. I can’t wait to be part of it.

Rolling ever onward,

Wes Sovis

P.S. If you’re ready to donate to Norte, consider that a $150 donation covers a scholarship for one eager child gunning to join our Youth Mountain Bike Team. A $75 gift is enough to cover a child’s participation in Adventure Bike Club. Shoot me an email if you have any questions. 
📷 Above: Coach Wes bringing the energy this past spring.


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The Magical Mixture of Goodness Ahead

The Magical Mixture of Goodness Ahead

Twice this week I’ve heard: “This is my favorite season — for sure.”

I couldn’t agree more. With the cool evenings, clearer air, the excitement of fall, the season is full of opportunities. Here are three recent experiences that left me eager to flip the calendar to September.

Last Sunday, I took my four-and-half-year-old daughter on a mini bike camp. It was the first time she could do this without her pesky older brother, and it was pretty special. We hit the playgrounds, the splash pad and ate snacks — lots of snacks. The topic of riding bikes to school came up more than once. Her imagination took over as she considered her options. It turns out there’s a lot of places she can, and will, ride her bike.

This past Thursday, I joined volunteers John and Dawn in Kalkaska for the back-to-school Blazer Bash. We went to fix bikes as part of the third Norte TuneUp. While I was bringing yet another Mongoose back from the brink of death, I had a chance to get to know its owner, an energetic 6th grader. A few years ago, she won the bike for perfect attendance. Entering high school this year, she’s fired up to ride it back to school, but first, her Mongoose needed lots of love. It was a delight and rewarding to play a part in that excitement for the new school year.

While turning wrenches underneath the orange Norte tent, we overheard many animated students talking about their new teachers and who else was in art class with them. It was contagious. The excitement of going back to school never gets old. The back-to-school season is full of excitement for students and teachers, and what better way to take advantage of that energy, plus the fantastic late summer weather, than to extend your day by riding bikes with friends?

Recently, I discussed the upcoming riding season with a youth mountain bike coach, coach Joe. He said something that rang so true for me. When he’s helping Norte recruit coaches, he tells his friends that being a youth mountain bike coach is the easiest job out there. Of course, the job comes with some challenges, but he’s right. The hard part is taken care of because the young riders arrive at the trailheads stoked to be outside after school, amped to be meeting new kids, and their adventurous spirits naturally guide them to exciting new places. It’s a magical mixture of goodness, and it makes coaching easy, enjoyable, and memorable.

Thinking about it, I’m also stoked to get out there and explore.


Coach Ben

P.S. Are you ready to experience the joy felt by coach Ben and coach Joe? Our paid coaches and volunteer assistant coaches make a difference in kids’ lives. Here’s how you can get involved as a paid coach or volunteer assistant.



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A big, exciting world awaits you

A big, exciting world awaits you

Believe it or not, northern Michigan is part of a global revolution. Worldwide, citizen advocates are engaging with their communities and questioning how public space is allocated. The central pivot is how places should prioritize people versus their vehicles? Which comes first when we develop master plans, construct budgets, or design streets? This discussion happens in large cities like New York and Bogotá, and in villages like Elk Rapids and Kalkaska.

Planner, engineer, and global advocate Janette Sadik-Khan often says that streets are the front yards for children. To develop independence, confidence, and a spirit of exploration, they need to open the front door and experience the world. As a community, it’s our job to ensure that they not only have the encouragement, tools, and skills to do so safely but that they are protected and encouraged by design. This happens by prioritizing children in those community plans at all levels — states, cities, townships, and districts, like a neighborhood association or a downtown authority.

We also need to directly include children and young adults in the process. After all, when reconstructing a street, we are making a generational commitment. If you’re 18 today when they rebuild a street, you’ll be 50 years old when it’s rebuilt again. Yet we often redesign for our current needs rather than the next generation’s. When we ask the younger generation what they need and how they see the world, we move closer to achieving something worthy of 2051 and beyond.

This fall, Norte will host the third annual Explore Academy to empower more teens to engage and represent in how their community is developed. It is both an introduction to the built environment and its impact on our lives. It requires students to imagine a part of their community and improve it. In the past two academies, participants have identified small needs, like a missing bench in a park, and complex structural problems, like the multiple disconnects created by a major high-speed highway in your community.

Each class has explored the built environment with a curious eye. Both previous years (2019 Report2020 Report) were willing to provide constructive opinions and find praise when they saw something well done. Our trust is that they take the experience forward as they continue to become part of their community.  As one student from 2019 recapped, “The strength of Explore Academy is to show teenagers that they are part of the community, have a voice, and can help to make it better.”

Exactly — engage and represent. It’s a lesson for all of us. 👊


Gary Howe, Advocacy and Communications Director

P.S. Explore Academy is open to teenagers, 13-18. Meetups are Sundays from 10:30 am-noon and utilize in-person and online formats in a six-week course. As in the past, students in Mr. Ready and Ms. Paige’s AP Government and civics classes at Traverse City West and Central can meet their community service hours credit through participation n the academy. Students need to check with their teachers for possible credits earned at other schools. Registration is open




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Norte + Schools = Perfect Match

Norte + Schools = Perfect Match

Norte began with a simple problem — getting kids to school.

“What I saw was a river of cars surrounding the neighborhood school my son attended,” said Norte founder and Executive Director Ty Schmidt. “I was just surprised and bummed out that a handful of kids were walking to school, and even fewer were biking. So we decided to do something about it.”

For Ty and his wife, Johanna, doing something about it meant organizing kids and parents into “bike trains” to and from school every day. At the time, the Schmidts focused on their small, grassroots effort; they had no idea there was a pool of federal funding meant to help kids like theirs walk and bike to school safely.

Ty first heard about the Safe Routes to School program from Laura Otwell in 2014. Shortly after that, she helped Ty apply for a $1,000 grant for Traverse Heights Elementary School. That first grant application was successful; Norte was off and running.

“We had never written any grants, and I didn’t know grant writing,” admits Ty. “But then [the next year] we got $25,000 for five TCAPS schools.”

Since then, new Safe Routes to School programs have helped create new program opportunities every year, including a $2.1 million in walking and biking infrastructure being constructed this year in Traverse City.

“It’s seed money. We’ve been going to that pot a long time, and it’s a way to see if things stick. That’s the model we used for Elk Rapids, Northport, Suttons Bay, and now Kalkaska beginning this coming school year,” said Ty.


Max Fulkerson is with the Michigan Fitness Foundation. He helps administer the Safe Routes to School program in Michigan. “Safe Routes to School is a program and a movement,” said Fulkerson. “The idea behind it is to get more kids to walk and bike to school.”

Fulkerson explained the money comes through the Federal Highway Administration. The program targets students from kindergarten through 8th grade. It provides infrastructure improvements along routes to school, like sidewalks and roads, but they also include non-infrastructure programming that Fulkerson calls “people programs.”

Those programs include the kinds of things that Norte does well — teaching kids how to ride bikesproviding bikes to kids who need them, and organizing non-motorized trips to school. Fulkerson said the list of benefits to walking and biking to school is long and includes environmental quality, traffic reduction, and exercise for kids.

“Our lives have become more based on technology,” said Fulkerson. “And so the opportunity to get away from that and to go for a walk or a bike ride is really good for bodies and minds.”

Ty Schmidt agrees that walking and biking to school get kids ready to learn.  “They get the wiggles out, and they just turn on,” he said. “Humans are designed to move.”

Ty recognizes the Safe Routes to School program is still Norte‘s “bread and butter” and plans to use the grants to expand into new communities. “Ultimately, we want to help communities to apply for this funding. Because now we’re good at writing grants.”

The 2021 school year is fast approaching. To successfully roll out our in-school and after-school programs, Norte needs dedicated people to sign up as coaches, volunteers, and walk and roll ambassadors at their children’s schools. Sign up through elgruponorte.org or swing by the Clubhouse to discuss how we can help you help kids stay active-for-life. 



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“I can’t believe how good that made me feel!”

“I can’t believe how good that made me feel!”

️Keep kids moving. At the root of it, that’s what we do at Norte. We know there are cascading benefits to such a straightforward approach. Even 20 minutes a day spent outside running, walking, or riding a bike can transform into a lifetime of healthier habits and achievements. We work with educators across Northern Michigan who see the results every day in the classroom. One such hero is Kip Knight.

Kip is a fifth-grade teacher at Lakeland Elementary in Elk Rapids. Last year, Kip had an idea to provide bicycles to younger elementary students throughout the school day. Homeroom teachers could schedule blocks of time to use bikes to get the wiggles out, and students could also use them during recess. He worked with an 8th grader to design a course (a Girl Scout project for her!) next to the track, which they then mowed and adorned with straw bales donated by Send Brothers and flags by Pro Image Design. For bikes, he looked to Norte.

Thanks to generous donations from the public and local bike shops, like McLain Cycle & Fitness, the Grand Traverse Regional Kids’ Bike Library had a fresh supply for Kip’s grand plan.

“When you give them the gift of riding a bike, you give them confidence and independence,” said Kip. “You can see the excitement and pride build for these students the more they ride.”

Kip also sees improvement in the classroom. When students gain experience riding a bike as a regular part of their week, that confidence spills over into their schoolwork and social interactions. Unfortunately, many don’t have bikes at home or haven’t had much riding practice, even for his fifth-graders. Providing bicycles and time to ride them at school allows educators to create a safe, supportive environment.

“Once we have them out here, we can give up a touch of control. That freedom helps develop trust and mutual respect between students and teachers,” said Kip. He sees that trust as the foundation of a child’s successful education.

Lakeland’s experience has led to many students developing leadership skills as they mentor young, inexperienced riders. For example, one older student replied to Kip after helping a younger class, “I can’t believe how good that made me feel.”

That’s the Norte spirit. Helping others and recognizing how good that makes you feel. So, as we enjoy the last month of summer, we’re also looking forward to once again working closely with our school partners in Northern Michigan. Of course, it doesn’t always look the same from school to school, but the goal remains, keeping kids moving, bringing smiles to faces, and developing those habits that contribute to happy, healthy, strong communities.

In Elk Rapids and elsewhere across Northern Michigan, we’re rolling out after-school fall programmingschool-based education, and plenty of community opportunities to stay active. Thank you to all the educators out there helping to make it happen.

How can we help?

~ Team Orange

Images above: Top of page, Coach Lauren leading a summer bike camp team around Elk Rapids. Middle of page, Kip’s homemade storage rack at Lakeland.



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Exclusive: Meet the Man in the Orange Suit! ⚡

Exclusive: Meet the Man in the Orange Suit! ⚡

If you’ve ever run into Norte Man, you’ve experienced pure energy and unquestionable positivity. It’s contagious. He is the ultimate hype man, and it goes far deeper. When he calls a race, cheers on riders and runners on the trails, or celebrates new sidewalks to schools, he’s inviting all of us into the world of happy, healthy, strong. We recently sat down with Norte Man to learn more about what makes him tick, where he came from, and what’s ahead.

⚡Norte: Thanks for sitting down with us, Norte Man. I know you must be busy. 

Norte Man: Hey, I’m always here for Norte. Let’s do this. You don’t mind if I do some jumping jacks while we talk, do you?

N: Not all. Keep moving. First of all, are you more mascot or superhero?

NM: Superhero. For sure. I feel like my superpowers are energy and motivation. Staying super healthy and super fit is the superpower for self, family, and the community. And for Norte. It’s super exciting; I’m fired up!

N: I see that. You seem to have unlimited energy. What’s your power? What’s the secret sauce? Do you have a favorite breakfast food? 

NM: The secret is lots of fruits and vegetables. And Aussie Bites. Then, also good sleep; eight hours every night. Then, definitely a cup of Higher Grounds coffee in the morning — pour-over, please. And cowbell. Lots of cowbell. Then more cowbell. When I hear cowbell, I put it into gear and move.

A great day is when I wake at 5:20 am. It’s magical. It gives me time to step into my suit, get a workout in, reflect, and hit the day strong. It’s fantastic. Whoo!

N: Speaking of your suit, how comfortable is it? Does it have any cool qualities?

NM: The suit doesn’t breathe very well, but it is nice and snug — tight and right, baby. It’s fast. I recently modified the hands to keep a better grip on the handlebars. It helps me hit those curves flying. I’m working with my friends at NMC’s Aero Park Advanced Research Facilities for upgrades. One upgrade coming to the orange suit is a cape for better lift, and then I’m adding orange cleats for when I need to dig in.

N: Very cool. There’s a lot of mystery around you, Norte Man. When you’re not coaching or cheering on Team Orange, what keeps you busy? What is it you do every day?

NM: I try to be super dad every day. In that role, my focus is keeping my three ginger-headed boys outside and staying active. Because every moment moving is time not on those pesky screens. Let’s roll, kids. Let’s roll! I’m also a Walk and Roll Ambassador at Eastern Elementary in Traverse City, shortening those car lines every day.

N: Where do you come from? How’d you end up here? 

NM: Originally, I emerged from the mountains of the Sierra Nevadas. That was a long time ago. From there, I spent time honing my powers. I even flew Black Hawk helicopters for a while. Finally, I ended up in Northern Michigan because I heard the cowbells ringing and saw the Norte sign beckoning. Right away, I knew Northern Michigan was ready for some significant superhero action. Specifically, a superhero on a bike. You don’t see enough of my type, and yet, almost anyone can do it.

N: Without a doubt, you’re an inspiration. I’m turning orange just sitting with you. Do you have a philosophy on life you can share with Norte‘s newsletter subscribers

NM: Certainly. My philosophy is threefold. One, always have a cowbell on hand. Two, seize every moment — carpe diem! And three, embrace a positive mental attitude — 1, 2, 3. Those are the secrets. And, bonus, wear a tight orange jumpsuit whenever you can. For everyone out there, stay in the present, and you can do anything.

N: What are your most memorable on and off-bike accomplishments? 

NM: Emceeing the annual National Cherry Festival Balance Bike Race is up there. Watching those kids burn through the course and seeing those parents smile. As a dad, it’s the best. I know how hard it can be to get the household going on a Saturday morning and then to watch them just take off. Whoa — hang on! I love it.

On the bike, this past spring’s 24-hours at the Civic Center was epic. We harnessed some real superpowers. When that sky went black, some real villains came out trying to knock us off the task. It was a struggle, but we kept at it, and we got ’em. I’m thankful for my fellow superheroes on that one.

N: Rumor has it you might be throwing out one of the first pitches at Norte Night. How are you preparing? Are you confident you can toss a strike?

NM: I’m keeping my arm loose every day. I have a target in the backyard, and my five-year-old has been training me hard. He has a wicked arm and is a great motivator himself. I sure hope I can make it. Unfortunately, my super dad schedule has me in the UP the night of the game, but we’re going to try. We’ll see. I plan on being ready no matter what.

N: It sounds like you have experience. Do you have any tips for someone throwing their first pitch from 60 feet, 6 inches away? 

NM: It’s all about keeping your eye on the target and keeping your arm loose. You don’t want to hurt yourself. If you don’t hit it the first time, try again, and then again. Keep smiling the whole time. Enjoy the moment.

N: To wrap up, what’s your favorite color?

NM: Orange is in my blood. It screams super. Orange all day!

N:  Anything you’d like to add? 

NM: I couldn’t do any of this superpower stuff without the incredible staff and all the supporters of Norte. This community around Team Orange is the motivation and true superpower — that, and my family.

N: Thank you, Norte Man. You’re the best. 

Do you get our newsletter? If not, sign up for our weekly newsletter so you don’t miss learning about the countless other superheroes from Northern Michigan. 



Building Bravery with Every Mile 🚲

Building Bravery with Every Mile 🚲

Read More ➡️ 2021 Spring Program Report


As Norte‘s outgoing Systems and Communications Coordinator, my job involves posting lots of pictures on social media and exporting lots of reports — but most of all, meeting lots of people and forming relationships with them.

Some of these relationships are rather one-sided, like reading the results of our post-program surveys. But it’s more personal than it sounds. These responses provide me with a small window into families, new friendships, and happy memories that individuals, young and old, take away from Norte programs. Most importantly, I get to hear directly from the stellar young people who benefit the most from Norte‘s bike programs.

This season, one response struck me more than most: “I’m braver now.” This is a response from one seven-year-old girl. Usually, participants talk about particular games they liked or learning to switch gears — but she went straight to the profound, and it was echoed by other young riders as well.

I love it, and I understand it completely because riding a bicycle is a brave thing in and of itself. It builds independence, enjoyment, and power: paramount for all growing folks and young women in particular.

It is a way to constantly challenge oneself to be braver every day and not let conceptions about one’s abilities interfere with the movement of the pedals and the momentum that’s building. As our Advocacy Director likes to quote, you’re in perfect balance when you’re riding a bicycle.

Riding a bike is also a ticket into a brave future, both personal and environmental. Norte‘s Safe Routes to School initiatives intentionally focus on connecting active transportation with education because both are investments in the future. It’s brave to say that there are more ways to get around than a carbon-fueled carline.

After a year of working at Norte, I can firmly say that I’m braver now, too. That’s as much of a reflection on the people I’ve been fortunate enough to work with as it is the work we do.

Team Orange is a team of courageous people who constantly challenge themselves to do better and stay focused on building a healthier, happier, and stronger future. This drive is across the board, from the core staff to the stellar coaches and dedicated volunteers.

Inclusivity, advocacy, and equity are all heroic qualities explicitly named in Norte‘s strategic plan and programming. And as a Traverse City local, I’m immensely proud of Norte‘s work in my hometown.

I’d encourage you to check out the entirety of the 2021 Spring Programs report, which highlights both personal takeaways and systemic patterns within Norte. It’s pivotal to highlight the immense growth our programs have seen within the past year — spreading bravery to 153% more participants in Adventure Bike Club and tripling the number of schools represented for the Youth Mountain Bike Team.

I’m thrilled that I’ll be turning over the SCC reins to the fantastic Aaron Selbig. You know he’s got to be a perfect fit for Team Orange after posing with a giant teddy bear at the Interlochen bike library opening.

Thanks for a great year, Team Orange. I’ll see you around.


Jessie Williams


Thank you, Jessie. ❤️

Ready. Set. Go, Grady!

Ready. Set. Go, Grady!

We recently Zoomed with Grady Ellis, who was out in Colorado sporting his Norte jersey in the 2021 USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships. Grady also rides for the Norte Varsity Team. He goes to Traverse City West Middle School as an 8th grader and has rolled with Norte since his days at Willow Hill. He’s always been eager to try and try again, so for anyone who doesn’t think they can do it, Grady’s your inspiration.

NorteHi Grady. Thanks for joining us during a special week for you. Where are you right now? What have you been doing this past week? 

Grady: I’m in Colorado and was in Winter Park racing nationals. It was exciting. Nationals is a race with all the best racers in the country. They’re racing for the title of the best racer in their age groups. I race 13-14. I’ve also been watching the pros and youth U23.

I raced in the cross-country race and 11-14 short track. That’s a half-mile loop where you go a ton of loops. It’s like a really hard effort for 10 minutes. We made about five loops.

N: Who else is out there with you from Northern Michigan? 

G: Kyan Olshove (19) and Max Myers (19) (both racing in U23). We’ve been helping each other out and just hanging out.

N: You’ve done it all at Norte—from Adventure Bike Club, formerly known as Bike Más, to now being on the Varsity Mountain Bike Team. What are some lessons you’ve learned at Norte that you’re finding useful in Colorado? 

G: I’ve learned to keep riding no matter what hits you. When I can’t make it up the hills, I just keep struggling and just keep going. Out here in Colorado, the altitude and elevation difference is a real challenge.

Also, there are rocks you don’t find in Michigan. I went to this bike park before nationals, and there was a huge rock that I was not comfortable with—at all. You have to go over it, so I kept trying it and trying, and finally, I got it.

N: One of your first coaches, Ben Boyce, wants to know about your race-day nutrition? So what’s fueling you out there? 

G: In the morning, I would eat some Cocoa Puffs. Then Alexey, the person taking care of me here, would give me some goo to prepare for the race.

N: What’s next? Do you have your next race planned? 

G: I’m racing Ore to Shore in Marquette in August and then Peak2Peak. Then Ice Man. When I first raced in the Slush Cup, I was basically last, so I’ve learned that when you want something, to train hard for it.

*Dan Ellis, Grady’s dad and rad Norte coach, also let us know that Grady will compete for points this fall in the 2021 MISCA Race Series.

N: Anything you want to add? 

G: I’ve seen people noticing Norte out here. So keep riding and representing the team because definitely, people are noticing.

​And we’re noticing you. Grady placed 15 out of 42 in the 11-14 Short Track and 21 out of 56 in the 13-14 Cross Country races. He’s racing for Norte and Northern Michigan. We couldn’t be more proud of him.

Ride on, Grady. Ride on!

Inspired? Registration for Fall Adventure Bike Club and Youth Mountain Bike Team is open


*Thank you for the images, Avery Stumm

Exploring the Why Behind Norte

Exploring the Why Behind Norte

Those of us who are fortunate enough to spend a significant time around kids—parents, grandparents, teachers, Norte coaches—often spend a great deal of time answering the question “why?”

“Why is the sky blue?” “Why do dogs bark?” “Why do we have to eat our vegetables?”  

This innate curiosity enriches a developing mind with information about the world and our place in it. As an organization, routinely asking “why” opens up opportunities to see ourselves a little differently and provide meaning to the work before us—asking “why” challenges assumptions.

Last month, following our core staff’s lead, the Board of Directors examined Norte‘s “why.” More specifically, we asked what the organization’s core values are? To me, the two are synonymous. Our brainstorm resulted in the following values to explore.

This examination comes roughly six months into our current strategic plan. We are also coming off a full year of delivering essential programming and services during the COVID-19 pandemic and a year of challenging questions about inclusivity around equity, fairness, and systemic racism. It feels like the right time to have this conversation.

What words from the word cloud above reflect the “why” of Norte to you? Do they reflect the values you think of when you think of Norte? What have we missed, or are there any that you would add?

As this discussion continues, we want to hear from you because you are essential to what Norte does and where it goes from here. So, if you could choose 1–3 words to describe Norte and our impact on the community, what would you choose?

We’d love to hear from you—shoot me your words in an email at chris@elgruponorte.org.

Thank you, and keep asking “why.”


Chris Hinze
Norte Board of Directors, President

P.S. In recent months, we’ve started to publish the minutes from our monthly Board of Director meetings. You can find an archive of those on our website’s “Our Governance” page, along with other information about how the organization operates.  

“Hold on to your helmet!”

“Hold on to your helmet!”

Fantastic people who aren’t afraid to make a difference have made Norte possible from the get-go. Two of the kindest have been with us from the start, Bob and Laura Otwell. They lead by example and are always there when we need them. We even have an illustrious sustainer’s club named after them. Below, they share why they continue to support Norte—thank you, Bob and Laura. ❤

Being a part of Norte and watching it take shape and grow has been inspiring, uplifting, and hopeful. Watching a group of Norte kids biking past our home is priceless. Their smiles reveal their joy in each other and their growing independence. These are some of the reasons we are thrilled to be a part of Norte.

When asked to lend our name to the sustainer’s group, we felt honored and, at the same time, not deserving because we recognize that Norte is all about the greater community—it’s about all of us. We’ve been there from the early beginnings, but Norte is a source of great pride that we all can share and take pride in. It is all about community.

So we all take turns pitching in together and making it the best place possible. We sustain the effort as supportive donors and Business Champions, as schools and local governments prioritizing people, and as kids staying active, open-minded, and having fun. We also fuel success by volunteering our time and by reinforcing critical skills with encouragement as parents. We are all part of the mix for success.


We should all feel proud that it started here in Traverse City, right out our front window, and that communities around the region and state now embrace the spirit of happy, healthy, strong.

That Norte can-do confident attitude is infectious. It attracts staff, volunteers, and partners, who commit to the effort with enthusiasm, skill, and kindness. We come together for good because Norte is about connecting and caring for each other.

There is nothing status quo or stagnant about Norte. So hold on to your helmet; we’re in for a ride of a lifetime!

— Bob and Laura Otwell


If you’re interested in joining these fabulous luminaries as part of The Otwell Hub, we’d love to have you ➡️ The Otwell Hub


Blazing hot opportunities afoot in Kalkaska

Blazing hot opportunities afoot in Kalkaska

A little over two years ago, Norte started to ask how we could help weave a culture of health into the fabric of Northern Michigan. So, to branch out from our home base in Traverse City, we started to ask communities how we could help. One of the communities to raise their hand and embrace the vision of a happier, healthier, and stronger community was Kalkaska. Since then, Blazer Nation has made enormous strides.

This past spring, we rolled out three new successful programs, the Kalkaska branch of the Grand Traverse Regional Kids’ Bike Libray, Blazer Nation’s first Mountain Bike program, and a successful Safe Routes to School mini-grant application.

First, in March, we launched a new bike library out of the Kalkaska Police station. The library enjoyed a jump start with a donation of 45 bikes from McLain Cycle & Fitness. The bikes have been rolling out the door. We even have dreams for a proper bike shed soon.

Second, in May, young riders in the village learned some new skills and explored parts of Kalkaska many hadn’t explored before in the spring Mountain Bike program. Again, coach Lauren tore it up with a team of great coaches and inspiring kids. Look for Mountain Bike season again this fall.

This spring, we also worked with three schools—Cherry Street Intermediate, Birch Street Elementary, and Kalkaska Middle School—to apply for a Safe Routes to School mini-grant. We’re thrilled to announce that we were successful. It’s a little too close to the end of the school year to say it, but we’re super excited for the next school year to begin. Of course, we’re also happy to enjoy a little summer first.

Speaking of which, this summer, we’re thrilled to be partnering with our friends at SEEDS to offer a summer bike camp experience in Kalkaska. Through the partnership, Norte coaches will integrate into SEEDS summer camp at Cherry Intermediate. As a result, in addition to the hands-on environmental education SEEDS delivers, campers will also get some feet-on-pedals education by rolling with Norte.

All of this wouldn’t be possible without some great local champions speaking up and representing Blazer Nation. Village manager Scott Yost, Kathy Wilkinson, and Aaron Popa are only three among many showing genuine love for their community in Kalkaska.

We also need to shout out immense appreciation to The Northern Michigan Community Health Innovation RegionBlue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, and Cherry Capital Cycling Club. All four organizations provided critical seed money to help launch Kalkaska Strong in the fall of 2019.

Onward and upward in Kalkaska and beyond. From all of us at Norte, thank you, everyone, for your continued support to make work like this possible. Go Blazers!


Norte is committed to supporting our local health departments, public health professionals, Norte staff, and patrons. Please help us prevent the spread and follow precautions, practice healthy hygiene, and get vaccinated.

A Virtuous Cycle of Volunteers and Smiles 😀

A Virtuous Cycle of Volunteers and Smiles 😀

Bringing people together and putting smiles on strangers’ faces are a few of my favorite things. While preparing for a recent Bikes for All MeetUp, I met a new volunteer, Cathy. The meeting embodied both of these favorite things.

We bumped elbows and greeted each other with giant smiles as we elbowed our hellos. Then, we jumped into action, lining up adaptive bikes for the riders. A few minutes later, another volunteer, Lee, walked up for a scheduled meeting with me. I told her I’d be a few more minutes and introduced her to Cathy. They immediately started chatting.

As I watched them from inside the Clubhouse, my giant smile grew even larger when I saw them exchange phone numbers with smiles and giggles minutes later. Cathy and Lee had just found out that they live right around the corner from each other. They also share a deep love of staying active and enjoying life. They were immediate friends, and it was almost hard to pull them away from each other. It was such a heartwarming thing to witness.

Cathy then finished setting up for the Bikes for All crew, who had started to gather, and Lee joined me for a lap around the Civic Center. Both of these volunteers learned new things about Norte, our patrons, their community, and each other. They made a new friend—the ripple effects of giving back and serving your community never seem to stop.

It was another magical day at Norte. Everyone was smiling, walking or rolling, and enjoying our public space together. My goal is to bring this kind of joy to our whole community by making friends, riding bikes, and enjoying the outdoors—together. As Norte‘s Outreach Coordinator, I’m fortunate to make this happen with a growing list of volunteers and partnerships.

Last Wednesday, as part of TC Rides and the first slow roll of the summer, we honored all volunteers. We celebrated the friendships and discussed the many opportunities ahead. We also introduced our Super Friends initiative. Here’s to a wonderfully active summer ahead.

Ding! Ding!


P.S. If you are interested in volunteering with us for the first time, please fill out our volunteer onboarding application. I’ll reach out to you soon, and we’ll find a way to create some magic together. 


Norte is committed to supporting our local health departments, public health professionals, Norte staff, and patrons. Please help us prevent the spread and follow precautions, practice healthy hygiene, and get vaccinated.

Who’s up for a ride with Patrick?

Who’s up for a ride with Patrick?

Support the 2021 Patrick’s Heavy Riders with a donation today!

On Saturday, July 31, a few dozen riders will set off for the Mackinaw Bridge. Some will leave Traverse City for a 140-mile tour, while others depart from Charlevoix for an 80-mile spin. They’ll share the goal of raising funds and awareness for Norte, but they’ll also share in the experience of testing oneself. It’ll be hot. There’s likely to be a headwind. It’s all part of the thrill for Patrick’s Heavy Ride with Friends.

Riders will also share the encouragement of riding with others, including the man who kicked off Patrick’s Heavy in 2017, Patrick Cotant. He’s a kind and humble man, not wanting attention, and we’re thankful he sat down with us recently to talk about the upcoming ride.

🚴🏻‍♀️  🚴🏽‍♂️  🚴🏻‍♂️

Norte: Thank you again for hosting the annual Patrick’s Heavy. To start, please tell us a little about you and your family? 

Patrick: We moved here about ten years ago from Gaylord. My wife, Polly, and I celebrate 13 years of marriage this week, and we have an 8-year-old son named Fletcher. We moved here for work, and we wanted to live in a more family-friendly, walkable, and bikeable community.

N: When did you discover Norte?

In 2015, Polly heard Ty speak at Fulfillament, a storytelling event here in Traverse City. He talked about his passion for getting kids on bikes and the beginnings of Norte. At the time, they were just a group of bike trains connecting kids to area schools. When Norte started balance bike meetups at F&M Park, we brought Fletcher, and his love of bikes took off. Polly soon started on the board, and we have both continued to participate and volunteer when we can.

N: What is Patrick’s Heavy Ride with Friends? 

I wanted to figure out a way to raise money for Norte in a way that was more than one person writing a check. I thought about it and put it out there to see if there was interest. If there was, then that could be an avenue to introduce others to Norte. I like riding bikes, and there are many groups in the area doing great things to raise money and awareness for causes like Kolo t.c. and fundraiser rides that have been around for years, such as Less Cancer. Those were my inspiration for doing a bigger bike ride for the fundraiser. I wanted something that would be challenging so that people would be like, ‘yeah, I’d donate to that cause, I think it’s a worthy endeavor,’ but also something that could bring more people in was the goal.

N: This ride will be your fourth. How has it evolved? 

The first year was solo and the hardest. I hadn’t ridden that far before. I didn’t know what to eat and drink along the way. I didn’t know how to pace myself. It was a good learning opportunity. I was motivated and excited to do it. And, I had to at that point—people had donated money.

I remember coming back into town along the TART Trail, and Ty was on one of the benches there. He started clapping. It was fun. We road the rest of the way. I got a little boost of energy the last few miles.

The last two years have been the most fun with other cyclists. Some of them I knew, but it is also a great way to meet people. I like the adventure, the challenge, and being out there being self-sufficient on a bike is liberating. It’s enjoyable.

N: What have you learned from the rides? 

You learn a lot about yourself and other things when you’re up to your max. For anyone, even if they ride a lot, it can be a lot of miles. Once you get past that 80-90 mile mark, things kind of change. I’ve learned to face adversity. Are you going to just fold up and stop? Or, are you going to summon the courage and the strength you need to do well and finish strong? To set a good example for your kids or whatever the case may be. That’s what I’ve taken from it. Focus on what you’re doing. You can do anything for a little bit. Set your sights on what’s ahead. The literal and figurative horizon.

N: You get a little philosophical talking about it. How does Patrick’s Heavy reflect on the goals of Norte‘s Youth Bike Programs? 

I saw a post today from the after-school Mountain Bike programs where one of the kids said, “Maybe our growth in our skills is a sign of success on its own.” That’s perfect. The after-school programs, with the coaches Norte has, I can’t speak for all of them, but they seem to be great people. Great motivators. They teach the kids to do the best they can and to give it their all. That in and of itself will make you feel successful and empower you to have confidence going forward. It’s a great thing for them to have as a lifelong skill.

N: How has Norte impacted your son? 

I think it has created independence. Fletcher is 8, and we have started to give him the freedom to range around and see his friends on the block. Yesterday we got home from soccer practice, and he wanted to go to the book store. He just went out to the garage; there was no, ‘are we driving or riding?’ If the weather is decent, he knows that riding is a good choice. He wants to ride his bike now. When he started, it could be a challenge. Now it’s what he loves to do.

N: What do you hope to get out of the fourth year?

There are already some people signed up. We have a more scenic route. Hopefully, now with more people vaccinated, we see more people participating. It would be great to raise $20–$25,000. Going forward, it’s somehting I look forward to continuing for years. Some people have said it is their favorite ride they’ve done. Again probably because it is a long ride and a big accomplishment for anyone; if you ride 140 miles, you should be proud of that. And, hopefully, enjoy it because that’s what it’s all about. Hopefully, we have the participation needed to continue to keep raising funds for Norte.

N: Why you? 

I just wanted to do something for an organization that meant something for Polly and me. Norte has helped many young people. Specifically, because Norte got our kid involved in his first group activity with other kids in a lifelong sport, that’s my motivation.

Registration for Patrick’s Heavy with Friends is $35, requiring $200 from pledges. The sooner you register, the sooner you start training. Group training is held every Saturday at 7:00 am, leaving Darrow Park in Traverse City.

COVID POLICY: Norte is committed to the safety and well-being of our community. We confidently deliver programs and events because our staff and families follow preventive measures and monitoring protocols for COVID-19. We also generally look out for each other and stay outside as much as possible. If you are unvaccinated, please wear a mask. We encourage everyone eligible to vaccinate as soon as possible. If you are not feeling well, please join us the next time when you feel better. Let’s work together and #stopthespread.

Bigs & Littles, the Norte Experience

Bigs Littles

Bigs & Littles, the Norte Experience

Four months ago, on a frigid January afternoon, Cecilia Chesney, ED of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan, and I took a walk at the Civic Center together. She greeted me with a gift of a Packers hat. She’s a huge Green Bay fan and the team was about to face Tampa Bay in the playoffs. We then walked and talked about kids in our community facing adversity. I was thankful for the warmth and grateful for Cecilia.

Cecilia and I talked about the power of relationships and mentorship. We hatched plans to team up to do better as the year progressed. This Saturday, we will put that talk into action by hosting the first-ever Bigs and Littles Bike Day. This event will provide a happy, adventure-based experience for bigs and their littles. It’ll give a taste of Norte‘s Adventure Bike Club and the joys of developing the skills, confidence, and friendships that arise from exploring your community on two wheels.

‘m a massive fan of Big Brothers Big Sisters and their work. Since 1970, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan has brought smiles to children’s faces by matching them with adult volunteers in rewarding mentoring relationships. Mentoring is a powerful thing, providing an opportunity for someone to ignite and empower a child’s potential.

If you’re not a Big yet, why not? Cecilia’s team makes it easy to get started.

I’m excited to roll with Bigs and Littles this weekend and, hopefully, many times ahead. Together we can help lift children facing adversity and positively change their lives for the better, forever.


PS. If the organization you support is involved with youth development and is interested in partnering with Norte on a bike experience, don’t hesitate to let me know.

Bikes for All, All for Bikes 🚲

Bikes for All, All for Bikes 🚲

Norte‘s Bikes for All program is known for serving special needs students still attending school programs. Bikes for All works with TBAISD’s New Campus, Oak Park, and others. Bikes for All MeetUps — Tuesdays adds an option for those 26 and older whose social opportunities are limited due, in part, to aging out of school programs. While this first run was a small group of five, it proved the concept, and we hope to expand it.

A special thank you to Rose Coleman of the Grand Traverse Pavilions who loaned us “The Duet,” which accommodates non-pedaling individuals. The bike not only looks fantastic, but the experience also places the rider front and center so that they can feel the wind on their face and view the passing world unobstructed.

This summer, join us every Tuesday beginning on June 8 at 10:30 am, weather permitting. The fleet of adaptive bikes is limited, but we will be ready to ensure everyone has a marvelous time. Annie and I both would love to have too many riders — the more friends and smiles, the better.

As a Norte Board member, I feel fortunate to work toward Norte‘s mission of providing biking for all community members. It’s even more special doing so with Annie and her growing list of friends. Come on out, and let’s roll together!


Sue Paul, Norte Board of Directors

P.S. Norte is looking for volunteers to help us with our expanding Bikes for All programming. If helping ensure that everyone has an opportunity to ride bikes sounds up your alley, give us a shout. We’re also looking for gently used adaptive bikes in need of a good home.

If you’d like to donate financially to help grow the Bikes For All program, please made a gift and help us reach our 2021 goal.

$2,400 of $5,000 raised
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Safe and Responsible

Giving Back and Changing the World

Giving Back and Changing the World

Recently, Joelle Mabey​ was perusing Norte’s website and saw that our More Girls on Bikes fundraiser hadn’t met its goal of $5,000. Having worked to help empower women as a teacher and through her charity work in Haiti, she didn’t hesitate to close the gap with a significant donation.

“For many girls, riding a bike is their first small taste of freedom. There’s nothing like the exhilaration of wheeling a bike out of the garage on a cloudless summer day to cruise around the neighborhood, hair whipping by her ears, and streamers fluttering from the handlebars,” described Joelle.

Joelle is hyper-aware that boys and girls ride bikes at about the same rate from ages three to nine. Then around age 10, the numbers of girls riding drop off considerably. As they reach adulthood, women make up only about 25 percent of people who ride bikes.

“When girls start hanging up their helmets, they’re getting left in the dust, both literally and figuratively,” she said. “The exercise and outdoor time that bike riders experience boosts moods, fights obesity and increases overall health. A recent study showed girls who either bike or walk at least 15 minutes to school scored higher on cognitive tests.”

Helping young women develop healthy habits and excel is one reason Joelle supports Norte’s More Girls on Bikes program. But the main reason may be the added significance of developing confidence and independence. When a young woman has more autonomy with how she moves around her community, she establishes responsibility and experience, boosting self-appreciation.

“When girls ride bikes, it’s more than just a fun way to pass the time—a bicycle is one of her first teachers,” said Joelle. “Achievements like learning to ride a two-wheeler without assistance are a lesson in balance, tenacity, and grit. It’s a way for her to see the benefit of falling and getting back up again. Navigating her way a few houses down on her bike teaches street smarts, the importance of personal safety, and independence.”

We at Norte firmly believe that you’re in perfect balance anytime you’re on a bicycle. That experience does wonders for self-esteem for people of all ages, genders, and abilities. Joelle supports Norte because she sees value in our focus on safe, healthy, empowering access throughout our programs.

“I believe I have the power to help improve the lives of others and count it as a privilege that comes with its own sense of obligation,” said Joelle. Over the years, she has donated and been involved with many causes, from Habitat for Humanity, Poured OutHands To HaitiCompassion International, and other humanitarian and disaster relief efforts.

“Acting on these powerful feelings of responsibility is a great way for me to reinforce my values and helps me feel like I am living in a way that is true. Sharing the experience of donating has also shown my children that they can make positive changes in the world from a young age.”

Thank you, Joelle. Our work is made possible by people just like you—people who see a need, a value, and who act on their sense of community and follow their heart and mind as one.

And, we couldn’t agree with you more, Joelle. More Girls on Bikes creates healthy, independent, confident, strong girls. And strong girls will change the world.

Ride on.
Team Orange.

P.S. On Friday, girl power could lead the charge in the Kids vs. Adults — A Bike-Off. It’s National Bike to Work Day, so let’s see what the adults can do against the kids! And, on Sunday, our VIP Slow Roll meets up at 2 pm at the Clubhouse. If you’d like to join the VIP circle in time for the VIP Slow Roll and meet individuals like Joelle, please review our Otwell HubColectivo, or Business Champions pages to see what’s right for you.

Safe and Responsible