Talking ‘bout the Midnight Riders 

By Stephen Tobey  Correspondent
September 6, 2023

Last spring, almost nobody caught the Midnight Riders. 

The team of mountain bike racers captured the New England Youth Cycling Junior Series Team Championship and fourth in Overall Team Series among 35 teams. The team has cyclists in grades 8 through 12 from Concord, Carlisle, Lincoln, Sudbury, Bedford and Hanscom — with many students returning for the upcoming season. 

“It’s a large and deep team,” said Nate Kemp, a Midnight Riders coach. “It’s a testimony to Josh Burgel, who helped establish the team.” 

Midnight Riders launched in 2021. Burgel was coaching with an Acton-based team, the Gnargonauts, which was established prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and attracted a large group of cyclists from surrounding communities.  

With so many on the Gnargonauts’ roster, it made sense to start another program to allow everyone to have a quality experience: “We wanted to make sure there were opportunities for the Concord riders — including my kids,” Burgel said. “Their roster was really starting to fill up, and they wanted to split the teams.” 

All the coaches are volunteers. Some are parents who are new to coaching or mountain biking. 

“One of the unique things is that we coach coaches,” Kemp said. 

The team competes in six different races during the season, all within about two hours of Concord. Competitions are divided by age, with middle school and high school-aged divisions as well as separate boys and girls races. 

“The bike community and the team has a really good energy,” said Xander Scopinich-Burgel, who attends Concord-Carlisle High School. “We have a lot of different ages and we really help each other. With all these different ages, everyone stays together.” 

Concord-Carlisle senior Emerson Lin called the community “one of the best I’ve been around. On race day, as competitive as it is, it’s still a lot of fun.” 

Emerson and Xander are also part of the highly successful Concord-Carlisle High School Nordic skiing program.  

Emerson’s brother, Roman, is entering the ninth grade at CCHS. He plans to compete in Nordic skiing, as well as continuing with the Midnight Riders: “I play basketball and it’s a great game, but it’s very different,” Roman said. “Here, you’re out in nature.”  

While some Midnight Riders come from a Nordic skiing background and some do other sports — including cyclocross, a fall sport where bikes similar to road bikes are used in off-road races — some of them learn about the team and the sport in other ways. 

“Concord-Carlisle has an outing club,” Burgel said. “We advertise through that.” 

One advantage the Midnight Riders have: Concord and the surrounding communities have an abundance of trails where the team can train. 

“There are a lot of great trails, and we practice on different ones,” Burgel said. “We’ve used Great Brook Farm, Landlocked Forest and Russell Mills.” 

In the winter, Great Brook Farm is a popular Nordic skiing venue. When the snow melts, mountain bikers can use it. 

“The skiing is in a different part than the mountain biking,” said Tyler Abrams, a Carlisle eighth grader who’s been with the team for three seasons. “There are some great places for riding around here.” 

While enjoyment and competitive success are big parts of the Midnight Riders’ experience, its ultimate goal is clear: “The mission,” according to its website, “is to get as many kids on bikes as possible.”