Spokes folks peddle pastime

Mountain biking sparks enthusiasm among participants in popular activity

Posted 4/30/19

Before she became executive director of the Colorado High School Cycling League, a nonprofit youth development organization that produces mountain bike race series, Kate Rau worked in the …

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Spokes folks peddle pastime

Mountain biking sparks enthusiasm among participants in popular activity

Posted

Before she became executive director of the Colorado High School Cycling League, a nonprofit youth development organization that produces mountain bike race series, Kate Rau worked in the intervention field.

Rau worked for Singletrack Mountain Bike Adventures, a youth race development program that offers summer camps and team programs during the spring, summer and fall. She witnessed firsthand the impact that mountain biking can have on people, including children who found themselves in trouble.

“It strengthens family bonds, and it connects people to their community. Those are elements that are proven to reduce the need for intervention — whether it’s mental health, substance abuse, feeling isolated, or being addicted to screen time,” said Rau. “I think we’re all, including kids, under a tremendous amount of stress. Biking is pretty much year-round in Colorado, and it’s something you can do with your family.”

Colorado is blessed with a plethora of mountain biking trails, with around 1,700 trails just in the state’s Central Rockies. The problem isn’t necessarily finding a trail, it’s finding the wherewithal to strap on a helmet and jump on a mountain bike. Once that wherewithal is found, the benefits can be tremendous — just ask Gary Harty.

Harty lives in Lakewood, and he has been a strong advocate for getting people on bikes. He brought Cycling Without Age to Lakewood over a year ago, a program that provides three-wheeled bikes, called trishaws, to people who cannot ride a bike by themselves. The trishaws have a couchlike seat big enough for two people to sit on, while volunteers power it for senior communities all throughout Lakewood. The longtime cyclist also founded the Lakewood Bicycle Advisory Team, a group that advocates for better infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians.

Harty and his wife got into mountain biking six years ago. Bear Creek Lake Park is close to his home, and it is one of the many places where he and his wife enjoy spending a sunny day.

“Psychologists have known for a long time that exercise creates endorphins. I think to a certain extent, that becomes addictive,” said Harty. “I think bicycling in general does that, and mountain biking does that even more, because you don’t have the stress of dealing automobiles. Mountain biking covers so many categories from tracks that are technical that demand a high level of skill, downhill racing and endurance racing. Mountain biking gets the average cyclist more into nature. Just that combo of exercise and being in tune with nature is good.”

Hitting trails for the first time

Paul Rodriguez has been mountain biking for nine years. When he has the time, Rodriguez tries to get out on the trails at least three days a week. He is the co-owner of the Bicycle Shack in Arvada, a store that offers new and used bikes, custom builds, repair services and frame painting.

“If you’ve never (gone mountain biking) before, you should. It’s a good way to get outside and get some sunshine, of course, but one of the most important things that I like is it’s a lot less dangerous than road biking, because you’re not competing with cars” said Rodriguez. “You feel a therapeutic sense of feeling, because mountain biking clears your mind. The only thing that you’re thinking about is what is in front of you.”

For people who have never been mountain biking before, Rodriguez recommends hitting the trails at Green Mountain in Lakewood, North Table Mountain in Golden and Marshall Mesa Trailhead in Boulder. Those trails aren’t difficult, or technical, and they’re great for getting the blood pumping, according to Rodriguez.

One of his favorite apps to use when mountain biking is the MTB Project app. The app, available for Android and iPhone, provides a GPS on trails, mirroring a guidebook for Colorado trails. It also offers a feature that lets you download trail maps for when cell-phone service isn’t available.

“You can scope out your route, which is good, especially for new riders. The difference between a left and a right on a trail can be heading back to the car, or another five-mile loop,” said Rodriguez.

For those who are looking to purchase a mountain bike for the first time, Rodriguez recommends Jamis Bikes. He says the brand offers everything from mountain bikes for small children to more upscale mountain bikes. Rodriguez’s mountain biking survival kit that he carries with him includes tire levers, an extra tube, a patch kit and a hand pump.

“It’s nice, just in case you find yourself in a tough spot when you’re on the trail. You don’t want to have to hike out of a trail and have to carry your bike,” said Rodriguez. “We’re lucky enough to live in Colorado, and I would encourage everyone to take advantage of the trails that our state has to offer.”

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