Cutting-edge bikers seek venue
BRECKENRIDGE – Danica Rice wants to provide renegade bicyclists with a place to play.
The bikers are already out there, taking jumps from boulders or stacks of fallen logs; riding down narrow, elevated ramps; precariously balancing on wooden teeter-totters and negotiating their ways down steep, wooden ladders in parks they’ve crafted from construction wood and fallen logs.
“This is the wave of the future,” Rice, a Breckenridge trails planner, told the town’s Open Space Advisory Commission Tuesday. “It’s already happening out there. We need to do something to control it or let them take over.”
By “them,” she means young mountain bikers taking their sport to the extreme. “Controlling it,” Rice said, could mean offering them a trail of their own on which to perform their stunts, thus heading off the construction of such parks in the backcountry.
“We have to convince the county and Forest Service this is what’s happening,” Rice said, adding that neither county nor Forest Service officials like the idea. “We need to provide something that’s safe, or people are going to build their own thing in the woods. It’s like the skateboarders: If you give them a park, maybe they’ll stay off the streets.”
Free riding is the two-wheeled equivalent of terrain park riding – and it’s becoming more popular every year, with competitions taking place throughout North America.
The courses are popular among mountain bikers who want a little more exhilaration in their backcountry experiences. And municipalities and resorts are starting to see the opportunity such parks could provide for the bikers – and community coffers.
Clandestine parks already exist in the forests in Summit County. One, called Ewok Village, recently was dismantled on a parcel of land between French Creek and the Weisshorn neighborhoods in Breckenridge. Another, called the Blair Witch Trail, features a series of jumps in the woods near Horseshoe Gulch. And it’s not uncommon for hikers to come across a board balanced on a log – a free rider’s seesaw.
The features often are made of fallen timber and construction scraps and look like a cross between a skeletal roller coaster and a playground gone awry. Ewok Village included a series of ramps, fences, drops, ladders and other obstacles designed to challenge a bicyclist’s balance – and nerve. The best bikes for the sport are heavier, with heavy-duty suspensions and fatter tires.
“It’s just a new tangent of biking, like more extreme biking,” Rice said. “It’s about tricks and stunts – and it’s definitely about adrenaline.”
Rice envisions simple stunts – small drops, stacked logs and rocks – along a trail, perhaps on the West Moonstone parcel adjacent to Carter Park.
She views a free ride trail as yet another amenity the town could offer for its visitors and suggested the open space commission consider proposing such a park to the town council.
Commissioners were intrigued but suggested Rice research the idea further, citing potential problems with trash, erosion – and liability. The sport is known for its danger – hence the thrill. Bicyclists often wear BM helmets that cover the entire head, as well as other protective gear that makes them look like storm troopers from Star Wars.
Rice said bicyclists would use the trail at their own risk, just as people use the kayak and skateboard parks.
“It’s insane – and it’s what everyone’s doing,” she said. “And around here, we have so much deadfall, we’d love to take advantage of all that material and do something with it.”
As a trails planner, Rice wants to ensure any trail that might be built would be sustainable. And providing natural obstacles on which people could improve their backcountry riding skills could, in the end, do less damage than typical downhill riding.
“It’s more sustainable to jump over the log than to ride around it,” she said. “And the stunts would take the abuse, and not the ground.”
It could take more than a town council blessing to get such a trail built, however.
“If a log’s fallen in the trail, I get a phone call from someone asking us to come remove it,” Rice said. “By not bunny-hopping over it, you’re not advancing as a biker.”
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