by Scott Prater
If one drives around base long enough they’ll undoubtedly catch a bicyclist riding between buildings. And if the rider happens to be wearing a shirt, tie, dress slacks and shiny shoes, chances are he’s one of two people, Jeff Roob or Derek Hamby, both civilians in the 50th Force Support Squadron and both avid cyclists.
Roob says road cycling is a good way to get around base quickly and its great exercise, but it really only serves one purpose for him and Hamby: It helps them stay fit for their real passion — mountain biking.
They’re not alone. As it turns out, Colorado Springs is home to some of the best mountain bike trails the state has to offer, according to Singletracks.com.
Roob and Hamby have been riding for more than a decade, so they’ve gained a reasonable amount of knowledge about where the best trails are and how to reach them. But, they realize folks who are interested in taking up a new sport or cyclists new to Schriever may have some have questions about where to start.
“There a ton of resources in town for people who want to get started, find the right bike, equipment and, most of all, where to find the right trail,” Hamby said. “I would start by visiting a website called http://www.mtbr.com/. People will find maps for every trail in every state and they can read reviews of the trails from people who’ve experienced them.”
Hamby said the site also hosts forums where people review bikes, parts, supplies and pretty much everything that involves mountain biking.
Roob recommends that people can also gain a lot of valuable information at one of Colorado Springs’ many local bike shops.
“Really I think most of the local bike shops hold an interest in growing the sport and generally steer people in the right direction as far as the type of bike they’ll need given their skill level and the types of trails they hope to ride,” he said. “From there it’s all about gaining experience and learning what you can do.”
Hamby typically refers less experienced riders to trails at the U.S. Air Force Academy, specifically Falcon Trail, which loops around the Academy but may be a bit long for some beginners as it’s nearly 13 miles. He also likes Cheyenne Mountain State Park just west of Fort Carson because it has many beginner trails and they’re well marked at each intersection, making it hard to get lost. Roob recommends Palmer Park, due to its central location and variety of difficulty.
“Schriever itself is a good place to get your feet wet,” Roob said. “We’ve got a trail here that we use for an annual mountain bike competition that is more of dirt road on the north side of the base. It doesn’t hold much technical difficulty, but it’s a place people can start and get a feel for their bike.”
Schriever outdoor recreation has mountain bikes available for rent in youth, adult and extra large sizes at reasonable day, weekend and week-long rates. Fitness center staff can direct people on how to access the trail north of the fitness center.
Both Hamby and Roob say mountain biking is a lifelong sport, one that offers fun and excitement while challenging its participants athletically and aerobically.
“I like the fact that I’m not in a gym,” Hamby said. “The speed and the exercise are good stress relievers. Anytime I’ve got something stressful going on in my life I can ride and all I’m thinking about is picking the right line, the next climb or the best way to attack a particular section of a trail. I don’t think about anything else.”
Of course, anyone who has ridden a bike is aware of its inherent dangers. Roob argues that like any sport, if someone wants to improve it’s imperative to push one’s limits.
“We call it paying your dues,” Roob said as he rubbed a fresh arm bruise. “What’s nice about the sport is you start to figure out what you can and can’t get away with. Maybe you come along a section of trail you’re not comfortable riding and then you see someone else ride it and you learn something. Maybe the next time you encounter that same section it seems easier so you try it. If you’re not pushing yourself to improve, you’re not going to.”
That’s one reason it’s important to wear the proper protective equipment, including helmet, gloves and glasses. Schriever’s impromptu mountain-biking ambassadors also recommend that riders bring tools, water, spare tubes and a pump on rides as a precaution, but insist they’ll most likely encounter other riders after a time if they stay on the trail.
“That’s another great thing about this sport,” Roob said. “Most cyclists you’ll see on the mountain trails will be eager to help you out. They’ll stop and ask if you need anything or they can help get you where you need to go. Even the professionals here are eager to pass on a helpful piece of advice.”
Hamby and Roob also recommend people try renting a bike from a local shop before buying, and search out opportunities to take instructional classes and group rides.
“There are lots of options out there and this way people tend to come away with a better fit than someone who just walks in blind,” Hamby said. “Some shops and cycling organizations offer group rides. This way the more experienced riders can sort of mentor the newer folks.”