Oct 062005
Authors: Sarah Rawley

If it's the first time or the 100th of hitting the trail, always follow IMBA's universally recognized Rules of the Trail. It may seem like a lot to keep in mind, but mountain biking is just about going out and having fun.

* Ride on open trails only

* Leave no trace

* Control your bicycle

* Always yield trail to other trail users

* Never scare animals

* Plan ahead

Mountain biking is one of those lifelong sports where one can hit the pedals at age eight and keep on pedaling until 80.

It's one of the top five recreation sports in the United States, according to the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA).

And with a plethora of trails within a short ride or drive from campus, Fort Collins is a haven for all cyclist enthusiasts and abilities.

"It's rewarding and rejuvenating. It's such a rush to get over something hard. I don't think about anything else; it's all about the riding and the beautiful scenery around you," said Heather Butler, a senior technical journalism major , in her second year collegiate mountain bike racing.

For the novice hitting the trails, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, buying a bike from a reputable bike shop is essential for optimal fit and performance.

"Make sure you are clear with what kind of riding you are doing," said Eric McCollum, bike mechanic for Lee's Cyclery.

The scope of cycle-technology is ever increasing to meet the demands of different types of riding: road, mountain biking or cyclocross.

Even within mountain biking, there are bikes specially designed for downhill, cross-country and racing.

It is crucial to test ride a bike for positioning and handling before purchasing it. Most bike shops offer demos to test before you buy.

The next step is knowing where to ride. The trails around Fort Collins are notorious for being very technical and rocky.

The best beginner trails close to campus are Pineridge Natural Area around Dixon Reservoir and the valley trails at Lory State Park that offer single-track through grassy hillsides and gullies.

"That's where you can go and not get discouraged," said M.K. Thompson, assistant manager for Lee's Cyclery.

Thompson has been an avid mountain biker since she was eight years old and raced professionally in downhill and dual-slalom.

"I can't think of any other places in the country that are rockier. You will get good at technical skills quickly," Thompson said.

Other frequently ridden trails in the area include Hewletts Gulch and Youngs Gulch, located about 30 minutes up Highway 14 in the Poudre Canyon.

For those seeking an adrenalin rush, Horsetooth Mountain Park offers more technical riding. A service road provides access to trails with steep descents, rock faces and stairs to fly down.

A few simple riding tips, which even more advanced riders always keep in mind focus on the mental aspects of riding.

"It comes down to your ability to be relaxed. You can't ride over rocks if you are tight," Thompson said.

Keeping the arms flexed and not locked, and lowering the elbows to draw the upper body close on steep ascents will make riding easier.

"Look where you want to go. If you look at a rock, you'll probably hit the rock," Thompson said.

A lot of new riders think they will build their legs faster by pushing higher gears, when in reality, spinning faster and leaning forward is more efficient.

"Cycling is more about the lung workout. If you are pushing hard gears, you'll wear your body and equipment out," Thompson said.

Thompson also recommended spinning at 90 to 100 R.P.M. most of the time and at 60 to 80 R.P.M. on hills.

On the last Thursday of every month, Lee's Cyclery offers a free bike maintenance class.

"It all boils down to the freedom. Free your mind and free from obligations. You can get away so easily," Thompson said.

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