116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Editor's note: Michelle Barker works for the International Mountain Bicycling Association as a Region Director for the Upper Midwest. Her role is to forward IMBA's mission in Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin. She has been involved in local recreation as the past president of Linn Area Mountain Bike Association, on the board of the Linn County Trails Association and as a commissioner for the Parks, Waterways, and Recreation Commission.
By Michelle Barker, community contributor
I have never aired it on a gap jump, dropped off a tall ladder bridge, nor do I intend to do so in the near future.
Yet, I still am a mountain biker.
Many times, when I make this declaration, I receive a strange look in return, first followed with, 'but you live in Iowa, there are no mountains there” and then 'you mean like the X-Games?”
So, what is mountain biking? Can you really mountain bike in Iowa?
Mountain biking can be best explained by the experience of the user. There are mountain bikers who get air on gap jumps, drop off tall ladder bridges and descend downhill trails at impressive speeds. These feats are amazing to watch, but don't adequately define mountain biking.
For me, mountain biking is riding my bike on a narrow (single-file) trail, preferably in the woods, winding around trees, challenging myself and experiencing a close connection with nature. The trail is often dirt or rocks and sometimes I need to ride over an obstacle, like a log. On my mountain bike, I can escape and enjoy riding with my friends while exercising.
In fact, these items are noted by the International Mountain Bicycling Association as key elements of what mountain bikers want.
Trails like this do exist in Linn County and other areas in Iowa. A local IMBA chapter, Linn Area Mountain Bike Association, maintains this kind of trail in Beverly Park in Cedar Rapids and in Squaw Creek County Park. I also can travel to Cedar Falls, Waterloo, North Liberty, Coralville and beyond to experience this type of riding. These trails are not only great for mountain biking, but also trail running, dog walking and geocaching.
I started mountain biking because a friend invited me to try it. I borrowed a bike, got dirty and was sold on the sport. Mountain biking is accessible, an appropriate bike and a willingness to try the activity are all that are needed. Of course, a helmet is highly recommended and riding with a friend is much more enjoyable.
Iowa hosts a races series for mountain bikers and there many events across the state. There often are group rides at local trails and trail-work days for volunteers. A majority of mountain bike trails are maintained by volunteers, not the municipality who owns the property. You can always find more information at the local bike shop and online.
The trails in Cedar Rapids are nearly ready for spring riding. Dust off the mountain bike in your garage and spend some time in nature. Then, the next time you hear someone tell you there are no mountains in Iowa, you will be prepared with the experiences to reply 'but there is mountain biking.”
l More information at Linn Area Mountain Bike Association, http://lambaonline.org or International Mountain Bicycling Association www.imba.com