Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mountain Biking Rediscovered - July 25, 2009

Each semester in college I loved taking an easy one-hour credit/no-credit class with friends. Bowling, tennis and racquetball were just a few. One of the best classes I happened to stumble upon was mountain biking. After an unsuccessful attempt to join a Greek sorority I decided to use the money I would have spent on sorority dues to buy myself a mountain bike. Atop a shiny new bike I spent the semester riding up canyons I never would have dreamed of climbing on my own and off-road trails I'd previously thought could only be ascended on foot. The class introduced me to a whole new world and I was addicted. Brent and I spent many a Saturday hitting the plentiful trails in Utah.

When we moved to California we again found plentiful trails, but with babies in tow off-road mountain biking became a distant memory. The baby bike trailer was great for the kids, but not so great for the steep and narrow mountain biking trails. So, we stuck to the flat paved trails for years.

Then, we moved to the Midwest. With vast flat plains of cornfields we assumed the sport of mountain biking didn't exist. We had been told there were trails just over the border in Wisconsin but with three small children it required too much planning, cost, and effort to get away for an entire day for a bike ride.

Fast forward to the summer of 2009. A garage sale around the corner provides us with a "tag-a-long" bike that attaches to my bike for 4-year-old Ethan. Ethan can't get enough of his new "one-wheeler" bike and suddenly we think we could possibly attempt an easy off-road trail as a family. We head to the Kettle Moraine State Park about an hour away in Wisconsin.

We check in with the Ranger for maps and directions and are told the John Muir mountain biking loops would all be much too challenging for the kids. We choose to disregard the Ranger's advice rationalizing that our kids are pretty tough, and if the trail is too rigorous we can walk our bikes along the short 1.5 mile loop. The kids agree and we hit the trail.

1.5 miles later everyone is feeling confident and having a blast. I'm pleased with how well the tag-a-long bike works, and how Ethan can help me out on the big hills with his own pedals. Morgan is well equipped with an aluminum bike with gears and shocks, but Isaac is stuck with his heavy as a refrigerator hand-me-down bike from the neighbor next door. Instead of crying and complaining that the trail is too hard with his ill-equipped bike, Isaac quickly runs (not walks) his bike up the hill whenever it's too steep. What a little trooper.

After the second loop (4 miles), we are pleased as punch with our tough little brood of kiddos and excited to have reopened the door to the world of mountain biking. The kids seem pretty excited about their new discovery as well.

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