Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: Rogue Trails And Rebel Riders

Back in the earliest days of Advantage Cyclery, before I worked there, a bunch of stuff happened that set the stage for what went on while I was there in regards to trail riding........

A bit of local history regarding the off road scene in my area is necessary here, I think, to give you out there some backdrop to understand what was happening in the mid 90's at Advantage Cyclery and with me. So, from the foggiest of memory and from almost legendary, word of mouth tales, here is how I understood the earliest days of off roading in and around Advantage Cyclery's locale.

Of course, being in the Mid-West, the whole off roading thing took awhile to catch on. Certainly there were people riding dirt single track going waaaay back. I was even single speeding on dirt single track way back in the early 70's. The thing was, nobody knew we were doing anything "special". It was just riding bikes. And maybe it should have stayed that way, but I digress......

In the late 80's, or there abouts, a small, secretive band of off roaders were loosely knit under the moniker, The Dead Bikeman. As far as I could gather, these fellows were responsible for many of the earliest off road trails cut into the woods in George Wyth State Park. Now there was a "fitness trail" in the park and several "walkways" that consisted of mown, ten to twelve foot wide swaths cut through the woods. These made for tempting places to ride off road, but the Park officials frowned on the bicycles off road, and especially so since the Park had a paved path that ran right through it specifically built for bicyclists to use.

In fact, stories of the Park Rangers stopping cyclists on these mown pathways and ticketing them were rampant in the time around '89-90. This no doubt fueled the reasons for the "rogue trails" that started to emerge about that time. Hidden in the thickets and away from where Rangers eyes were pointed, the riders could use these trails at their discretion and go undetected. Plus, they were a heck of a lot more fun than what the fitness trails were. Stories of these trails leaked out over time to other avid off roaders, but it seems that the Dead Bikeman, or whomever were responsible, were reluctant to have just anybody know about the treasure that lay in the canopy of the State Park. So if you got wind of a trail, it was time to explore, and if you found it, it was like a really big deal, akin to kissing your first girl. Well.....maybe not that good! But pretty dang close!

In time others got into the act of cutting trail in the Park. By about 1994 it seemed that the Park had relaxed the rules regulating cycling off road. I seem to remember there being some "official blessing" given for riding the "fitness trails", but whether the Park officials even knew about the rogue trails was anybodies guess, and really, we didn't give it a second thought. Anyway, this signalled what I would say was the pinnacle of off roading in this area. New trails, new people getting in on the action, and all resulting in a ton of activity at Advantage Cyclery.

You could say that I got in on the action at just the right time.

Next week: More On The Trails

No comments: