“Root!” “Log!” “Freaking huge pile of logs!” As a “roadie,” the bumps that are normal for mountain bikers seemed as if they would swallow my bike. That was last year. After purchasing a mountain bike in early 2011, I ventured out to Franke Park’s mountain bike trails to see if I really could ride a bike on trails without blowing a tire or hurting myself. Little did I know that a year later my road bike would sit in the garage relatively untouched, that the “freaking huge piles of logs” would become simple log rolls, or that the Monday night group riders would become some of my best biking friends.
Franke Park’s mountain bike trails are the perfect place for a beginning mountain biker to learn the basics and progress. With group rides every Monday night, one can join various levels of riders–from people who have never ventured off the pavement before, to guys who ride trails with names like “Bloody” and “Dead Man’s Run” without even thinking twice. I mean, I still call that crazy, but hey, if you can do “Bloody” without getting bloody, more power to you. The trails at Franke Park are well-marked, with green arrows indicating the easy trails, yellow arrows for intermediate trails, and red for the most technical and challenging trails. Oftentimes, the log rolls (small piles of logs that you can ride over without having to jump your bike) are built with bypasses for less-experienced riders, and when they don’t have bypasses, the trailhead proudly displays a “For Experts Only” warning sign. The best part is that the trails form two big loops–the East Loop and the West Loop. Each loop is made up of the base green trail, with yellow and red trails looping off, then coming back to the original green trail, so that when I’m riding with guys who ride faster and harder, they can take the yellow and red loops, while I take the green, and we’ll eventually meet up again.
Just a year and a half after riding at Franke Park for the first time, I am a “regular” at the Monday night group rides, can successfully ride almost all of the red trails, and have a gang of mountain biking friends who are glad to let me tag along, try to keep up, and watch to learn the techniques necessary to try the next “freaking huge pile of logs” in my path.
I wrote this for the Three Rivers Velo Sport club newsletter, but if you’re in the Fort Wayne area and want to join us, we ride at Franke Park at 6:30 p.m. on Monday nights!