A little over eight years ago, I discovered mountain biking in Alabama. I had just gotten back into shape after too many years of bodily neglect and noticed a small article in the paper about our local state park which mentioned the park had mountain bike trails. It was a story about how the local mountain bike club, along with other “Friends of Oak Mountain” was resisting some aspects of the park’s plans for improvements that would pave a significant portion of the existing bike trail. (That part of plan was defeated, BTW)
I had always been interested in cycling, and cycled in college (until my bike was stolen) but career and, later the demand of a new family distracted me from biking. Bike paths and lanes are almost non-existent in the Birmingham area and I had always been to too scared to ride the roads since my college days. But here, previously unknown to me, was a place I could ride with out worrying about traffic. With little hesitation, I purchased a hardtail mountain bike from Cahaba Cycles and started riding. I was instantly hooked.
While riding, I often passed people who were working on the trail. I know from a visit to the bike club’s web site that they did this work on a regular basis. After stopping to chat (and feeling guilty that I was in effect freeloading on their efforts), I showed up for work day one weekend.
Mountain bikers are some of the most generous people in the world. Always quick to offer advice and spread their gospel of riding, their enthusiasm is contagious. And, unlike road bikers, they have to build their own paths. No one else will do it for them. Thus, they have developed a strong community and culture of volunteerism that only true believers can achieve. My excitement about mountain biking quickly grew to include excitement about trail building and maintenance as well.
Not all mountain bikers get into this aspect of riding as much as some, but almost all have donated some time to trail building. Those that do get into it are rewarded with a strong sense of accomplishment and camaraderie that I have never experienced anywhere else, not even in my chosen career. Those who just ride the trail are missing out on this experience.
So happens, there is a great opportunity to join this culture this coming weekend. On Saturday and Sunday, the local mountain bike club BUMP (www.bump.org) will be sponsoring a workday to,hopefully complete the new trail around the swimming lake. This trail, like all mountain bike trails, is designed and built for everyone, not just cyclists, and is particularly well suited for beginning walkers as well as beginning cyclists. I encourage you all to help finish this new asset for the community, courtesy of your local mountain bike community. Check out the web site for time and location. I will be there at the sign in booth. Hope to see you as well!