Some months ago, I was approached by friend of the shop, & local adaptive rider, Brian Carlson. He asked if I could spend some time riding as support for an adaptive riders event that he was planning for our area. He's supported Mojo for years & he’s a great guy. So I said "of course." The 3 day event, & its rides, took place over this weekend.
As the event’s date loomed, Brian was nervous about the weather. Local storms threatened to ruin his plans. The sky was gray & had imposing clouds, but rain held off. (It was literally raining in Rogers as we hit dry Back 40/Blowing Springs trails on Saturday morning.
With shame, I’ll admit that I expected slow rides, as participants rolled over trails like Tweety Bird. (Because I’ve had no experience riding with adaptive cyclists, I had no idea how they would negotiate the trail.) Holy Crap my assumptions were wrong! Seriously wrong! From the minute we took off on Friday morning, it was a non-stop shred-fest. Riders hand cranked their e-assisted bikes through Esther’s Loop & up to Coler's hub. We gathered as Brian described the trail options…everyone chose Fire Line. Cyclists ripped down the trail & on the first shot a few crashed or rolled in one section where two opposing berms come together. The second ride, everyone figured the trail out & just ripped down the hard pack.
On day two, we headed through Blowing Springs & stopped where Becci’s Rogers-based NICA team had created a replenishing aid station. Once everyone had grabbed some fruit & Gatorade, we headed out. We headed up the Rabbit Hole Loop & up a street, to connect to Through the Looking Glass & up to Randy Garbage’s Winnebago. After some photos, riders hit Area 51. Brian challenged me to follow him down the trail & back up Sally. He doesn’t mess around. Charging the trail’s opening at near light speed, he railed the berms so fast & hard that I could SEE his rear rims flexing as they skittered within inches of the berms’ top edges. Leaning HARD to the inside of the berms, he used his upper body to muscle the three wheeler around berms & to blast the straight sections. Dust & rock flew as I pushed to follow his tail. Following this salvo, we discussed tire options & inserts to help keep his tires from flexing as he blasts descents.
On the final day, the group headed to Masterpiece for some jumping. Riders pushed their rigs to get air as support riders angled to get the best shots. We rounded-out the day with repeated runs down Catapult. For several riders, this was a highlight of the weekend. A large group of kid shredders (10yrs & less) ripped their little full-suspension bikes to fly off the tables & jumps. As we arrived, they marveled at the design of the adaptive bikes they’d never seen before. When they learned about the adaptive riders, they were stoked & took turns riding between them on the bermy descent. On our final descent, several of them had lined themselves up at the trail’s end & gave enthusiastic fist bumps to the adaptive riders in our group. I heard several kids yell “You guys rock.”
The group was one of the best I've ever ridden with. Their willingness to help others, share information & rally for support was unequaled. They were ready to lend a hand when someone crashed, yet never missed a chance to throw some sarcastic wordplay at someone either. One rider took off his long sleeve shirt to cool down, revealing his toned arms. Others immediately chided him about his “gun show.” After-ride dinners were loud affairs. People reliving their exploits from the day. Others told stories about how they came to be in this unique group that needs these special bikes. Some injuries from extreme sports, several resulted from being hit by drunk drivers while riding, one was even from the result of domestic abuse. But these stories were not the focus of their event. Rather, it was for the group to ride & to have fun.
Riders swapped info about other places to ride, equipment that worked well for them, traveling tips. You name it & they were networking about it. All that, as laughter, common throughout the entire weekend, rang in the air. The meals were superb: Bar-B-Q from Wright's, Azul Tequila & Pedaler's Pub. Several attendees already signed-up for next year's event, even before they headed home. I had an absolute blast, & was quick to tell Brian to sign me up for next year.
As a few of us had our final dinner last night, we lingered...not wanting the event to end. New friends swapped contact info. Riders threw out ideas for other locations where we could ride. One rider threw out Rotorua. He'd ridden the shreddy trails there & would go back. Wow. New Zealand. Many of us were not sure that we could make it that far.
One thing we were ALL sure of was that we'd ride together again here in NWA next year.