Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a bicycle
nut advocate. I spend a lot of time talking about the importance of bikes as a transportation solution. I talk about bicycling as a tourism and economic generator. I talk about the health benefits of cycling, the joy of sharing a ride with friends and family. Then there is mountain biking, getting out into the woods, exploring, getting to know every rock and root, every turn and tree.
Sometimes your passion can drive you to exhaustion. It’s happened to me before, I get wound up in something to the exclusion of other things and finally find myself at a breaking point.
After several months of escalating involvement in all things bicycle related, I found myself in a familiar place in the field at the base of the Big Dam Bridge near the entrance to the Pfeifer Loop at Cooks Landing. It was Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day.
Lisa and I started hosting this International Mountain Bicycling Association event 5 years ago. We were lucky enough to time the opening of the Jackfork and Rabbit Ridge Mountain Bike Trails at Pinnacle Mountain State Park on the first Saturday in October. I like combining events and it worked out well.
We enjoyed the event enough that we carried on holding subsequent events at Cooks Landing and Two Rivers Park. Last year, after I joined the board of the Central Arkansas Trail Alliance, I was able to talk them into taking the event on as one of their projects, and the Big Rock Mountain Bike Festival was born.
Last year’s event was held at Boyle Park where CATA had been doing a lot of trail work. With help from most of the local bike shops and other cycling organizations it was a big success. The cycling community really came together and we got a lot of kids riding mountain bike trails. Unfortunately, I got wrapped up in other stuff and missed all the trail rides.
This year we moved the festival back to Cooks Landing, probably my favorite spot for the festival over the years. The Pfeifer Loop is the best beginner trail in the area with lots of visibility from the traffic on the River Trail and the Big Dam Bridge. There’s a nice field to set up the obstacle course, bike shop tents and even a bathroom nearby. It’s a good spot.
Early in the morning kids were showing up with parents in tow. The grill was in place, representatives from local bike shops were there, a registration desk was manned. The obstacle course was set and kids were riding all around the cones, over the 2×4 and 4×4, dropping off the teeter-totter, balancing across the skinny and reveling in the glory of riding under the limbo. Laughing and carrying on, the kids were having fun.
I announce the first guided trail ride. Adult leaders would take the kids on a short course on the western half of the Pfeifer Loop. Since the flooding earlier this year, the sand pit on the southeast section had grown and I didn’t want to drag the kids through that. Off they went for an adventure in the woods. It only took a couple of minutes and I decided that everything was well in hand so I rode out on the trail under the guise of taking pictures.
I followed the trail in the opposite direction and came across them as they were finishing up. Richard Machycek of Arkansas Cycling and Fitness stopped them just before the end of the ride. Once he had them all collected along the trail he yelled, “Who wants to ride the whole trail and go through the SAND PIT?!” That’s when the magic happened. Hands shot up and a roar came from the assembled mass of pre-teen cyclists. A resounding “YES!” In a few moments they were down the trail and on to more adventure.
That did it. I was rejuvenated. The rest of the day I watched kids play on bikes, I saw adults play on bikes. Families were riding together along with new friends. Dan Lysk and Addie Teo from Chainwheel orchestrated a bicycle tire hoop toss and several foot down contests. Grownups enjoyed testing the tiny Strider bikes. A lunch of hot dogs and hamburgers, chips and cookies was served by the CATA guys. Things started wrapping up after lunch. I lost count of the number of trail rides that happened. There was a multigenerational women’s only ride. The kids were impressed with their parent’s riding abilities.
In the end we had 38 kids officially, plus their parents and volunteers brought us to 80-100 people. Later in the day I started seeing photos of worn out kids asleep in cars on their way home. It was like magic.
I’d like to thank the following for their support in this year’s event:
- Central Arkansas Trail Alliance
- Subaru of Little Rock
- Bell and Company
- Edward Jones – Kelly Journey
- International Mountain Bicycling Association
- Arkansas Cycling and Fitness (Richard Machycek and Missy Vail)
- Chainwheel (Dan Lysk & Addie Teo)
- CARVE (Bob Ocken – our resident DJ)
- North Little Rock Parks and Recreation
- Also, Cliff Li and Bob Ocken for most of the photography
We can’t wait until next year.