New mountain biker haven
Jonathan Garner glides his BMX bicycle over one dirt jump. He builds some speed after cresting a second jump. Then he hits the third and largest jump, which launches him into a move called the tailspin, the bike twirling beneath him.
In fluid motion, Garner, 19, points the front tire back to earth and zooms down the ramp on the other side. With a grin spreading quickly across his face, he turns back uphill, ready to do it all over again.
Mastering bike tricks and refining the art of mountain biking is now a reality at the Tabeguache trail head because of a new development, the Lunch Loop Bike Park.
A series of dirt jumps and training courses is the brainchild of the mountain bike trail-building group, COPMOBA, the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association. With cooperation from the city of Grand Junction and the Bureau of Land Management, and donations from several sponsors, the project is slated to open with a ceremony Saturday.
“A bike park is the number one thing this valley has been missing,” said Greg Mazu of Singletrack Trails. Mazu is the contractor on the project.
Missing link for cyclists
“There is no way this would have happened without all the donations,” he added. “We didn’t start talking about this until May. To have all the players involved with this, having a skid steer here every day from the city is pretty stellar.”
The creation of a developmental bike park is the missing link in Grand Junction’s growing mountain biking culture, bike advocates said. A designated riding courses is a place where inexperienced riders can learn handling skills, balance, cadence and how to maneuver technical spots that will arise in singletrack riding. That can build riders’ confidence and reduce risk of riders injuring themselves in the backcountry.
An established bike park reduces the likelihood that riders will create their own jumps and trails in areas where they could cause erosion or become dangerous for other unsuspecting users. Building bike parks also encourages youths to get involved with trail building and instills passion for the environment, advocates said.
Features of the new park include a pump track, where mountain bikers first learn bike handling skills. It is near the parking lot for easy accessibility for parents with children. The pump track was built with a series of bumps and berms to be ridden without pedaling. Riders learn to “pump” their handlebars to build momentum around the track.
More obstacles or alternative routes have been placed alongside the Kid’s Meal loop, a beginner’s course that already hems in the bike park, circling the valley floor. Kid’s Meal is a singletrack course that allows beginning riders to experience a range of conditions, such as riding through thick sand and rolling the front tire up unto rocks.
Dirt jumps at the site offer opportunities for experienced bikers to test their freestyle skills by rolling over hills and launching their bikes into the air to do tricks.
Workers soon will add a dual slalom course to a downhill stretch directly west of the main trail. The side-by-side, identical trails will be built with berms and jumps.
Already, the bike park features are drawing the interest of organizers of bike competitions such as collegiate races and the Mountain States Cup Series, COPMOBA board member Jen Taylor said.
“They said there really is a need for other bike parks on the Western Slope,” she said. “This is the first one on public property that is suitable for racing. This will definitely bring more economic dollars to the valley.”
In 2009, the Lunch Loop area and other local mountain biking trails on public land attracted 50,000 first-time visitors to the Grand Valley and infused $24 million into the local economy, according to the BLM.
Taylor said COPMOBA raised $50,000 for the bike park and that the outpouring of in-kind donations will allow the association to build similar developmental bike parks in Fruita and Palisade.
“This is very forward thinking,” Taylor said. “This is in a location that kids can get to on their own. Not all parents have bikes, but it’s in a location where they can watch their kids. Hopefully it loops more people into biking.”