Hit the road

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    By the weekend, Bryce McGuire can’t wait to hit the trail.”There’s nothing like zooming along some sweet single track nestled in the forest and getting some air on a nice rock cropping,” said McGuire, president of the Cowtown Area Mountain Bike Association.

    Mountain biking can offer many general health benefits, including weight loss, lower blood pressure and relief from lower back pain, said Allen Johnson, who teaches beginner’s mountain biking clinics.

    “It keeps me feeling great,” Johnson said. “I run circles around the 20-year-olds that work for me.”

    Johnson, who recently turned 50, said he took up mountain biking while he was recovering from knee surgery.

    Casey Gordon, a Web site builder and TCU alumnus, mountain bikes on the weekends. Gordon said he enjoys being connected with nature.

    “It can be flat out spiritual,” Gordon said. “I’m sitting in a cubicle all day – no windows. Unless I’m on a bike, I get zero time outdoors.”

    Johnson agrees that being outside is an appealing part of mountain biking.

    “You’re not breathing everyone else’s air,” Johnson said. “You’re getting fresh air.”

    Before hitting the trail, make sure to prepare. Here are a few tips on making mountain biking a lifelong, enjoyable hobby.

    STEP ONE:

    Pick your priorities

    Even before riding, deciding your priorities is extremely important, said Bryce McGuire, president of Cowtown Area Mountain Bike Association.

     Set your goals

    “First you should look inward at what type of person you are,” McGuire said. “What are your goals? Do you want to ride natural trails that are going to challenge you, or do you want to just ride paved trails and roads to get the cardiac benefits?”

     Get a feel for the sport

    Before purchasing an expensive bike and accessories, borrow a bike, Johnson said.

    “Don’t rush into buying something,” Johnson said. “Watch the experts and pros, and make sure you enjoy riding.”

    STEP TWO:

    PICK YOUR GEAR

    Finding the right gear is essential to making mountain biking a fun hobby, said Casey Gordon, who mountain bikes on the weekends.

     Go local

    “You can’t go to Wal-Mart and find the right bike,” Gordon said. “You won’t be prepared to ride.”

    Local bike shops offer better resources and advice than mass merchants, McGuire said.

    STEP THREE:

    Tips for buying a bike

     Go cheap

    Although mountain biking can be an expensive hobby, it doesn’t have to be. Here are some good bikes for little green.

    Mongoose makes a number of inexpensive, full-suspension bikes, ranging in price from $199.99 to $349.99, all available at Sports Authority, 4830 SW Loop 820 in Fort Worth.

    For a more expensive bike, Colonel’s Bicycle Shop sells a line of Kona mountain bikes that range in price from $400 to nearly $3,000. Colonel’s Bicycle Shop is located in Fort Worth at 3201 S. University Blvd.

     Go “hard-tail”

    A good way to reduce initial costs is with “hard-tail” suspension, said Aubrey Williams, a mechanic at Colonel’s Bicycles.

    Full-suspension bikes may cost more than $1,000, while hard-tail bikes may cost between $500 and $600, Williams said.

     Get a good fit

    As well as affecting ride enjoyment, finding a proper bike size affects ability to maneuver a bike, Williams said. Many factors, including height and weight, determine proper size.

    “Frame size is most important,” Williams said. “If it’s too small or too big, it’s not going to go over the trail in the way intended.”

    STEP FOUR: Get involved

    Here are some clubs in the Metroplex that provide a good community for novice mountain bikers:

     Cowtown Area Mountain Bike Association

    Who they are: According to cowtownmtb.org, CAMBA is “dedicated to building sustainable trails in North Texas and making Fort Worth a mountain bike destination.”

    What they offer: CAMBA offers group rides every Wednesday, tour rides and skill clinics for new riders taught by skilled riders.

    Fort Worth Bicycling Association

    Who they are: “Members are people like you who ride bicycles for recreation, fitness and sport. The club has riders of all shapes, sizes and skill levels,” according to fwbaclub.org.

    What they offer: Along with trail rides and clinics almost weekly, FWBA also offers special events rides, including a ride from Austin to Fort Worth.

    STEP FIVE: Get on the trail!

     Knob Hill Park

    Who is it for? “Knob Hill, just north of Roanoke, is pretty good for beginners,” McGuire said.

    Where is it? Located just north of Roanoke, off FM 1171.

     Z Boaz Park

    Who is it for? “Z Boaz Park is also good for beginners, but has some areas that are challenging for more advanced,” McGuire added.

    Where is it? Z Boaz Park is located just off Interstate 20 on Winscott Road.

    STEP SIX: Have Fun!

    The most important part of riding is having fun, Gordon said.

    “I take my headphones with me,” Gordon said. “I feel like I’m in my own heavy-metal music video.”

    The more riding a beginner does, the better, Johnson said.

    “Get out and enjoy it,” Johnson said. “Most people are out there because they want to be.”

    Tim Gray, a mechanic at Colonel’s Bicycles, said people often take mountain biking too seriously.

    “Don’t be afraid to say ‘hello’ on a trail,” Gray said. “Have fun – don’t take it too seriously.”

    – Darren White