Mountain bikers hope to expand sport’s presence in Cheshire

Mountain bikers hope to expand sport’s presence in Cheshire

CHESHIRE — Mountain biking enthusiasts hope that Saturday’s ride over the trails at Ives Farm will be the first step in a larger presence for the sport in town. 

About 30 riders took the jaunt through the woodland trails, co-sponsored by Bike Cheshire and the Cheshire Land Trust. 

Jim Jinks, executive director of Bike Cheshire, said the goal of his group and events like the one on Saturday is to encourage people who have not ridden in a while to come out and give it another try. 

“We just wanted to try to get people out and enjoying a day in the woods,” Jinks said. 

In the next two months Jinks plans to approach the Parks and Recreation department, the Environmental Commission, and the Cheshire Land Trust to request having town properties open to mountain biking on a regular basis. 

“We will give them a proposal to show how we could use the space,” Jinks said. 

Glenn Vernes, president of the central Connecticut chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association, said that process can be a slow one. It requires cultivating a relationship with town officials and land use agencies to show that mountain biking is compatible with open space usage. 

It can be a tough sell, he said, but there are successful examples throughout the state. The association has created bike trails in Cromwell and is currently planning to restore routes in Hamden and Branford, he said.

“We always do everything according to modern sustainable methods of doing a trail,” Vernes said of his chapter, which numbers 175 members. 

For Saturday’s event, the group set up an approximately 2.5-mile course through the farm along existing walking paths. Some of the route could get pretty technical, appealing to the veteran rider, but there were also wide, straight paths for a beginner. 

Tricia Dowcett, a Cheshire resident and board member of Bike Cheshire, got into riding when she was in college out in Colorado. The sport’s mix of adrenaline (there are hills to conquer) and contemplation (carefully choosing one’s path in the peace of the woods) appealed to her.  

“My friends were into it and I just followed them and quickly realized that it is great,” she said. “You have to use your brain as well as your body.”

She was one of the group who made sure that Ives Farms’ trails were ready for riders, trimming bushes, removing leaves, taking down anything that could catch a wheel or a handlebar. There is a close connection between conservationists and mountain bikers, Dowcett said, with both groups seeing themselves as stewards of open space.

“We try to educate the public about that,” Dowcett said. 

Off the phone

Almost everyone who showed up on Saturday was decked out in riding gear and excited to go for a spin. Cheshire resident Jon Northway and his 14-year-old daughter Aeryn were kitted out and ready to take the trail.

“I try to get out as much as possible,” he said. 

Northway coaches riding and is an avid participant. But Aeryn takes it to another level. She competes regularly and has truly embraced mountain biking in a way that her dad is clearly proud of. Not every kid likes team sports, Northway pointed out, and competitive biking exposes Aeryn to the discipline and the organization needed to perform well. 

“It gives some perspective. It’s good to be outside, enjoying the beautiful world we live in,” Northway said. “It gets her off her phone and off her computer.” 

In addition to the obvious health benefits of riding and the joys of being out in nature, there is another, less known reason to cruise around on two wheels. 

“You create your own breeze,” Jinks said. 

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