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Last updated: Mon. May. 12, 2014 - 11:51 am EDT

Fort Wayne-area mountain biking club works to grow trail network

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Member information:

NITRO memberships are $30 per person or $50 per family and includes a membership IMBA as well. Members also get discounts from companies such as Subaru, Summit City Bicycles, Fort Wayne Outfitters and Bike Depot, Moe's Bikes and Don Halls Guesthouse as well as travel and insurance offers. Membership gives folks exclusive invitations to various training, workshops and programs, however, members and non-members alike are invited to attend NITRO rides and events. For more information on membership visit www.imba.com/membership.

By the numbers:

148 local chapters have joined IMBA

14 directors work to support local chapters in organized regions throughout the United States

$85 million was awarded to IMBA from federal grant funding for trails

10,000 kids participated in Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day events around the country

500,000 volunteer hours on public land in the U.S.

Source: IMBA

EVENTS:

Ladies Tough As Nails Rides

What: Join NITRO ladies practices skills, developed endurance and having fun.

When: At 6:30 p.m. on the 2nd Thursday each month will focus on beginners and the 4th Thursday of the month will focus on intermediate. The event runs from May until September.

Where: Franke Park, 3717 Sherman Blvd., Fort Wayne

Cost: Free

Tot Track and Kid Zone at the Fort4Fitness Spring Cycle

What: Join NITRO as they offer an obstacle course with simple maneuvering techniques and several small bumps. Helmets are required and parents must be present.

When: From 12 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 17

Where: Downtown Fort Wayne near Freimann Square

Cost: Free

NITRO Skills features The Midwest Women's Mountain Bike Clinic

What: IMBA instructors will teach a wide range of skills and techniques no matter the rider's experience. It's a great way to learn in a controlled setting before hitting the trails.

When: June 6-8

Where: Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 E., Nashville, Ind.

Cost: Free

Puddin' Cup Classic Race, Swap Meet and Bike Show

What: During the end of the Three River's Festiva, NITRO will host a competitive race as well as offer the Tot Track for kids. This event is great for riders that have always wanted to race, but hasn't had an opportunity. There will also be a bike swap meet and bike show.

When: From 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, July 19 and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 20.

Where: ranke Park, 3717 Sherman Blvd., Fort Wayne

Cost: Free

Annual Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day

What: The event will feature a Tot Track for kids to ride as well as guided nature hikes.

When: From 12 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 9

Where: Franke Park, 3717 Sherman Blvd., Fort Wayne

Cost: Free, but donations are accepted

-Check out NITRO at www.nitromtb.org for more information or visit www.imba.com for information on IMBA.

DISCUSS
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Do you remeber getting your first bike as a child? It's a special moment for many children and parents. A new bike represents freedom because those wheels can take you anywhere you'd like to go.

Diana de Carranza of Auburn fondly remembers her first bike, her first ride and her first mountain bike trail. As president of Northeast Indiana Trail Riders Organization - or NITRO for short - de Carranza is passionate about mountain bikes, and she's not the only one.

De Carranza said NITRO started in Fort Wayne in the summer 2012 with a group of like-minded friends. As a local chapter of the International Mountain Biking Association, NITRO works to create, enhance and preserve trail experiences for mountain bikers in northeast Indiana as well as to promote responsible mountain biking for all ages and skill levels including men, women and children.

While Indiana is not known for its mountains, you don't need a mountain to ride on a great trail. Franke Park, for example, is one of northeast Indiana's most visited and successful trail sites in the area.

At Franke Park, there are three loops: the easy loop marked by green arrows, the intermediate loop marked by yellow arrows and the hard loop marked by red arrows. While Franke offers much for a avid trail rider de Carranza says it could be expanded upon and improved to bring in novice riders.

De Carranza lives in Auburn, so going out for a ride isn't as easy as strapping on a helmet and taking off.

“Our corner of the state lacks any state parks with mountain bike trails and we don't even have that many urban trails so my husband and I decided if we started a chapter in this corner of the state we might be able to bring those trails here. Every time we ride, we have to drive a few hours. We just want something closer to home,” she said.

She also understand that when working with state and local governments nothing happens very quickly so the group's efforts of building sustainable and safe trails is no easy feat.

“We like to focus on the sustainability of the project," she said. "Building a sustainable bike track is very important because you tear up a ton of earth and then have to rebuild the track with proper drainage and to prevent erosion. Part of the reason getting to the state parks takes so long is working with naturalists and the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) to ensure the project is sustainable and to make sure there is no protected species. The same goes for the city parks.”

That's why members of the group go through significant training on trails, sustainability, riding skills and more. Group members not only love to ride, they also love to spread the good word, which is why NITRO is always looking for new members no matter age, gender or skill level.

De Carranza and Wade Fromholt have been riding together and working on trails for years, but Fromholt was a road bike kind of guy, until he hopped on a mountain bike.

“I started out cycling on the road for exercise, then I took to the trails with a few of the local mountain bikers in the area and I was instantly hooked," he said. "The difference between riding on the road and riding on trails is immensely different. No matter your level or experience, mountain biking makes you feel like a kid again. Once you've been doing it for a while and you learn and you end up wanting to improve on the trails you're riding, then eventually you want to build more. It's addicting because there is always that next curb you want to ride along or that next feature you want to try out or that next new place you want to explore.”

Both NITRO members agree pitching mountain biking to a novice is tough. Many people think about the scars, scraps and falls, but with the proper training, it can be for everyone.

“As a female, I'm more cautious. I don't tend to jump," de Carranza said. "I am perfectly happy to have both of my wheels on the ground, but it's limiting. If you want to jump you can, but I hold myself back sometimes. You can go as intense or as smooth and you want. It's almost comical when someone does hit a tree or grab a root because we end up comparing bruises. It's funny.”

Fromholt said he's always been pretty lucky, but that's because he's been cautious.

“There's something to be said about that first crash and getting up and realizing you are OK. Then you get back on the bike and ride," he said. "We tell that to kids but as adults we have to relearn that - you have to just dust yourself off and get back up and you'll be fine.

"We are out there with men in their 30s, 40s or 50s and we are like, yeah you have to tell yourself those same things you tell your kid,” he said laughing.

jgoldsborough@news-sentinel.com


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