Indiana’s generally feeble embrace of physical activity is well documented. We’ve all heard it: Get outside! Move! So, instead of beating a dead horse about exercise, the Hoosier Mountain Biking Association (HMBA) is beating the drum for its all-ages mountain biking trek at the forthcoming Ford Hoosier Outdoor Experience. Produced by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Hoosier Outdoor Experience is an extravaganza of highly-participatory activities taking place September 21 and 22 at Ft. Harrison State Park in Lawrence. The free event features canoeing, riflery, horseback riding, archery, and scores of other choices. “Forty to fifty organizations will be there to get people outdoors, and to introduce new kinds of outdoor recreation,” said Steve King, HMBA board member. “We are the biking organization and we want folks doing something they’ve never considered trying.”
In recent years, HMBA carved three permanent mountain biking trails in the hills and dales of Ft. Harrison State Park including a one-mile Beginner’s Trail described as flat, tight, twisty and fun; the Lawrence Creek Trail, a four-mile excursion with topography similar to Brown County with more hills and challenges for intermediate riders; and the Schoen Creek Trail, not long, but grueling for expert riders who are looking for a serious challenge. “DNR wanted us to introduce kids to mountain biking and to show off the Ft. Harrison trails,” explained Mark Finney, Bicycle Garage Indianapolis (BGI), which is a major HMBA supporter.
At Outdoor Experience volunteers will fit kids and adults with helmets and appropriately sized bikes, and teach novices how to negotiate simple trail obstacles. Kids will ride on guided tours of the flat, one-mile Beginner’s Trail, winding through park woods with a few minor elevated grades and turns. The advice for first-timers is simple. “Keep your eyes up and pedal, other than that, you’re in good shape,” said a smiling Finney.
The bikes for the event are donated along with equipment used to mark the trails. “BGI has a large fleet of mountain bikes in all sizes that we’ll add to those owned by HMBA. Do INdiana Off Road (the state’s largest promoter of mountain biking events) is generously donating trail obstacles and the snow fencing for safety barriers,” Finney noted.
DNR’s overarching purpose for Outdoor Experience is to provide a free opportunity for people to experience activities that are available at DNR facilities, and to get people into parks who don’t normally visit them. Last year, about 30,000 visitors flooded Ft. Harrison State Park for the rain-or-shine affair, and HMBA is seeking volunteers for this year’s event. “Biking experience helps, but isn’t necessary,” explained Justin Whitaker, bike event promoter. “It’s a great volunteer opportunity. Seeing a six-year-old kid on training wheels go across a log is really amazing and rewarding.”
If you’re still undecided about trying mountain biking, or are worried it’s only for the “cool kids”, well, veterans describe it as just great fun for all. “This isn’t Spandex and leg shaving. We have a blast doing it,” said an enthusiastic Finney, who jokingly said it’s okay if you want to put playing cards in your bike spokes. Some readers are old enough to understand that!
Ford Hoosier Outdoor Experience
Saturday, Sept. 21 & Sunday, Sept. 22, 9:00 A.M. – 6:00 P.M., Fort Harrison State Park, Lawrence
Admission is free, including parking at the Finance Center where buses will ferry visitors to the park. A state park membership pass is not required for attendance. Additional details including volunteer sign-up available at www.hmba.org