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Off Road Biking: Hitting the Local Trails

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tyler bike trailsWritten and Photographed by Lynn Dark

I once owned a truck, and I swore that I would never buy another one. When you have one, even the most casual acquaintance becomes your “best friend” every time they need to move. I only mention this because, for the most part, the streets of Tyler really are not very “bike friendly.” To be fair, they are not “horse and buggy friendly” either, but I digress.

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Click to Enlarge

You will need a truck, or at least a vehicle capable of carrying a bicycle, to safely get to the off-road biking trails in the area. Once there, however, you will be rewarded with exceptionally maintained trails for your enjoyment, exercise, and experience with nature.

Tyler Simpson of Simpson’s Fitness and Adventure Sports gives us the scoop on off road/mountain biking in the area, starting with the fact that the terms are synonymous. An avid cyclist, Simpson has ridden trails in Arkansas, Colorado, Alaska, and any number of other places. He plays an integral part in the upkeep of our local trails.

There are four biking trails in Smith County. The trail at Tyler State Park has been around for 25 years, and is maintained by the state. These trails have the most rugged terrain in the area. The trails at Faulkner and Lindsey Park are maintained by the city. The smaller trails at UT Tyler are maintained by the university.

Simpson calls the trails at Lindsey Park, “the jewel of the area.” More time and money has been spent on these trails than any of the others. He explains that, “the state has more regulations than the city does about what you can and can’t do with the trails. For example, boardwalks have been placed over wet areas, and wooden banking turns have been installed in some places. These trails are faster, with lots of elevation differences, and more physical ability is required.”

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Faulkner Park has the best trails for beginners. These trails have less elevation, and lots of turns. They are the best place to learn to handle a bike without any difficult, “technical” situations where a rider could sustain a serious injury.

UT Tyler is described as a short trail, with lots of up and downs through ditches. It has a few “fun” features that have been added to the natural terrain. These trails are located on the northwest corner of the campus next to the Frisbee golf area.

Maps of the city trails can be found at the City of Tyler’s Parks and Recreation website on the Parks and Trails page. The city and university trails are free, while there is a $5 admission fee to Tyler State Park.

Many people come from out of town just to ride the local trails. “We have lots of Dallas riders because their trails are more clay based, and when they become wet, they are unrideable. Our [Tyler’s] trails are sand based, and tend to drain a lot better. We also get quite a few riders from the Shreveport area too,” Simpson states.

uttyler9-lgAs for trail rules, the riding direction is mandated. Hikers and runners must travel in the opposite directions. Hoofed animals are not allowed, and dogs must be leashed. No one should use the trails when they are wet. The city parks are open until 12 midnight, but good lights are necessary for night riding. Simpson strongly recommends that, “all users of the trails only wear one earbud so that they can hear what is going on around them in order to avoid dangerous situations.” He also advises riders to keep their cell phones with them, and to go with a riding partner.

You definitely want to consider your surroundings when you determine what you should have with you when you set out on your riding adventure. While riding in Alaska, Simpson and a friend carried air horns, bear spray, bells, water bottles, a first aid kit, a whistle, and a repair kit. When he showed me a photo from this trip, displaying a 38 magnum with bear load strapped to his chest, I was surprised to say the least.

To participate in this sport, you will need an off road/mountain bicycle. This type of bike typically has a fatter tire that can handle the natural tread bed of dirt, roots, and rocks in the area. You can purchase one of these bikes from a bicycle store for $350 and up. Simpson’s current personal bike goes for $9,499!

mountain-biking-dallasMountain bikes can be found for less in department stores and at Wal-Mart, but those bikes will be heavier, and not as performance-oriented. There are several other advantages to purchasing your bike at a bicycle shop. For example, the bike will be assembled by a professional, and you will get much better service from professional mechanics. The staff at these specialty stores is better equipped to help you get started.

For riding the trails in East Texas, Simpson strongly recommends a helmet, gloves, and optional special shoes. Few riders in this area wear protective pads on their knees and elbows, or a full-face helmet. This is because the riding here is not that “technical.” Other parts of the country have more rugged terrain, where people would wear what Simpson refers to as “full armor.” That would also include more protective footwear that comes up higher on the legs.

Off-road biking is a full body workout. It seems obvious that it works your legs, but it also works your arms, upper body, and cardiovascular system. More than just exercise, mountain biking is also a sport in the Summer Olympics. In addition, competitive cyclists compete in world, national and state championship events.

trail-around-the-lakeSimpson recently took part in the Ouachita Challenge in Arkansas. He describes it as, “an annual event that is more of a gathering. People come from all over the country to meet up with friends with whom they have ridden previously.” This particular race is a 60-mile endurance event.

For an inexpensive camping trip, Arkansas is very accessible from East Texas, and Simpson describes it as, “an incredible mountain biking heaven. There are hundreds of miles of biking trails funded by the Walton Foundation. Both Walton grandsons are avid mountain bikers.” In fact, Simpson says that the Arkansas trails are emerging as some of the best in the country.

Many participants incorporate off road biking into their vacations. For example, most ski resorts now convert the property into mountain bike ride centers during the summer. Riders use the lifts to go up the mountain, and then ride trails back down.

We have a fairly large biking community in East Texas. Anyone looking to make friends, find riding partners, or simply to see what is going on in the area should check out the Tyler Bicycle Club’s Facebook page. There, you will find posts about the condition of the trails, club meetings, requests for riding companions, etc.

Mountain biking can be as simple as hitting the local trails for a brief workout, or something that becomes an outright obsession. Vacations can be planned around riding the next trail. Friendships can be forged both locally and across the country. It really seems to be a special community. Happy trails everyone!


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Around East Texas

“I Got Healthy” Superheroes

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Tell Your “I Got Healthy” Story

Do you know someone who has altered their daily habits to become a healthier person? Is that person you?

Lighten Up East Texas wants to hear your stories about how local healthy heroes changed their own daily habits and can use their story to help others who also want to make a healthy change.

Send an email to LightenUpEastTexas@gmail.com by Friday, August 31st, and tell them your story about your local healthy hero; whether it be a friend, family member, co-worker, or yourself.

Lighten Up East Texas is a program run through Fit City Tyler. The program is a regional weight loss and community challenge that strives to build healthier lives in the East Texas community. People who have lost at least 5% of their starting weight at their “Weigh-Out” will be entered into the Grand Prize Drawing. The next Lighten Up East Texas Challenge will take place in 2019. For more information visit: fitcitytyler.com/lightenupeasttex

 

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Fit City Tyler’s “Fit Bite Program” Grows


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Do you want to eat healthier when you are eating out? Fit City Tyler’s “Fit Bite Program” offers a current list of restaurants and their healthy menu options.

Participating restaurants are:

You can go online at fitcitytyler.com/fitbite and click each restaurant to view their menu items that qualify for placement into the “Fit Bite” Menu Recognition Program.

Look for the “Fit Bite” logo on window stickers, menu labels and informational posters. These will highlight the meats, fruits, vegetables and beverage options are prepared using any of these healthier cooking methods: grilled, broiled, baked, steamed, poached, roasted, sautéed or stewed.

​Any restaurant in the Tyler area can join the free “Fit Bite Program.” To enroll, go to fitcitytyler.com. For more info email Terrence Ates at TAtes@NETPHD.org.

Fit City Tyler is a community wellness coalition that supports individuals, families, and businesses to create action toward adopting healthy lifestyles. The Fit City Tyler coalition consists of more than 100 local organizations: the media, hospitals, gyms, public and private schools, city and county government, community clinics, public health organizations, non-profits, restaurants, churches, health clubs, fitness gyms, CrossFit boxes, non-profit agencies and numerous community volunteers.


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Fitness

It’s SUP to you to try PaddleBoard Yoga

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Paddle Yoga Held In August

Are you looking to challenge yourself or simply wanting to try something new?

Stand up paddle board yoga combines traditional yoga moves with balancing on water. SUP yoga is a unique fitness experience that will engage your core and improve your posture. Plus, there is nothing like relaxing along the water on a summer Saturday morning.

Tyler Paddle is offering two Paddle Yoga classes at 8:30am and 10am on August 4th and 18th. No experience is necessary.

Register now at tylerpaddle.com. Each class is $20. Space is limited and all ages are welcome.

Full Moon Paddles will be held August 25th and 26th starting at 7:30pm.

Also, 1-, 2-, and 3-hour paddles, Full Moon Paddles, and Sunset Paddles are available. Check tylerpaddle.com for times and to make reservations.

This will be held waterfront at The Cascades, 3363 Cascades Blvd., Tyler, at the marina and boathouse.

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