Mountain bike rides are life; better put on a helmet

Prepare to launch! The view from Observation Hill high above Duluth and Lake Superior with, from left, Tom, Dave, me and Tom’s son Will.


Sometimes a good mountain bike ride can take us to new levels, places higher than the hills above the city, deeper than rushing river ravines and beyond our own preconceived limitations.

A good mountain bike ride travels into the wilderness. And just when we feel lost, the trail leads to a jaw-dropping view that pinpoints our exact location. But don’t look too long! There’s a boulder coming up fast.

A good mountain bike ride is dangerous. It skids to the edge of a cliff and around blind turns. It’s like hanging on to a bucking bronco or riding a rollercoaster without a seat belt. Did we hit 20 mph? It’s hard to say when trees blur by inches from your face.

Going up hill can crush the soul. Lungs feel like balloons ready to burst. Thighs cramp. Sweat and sunscreen sting the eyes. The switchbacks seem endless. But we keep going. We know there’s a helluva downhill on the other side.

A good ride encompasses the wonders of both nature and man. A grouse protects its nest. Eagles sore on the wind. Deer dance through the trees. Gear shifts make a climb easier. Disc brakes defy gravity. Thick rubber tires carry us through mud holes, over rock gardens and under a steel railroad bridge as big as a castle turret.

A good mountain bike ride needs more than a cow path in the woods. It needs to be a trail. Solid but not smooth. Well-marked but still difficult to find a route under the freeway. Something put together and maintained by a community.


In the end, the western leg of the Duluth Traverse covers about 14-miles from the Enger Tower to the Spirit Mountain chalet. It drops some 300 feet in the first mile. and climbs 400 feet in the next. These are steep hills with lots of rocks, deep forest and turns so sharp walking is the only option. It’s a challenging ride but the strong can finish – the young and old, parents and children, and even an occasional dog.

Perhaps most of all a good mountain bike ride happens with friends. This is where we discover new ideas, find encouragement, learn about teamwork, leadership and taking a journey to its end. Friends are also the best way to celebrate a crash-free adventure.

It’s all part of a truly “epic ride.”




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