Biking the Valley: A look at organized cycling culture in the Chippewa Valley

Sean Brandenburg, photos by Andrea Paulseth

During a windy white Saturday several weeks ago, we got lucky in the Chippewa Valley: only a foot of snow fell on us during that mid-April madness. For some, trudging out into the blizzard and acting normal required a great deal of moxie, but we did it. We were thinking Spring. As the blizzard continued through Sunday morning, though, it felt as if many of us gave up. We pulled the covers over our heads and rolled over that day. Our whole community chalked one up for Winter. You win, Old Man. Count among those hiding under the covers the local bicyclists. The cycling community here is robust and adventurous, often willing to brave the elements to get in a ride. But that blizzard may have been too much for even the most hearty of riders. Andy Tyriver of the Chippewa Off-Road Bike Association says the worst thing about winter is the shoveling the driveway. Imagine how he must have felt the morning after our mid-April snowstorm. Not even a fat-tired snow bike could have made it out of the driveway. On the other hand, Eau Claire Youth Cycling Coach Nate Lillie says, “there is no bad weather, only poor clothing choices.” Words to live by. Thankfully all that winter nonsense is behind us and the weather has turned. It’s time to ride! The Chippewa Valley is home to many different cycling groups. Any type of rider can find some friends to ride with. If you’re into skinny tires and spandex, there’s a group for you. If you’re into fat tires and baggies, we’ve got you covered. If you’re into flying through the air on a BMX bike, meet the acrobats in the woods at Pinehurst Park. Whatever your riding style, you can do it here. Check out a few Valley’s local crews, and ride on!

CORBA

The Chippewa Off-Road Bike Association is mountain biker’s best friend. Their network of unpaid volunteers builds and maintains trails throughout the Chippewa Valley at places like Lowes Creek County Park and Northwest Park. They host several mountain bike races throughout the year, and generally make it so all trail users in the Valley have a great experience in the woods. For more info, visit chippewaoffroad.org

NICA TEAMS

For kids interested in mountain biking, there are a few National Interscholastic Cycling Association teams in the area. Coming up this summer, Eau Claire Youth Cycling is hosting two “Try It Out” events in June at which kids in grades 6-12 can meet other teen racers and coaches, learn what mountain bike racing is all about, and get registered for the season if they decide to race. For students living outside the Eau Claire area, the Fall Creek Composite Team is home to racers from several different area schools. Each team has their own Facebook page.  For more info, go to www.wisconsinmtb.org

MAMBA

Mountain bike clubs usually have acronyms that sound like fun dances. The Menomonie Area Mountain Bike Association does the same, often thankless, work in Menomonie that CORBA does in the Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls area. They’re working on trials in Menomonie Park, and the SDMA Environmental Site. For more info, find MAMBA Menomonie on Facebook.

EC VELO

Do you just want to have fun on a bike? Check out EC Velo. EC Velo is an informal group of riders that puts on formally awesome events. In addition to informal group rides each month, EC Velo puts on two must-try events for local bike riders: The Valley Cat (coming up May 12) and the HellCat (this fall). Both events are alleycat-style adventure races that require riders to find a series of checkpoints and complete a challenge at each one. For more info, find EC Velo on Facebook or go to www.valleycat.org.

PIE RIDERS

If you’re looking for something social, check out the Pie Riders. This group does weekly rides on weekdays and weekends. Rides are no-drop so you won’t get left behind if you’re not up to speed, and they usually end at a spot where riders can socialize and have a beer or two. Pie Rider Scott Kmetz describes the group as “No meetings, no dues, just fun.” Check out their Yahoo! For more info go to groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/ECPieRiders

PINEHURST PARK AND EC ENDURO

Not really a group, per se, but for those interested in something a different, there’s Pinehurst Park and EC Enduro. Pinehurst Park has a bike park featuring dirt jumps, and a pump track for BMX and freestyle riders. EC Enduro hosts Enduro-style mountain bike races through the summer, where riders are timed on downhill trail segments. For more info go to www.pinehurstpark.org/projects/, and find EC Enduro on Facebook.