Adaptive cyclists christen new Down Dog trail in Park City’s Round Valley
The trail competes a nearly 3-mile directional loop
Charlie Sturgis, executive director of the Mountain Trails Foundation, parked the foundation’s Suburban and hopped out. He had parked where the dirt road crossed the recently-built Down Dog trail and walked up to a broad dirt overlook, where a dozen people on adaptive mountain bikes and another half dozen on regular mountain bikes were milling around.
Thursday was Down Dog’s unveiling.
The 1.5-mile downhill trail had been in the works for about three years, then built over the course of a month. It connects with the uphill section built earlier, called Porcu-Climb. The two Round Valley trails were built wide enough to accommodate the three-wheeled hand-cycles that adaptive cyclists use. The unveiling also coincided with an adaptive mountain bike camp hosted by the National Ability Center, which helps people with disabilities stay active and access the outdoors.
Sturgis, limping after a climbing accident in Indian Creek, hobbled in front of the crowd and got its attention.
“This trail matches up with so many needs, whether it be the beginner cyclists, the youth, (or) old guys like myself,” he said. “Hopefully we will see more in the future.”
The cyclists cheered, but Gail Barille, the National Ability Center’s CEO, wasn’t ready to settle for hopes and uncertainty.
“You mean we will see more in the future, right?” she said playfully. “I just heard you confirm it.”
“That’s part of it, you know, you have to have the adrenaline! That’s probably why most of us are in wheelchairs; we did some stupid adrenaline thing to get us in this position.”
Rick Fournier, Mountain Trails’ field manager, told the crowd the organization was happy to build the trail, and looked forward to hearing how it rode.
“It will take a while to get packed in, but we definitely want some feedback from you guys on how we can improve it and make it more fun for you guys as well,” he said.
Barille, still parsing the speeches, jumped in again.
“Not just this trail, but trails, right?” She said.
Sturgis let out a facetious groan.
“Gail’s just putting her hook in us no matter what,” he said.
While Down Dog and Porcu-Climb are by no means the only options for adaptive cyclists, they do represent a welcome addition. The trails are geared toward beginners and close enough to the NAC that beginners can try the sport without having to commit too much.
Wally Lee, one of the group’s experienced adaptive cyclists, said the width of Porcu-Climb and Down Dog were perfect for hand-cycles, though any “flow trail” – that is, a trail geared toward downhill riding, with banked curves and a broader path – would accommodate a hand-cycle.
Lee said going face-first (as some hand-cycles are set up) down a flow trail isn’t as prohibitive as it may sound.
“That’s part of it, you know, you have to have the adrenaline!” he said. “That’s probably why most of us are in wheelchairs; we did some stupid adrenaline thing to get us in this position.”
But, he said, the new trails are ideal.
In winter, Porcu-Climb and Down Dog will be groomed to accommodate fat bikes and nordic skiing, which Lee said are both options for adaptive athletes.
As the group got ready to pedal up the rest of Porcu-Climb and start Down Dog, Lee told them to be careful around the turns.
“The lower part is going to be pretty loose,” he said. “You may slide a little bit so take your time.”
“No, full speed!” the cyclist next him shouted gleefully, as the group started pedaling up the trail.
Sturgis and Fournier walked to where the trail S-curves, sat down on the edge of the path and waited for the cyclists to go by. As the cyclists passed, nearly to a person, each one praised the trail and thanked the spectators.
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