Riders learn courtesy on trails

Bike clinic offers adventure on two wheels

Source of this article, The Thousand Oaks Acorn, July 13, 2017

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CYCLING IN THE HILLS—Cyclists who want to go mountain biking can learn skills as well as etiquette at a free clinic offered the first Saturday of the month at Malibu Creek State Park. GRAHAM MARTIN

“Loose, low and look” was the advice Mark Langton gave to a dozen cyclists as they navigated a tricky obstacle during a July 1 mountain bike skills clinic at Malibu Creek State Park.

A low, relaxed posture allows riders to maintain control of their bikes as they negotiate twists and turns over uneven terrain, Langton said. Looking ahead keeps the cyclists focused on the trail and aware of danger.

The 12 riders came from throughout the region to participate in the free class so they could learn to master the basics of backcountry trail riding.

Langton, a founding board member of the Concerned Off- Road Bicyclists Association (CORBA), has been teaching the monthly program since 1992.

The nonprofit group was founded in 1987 to advocate for shared use of the trails in the Santa Monica Mountains. The skills clinics are part of CORBA’s efforts to foster a good relationship between mountain bikers and other trail users.

“There are always new people coming out, and there are two simple things people can do to coexist on the trails: Slow down, and let people know you’re coming,” Langton told attendees at the start of the recent class.

Trails have brush and blind corners, and since bikes are quiet they can spook hikers, dogs and horses. Ringing a bell is the best way to let others to know a bicyclist is coming, Langton said.

“I’m not saying don’t go fast, I’m saying go slow around other people and be careful around blind corners,” he said.

After a discussion of backcountry preparedness, shared-use etiquette and simple maintenance tips, Langton led riders through a series of drills. They learned the proper riding position, how to control their braking and maneuver at slow speeds, and gear use for climbing and descending.

The Thousand Oaks bike instructor said off-road cycling is increasingly popular because it gives people a sense of adventure in the great outdoors.

“It flips the kid switch in adults,” he said.

Throughout the class, he and co-instructor Ezra Dweck answered questions and watched as each rider tested their new skills on various terrains.

Aside from promoting safe and courteous bike riding, CORBA helps to build and maintain trails to improve backcountry accessibility for all users. The group also helped to create the Mountain Bike Unit, a volunteer program that works in partnership with local park agencies to patrol trails, guide visitors and ensure people follow the rules.

The group was originally formed to deal with the concerns of people who felt that mountain bikes weren’t an appropriate use of backcountry trails in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Teaching the free clinic is Langton’s way of giving back to the parks, he said.

The recent three-hour clinic ended with a short trail ride into Malibu Creek State Park so participants could put their new skills to the test.

“When going downhill, stay low, let the bike roll—use both brakes and a deep jockey position but don’t stop,” Langton told riders before they went down a short, rocky path near the Rock Pool.

The classes are held the first Saturday of the month starting at 9 a.m. No reservations are needed.

“I think it’s a great program at a nice location,” said Ken Weiner, a Del Rey resident who grew up in Agoura Hills.

He came to the class with his 9-year-old son, Max.

“The thing I liked the most was going down the stairs,” Max said.

The next class will take place Aug. 5. For more information about CORBA and its programs, visit www.corbamtb.com.

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