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Freeriders jumping with joy at a new Greensboro track
By Ellica Church, Staff Writer
News & Record
GREENSBORO — A few seconds of flight.
Peter Mills, 18, corners a berm in the Freeride Zone. Members of the Greensboro Fat Tire Society built the track. (Jerry Wolford/©News & Record)
The wheels of your bike hover about four feet off the jump. You’re getting big air.
You glance down and for a split second wonder what possessed you to do this.
“Then you land and you know you want to do it again,” said Josh Heimann , of Greensboro. “It’s just being able to be free and not having any worries. You push yourself to go farther and go higher.”
Pure exhilaration. That’s how Heimann, 19, describes freeriding. It’s something he comes out to do at least three times a week at the Freeride Zone.
The track sits on a 2-acre hillside in Country Park behind the scoreboard of nearby Stoner-White Stadium. The track is still a work in progress.
It’s the only Triad spot just for freeriding where riders can test their limits, hang with other riders and learn from each other.
And the buzz is growing through word of mouth, Web sites and online forums. People have come from other parts of North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee to ride since construction wrapped up in late April.
“Now we have a place where we can go and it’s such a good atmosphere out there,” said Merritt White, who helped design the course.
Freeriding, also called North Shore riding because of its roots in British Columbia, has become more popular in recent years — especially among younger mountain bikers.
Think of it as a more extreme form of mountain biking in which riders fly over dirt jumps and do tricks or corner berms with their bikes almost parallel to the ground.
But freeriding also uses natural features, such as boulders and logs, or man-made wooden elements, such as ladders and teeter-totters, to test balance and agility.
Riders zoom over the Ztrack’s red clay mounds of dirt, their wheels spinning and kicking up dust. White, a former pro mountain boarder, tried before to get things started in the past five or six years. Many freeriders were jumping anywhere that wasn’t illegal. He wanted to create a spot where those who loved the sport could ride safely — regardless of their age or skill level.
White and Mark Gatehouse, a member of the Greensboro Fat Tire Society, pitched the idea to the city’s parks and recreation department last summer. Gatehouse works as a liaison between the department and the mountain bike group that helps maintain trails in some city parks.
They thought the spot at Country Park would be ideal.
Some kids had already built makeshift jumps out there that had to be torn down for safety reasons, said Bill Adams, the regional manager for Country and Price parks.
“They’re going to do it no matter what,” Adams said. “It came down to: 'Are we going to have a place for them to do this where they can be safe?’”
Together the groups came up with rules to address safety at the track: limiting the height of jumps; requiring helmets; ensuring parental supervision for kids under 13; and making older teens keep emergency contact numbers.
About 600 hours of manpower — mostly from volunteers — went into building the course since last fall.
It cost about $700 to set up the jumps and berms . The city provided dirt removed during another project, Gatehouse said.
Work on wooden elements in the next phase could start in late summer or fall and cost between $4,000 and $5,000 depending on the features, he said.
More fund-raisers, such as a bike raffle at Cycles De Oro, will pay for that work, and local riders will help maintain the course.
Riders who frequent the track are eager for that additional work to get under way.
Ryan Phillips, 14, used to practice on jumps in the back yard of his Kernersville home. Now, he comes out to the track at least three or four days a week after school and on weekends.
“It’s just awesome,” Phillips said. “It’s close. People show up and you meet them and become friends.”
He’s gotten better at landing the harder jumps — in part from practice but also from watching other riders.
No two jumps are the same. No two people jump the same way. Every jump gives riders a chance to tweak their own style and mix in what they’ve seen other riders do, said Heimann, who’s been freeridering for about six months.
A lot of people come by just to check things out but soon come back to try it themselves, he said. And people are always willing to help them out.
“It’s about friends having a love for the sport being able to get on a bike and be free out here,” Heimann said. “We’re different ages, and we’re all acting pretty much like we’re 5 — joking with each other and having fun.”
Contact Ellica Church at 373-7059 or firstname.lastname@example.org