Living in what he calls "the mountain bike capital of Kansas," Geoff Davis hoped for a lot of interest when he decided to form a Lawrence mountain bike team.
He got it.
The team, formed two weeks ago, has ballooned beyond his wildest expectations. It now has 26 racers.
"That's exactly the amount of jerseys I first ordered," Davis said. "I thought I'd be sitting around with at least eight extras, but now it looks like I'll need more."
Although Kansas has a glaring shortage of mountains ("Around here, we may as well call them flatland bikes," Davis said.), members of Mountain Bike-Lawrence find plenty of other places to use and abuse their durable trail bikes.
SINCE IT WAS formed Nov. 8, the team has dominated races the last two Sundays in the Kansas City area, he said. They plan to compete this Sunday in Topeka, racing on trails in the woods around the Governor's Mansion.
This week, they got their mountain-biking fix by trying out some rough, hilly, wooded land that team member Karl Gridley owns near Clinton Lake. The team plans to organize a race there Jan. 26, bringing out-of-town biking enthusiasts to Lawrence. They also hope to host races in February and March.
This month normally is the beginning of the mountain-bike season because winter is the off-season for road-bike racing, Davis said. All of the current members of Mountain Bike-Lawrence also race for the Lawrence Bicycle Club's road bike team, but one of their goals for the future is to expand into a larger club.
DAVIS SAID he also hoped to use the group as a vehicle to promote rider safety and knowledge of the many mountain-bike trails around Lawrence.
"Just the other day, I saw a guy riding without a helmet down 23rd Street," he said. "People just don't know how dangerous that is. They also don't know about enough of the local trails, so the same ones keep getting ridden all the time."
Another reason the competitive mountain-bike season tends to begin during the wintertime is that the ground starts to freeze, he said. Less mud means better riding.
But recent races have offered plenty of mud for any rider who wants some.
"Last weekend, it rained until the race started," Davis said. "Through the whole race, our tires were totally immersed in mud. With that much muck in the tires, you didn't even need brakes."
RACES USUALLY are 12 to 16 miles and sometimes as long as 20. Because of a lack of space, the competitions often are in confined areas, with 30 to 60 bikers racing six or seven laps around a course. If the course is muddy, the terrain becomes rougher and more challenging with each lap.
Mountain-bike races require very technical riding, so the team members Lawrence residents and students at Kansas University and Lawrence High School practice and train regularly. They also do other exercises, such as lifting weights, to keep their cardiovascular systems in shape.
The team's pink jerseys, paid for by seven local sponsors, read "Mt Bik Lawrence," but these gung-ho riders have nicknamed themselves "The Monsters." They belt out a big monster roar at the beginning of each race.
"You have to have endurance to win," Davis said, "but you don't have to win to have fun."