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Archive for Thursday, April 4, 1996

MOUNTAIN-BIKE MANIA

April 4, 1996

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Mountain biking is riding its way to the top of popularity among Lawrence teens.

Whether it's racing downhill, rolling over rocks, or just a relaxing ride along the Kaw River trails, mountain biking is picking up steam among teens.

"A majority of it is just leisure and fun," said Corey Keizer, a student at Lawrence High School and a salesman at Terraplane Bicycles, 916 Mass. "Riding trails and riding the streets, that's just the basis of it. It's people getting together and having fun."

Gone are the days of building make-shift ramps from cinder blocks and a sheet of plywood to pull medieval Evel Knievel-like jumps on a bike equipped with a banana seat and "ape hangers."

The archaic bikes that seemed like they weighed 50 pounds are like lumber wagons compared to today's mountain bikes.

With frames and components consisting of space-age alloys and shod with dirt tread rubber supported by motocross-style suspension systems, today's mountain bike can go almost anywhere and do almost anything.

But while most mountain bike companies offer a wide range of bikes for anything from relaxing rides to racing, some cyclists say they are just out for a good time with their friends.

"I've been riding for about five or six years," said Brett Neverve, an LHS junior. "I've done a few races. I like doing it, but it's also great to go out and just compare yourself to the other riders."

Keizer said he had also done some racing, but the intensity of some riders competing was more than he really wanted to deal with.

"I don't like racing as much, because of the attitudes of the riders racing," Keizer said. "It's like racing with 100 of your friends who don't care about you. Mountain biking to me is just going out with a group of friends and having fun. Racing took all of that away. Suddenly, I had to win and beat the man next to me."

Some bikers are ignoring a mountain bike trend and sticking to the BMX bikes that were popular in the late '70s and '80s. BMX bikes are a smaller bicycle than mountain bikes and are ridden mostly in urban areas or raced on man-made tracks.

"I have a mountain bike and a BMX bike, and I like my BMX bike better. BMX rules," said Dustin Merritt. "I grew up on BMX."

"Over the past year it's (BMX riding) really been coming back," added Mike Long, Lawrence. "It's not as strong as it was in the '80s, but it's coming back."

The BMX resurgence isn't cutting into the mountain bike mania, though.

"It's (mountain biking) real popular," said Mike Combest, owner of Terraplane Bicycles, 916 Mass. "We have such a huge cross-section of customers, but it's only getting more popular."

Whether it's the rebirth of BMX or the current craze of mountain biking, riding a bicycle continues to be one of the most common forms of physical conditioning, relaxation or just a great way to pass the day with friends.

"Life is too serious, and people want to relax," Combest said. "They're (mountain bikes) easier to live with than the road bikes and there's less of a social commitment. There's no dress code, and mountain bikes seem to appeal to the kids in people more than road bikes do."

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