If students are interested in bicycle riding in the midst of nature, they might want to check out SWAMP club.
SWAMP is the South West Association of Mountain Bike Pedalers. It is an organization of people who enjoy bicycle riding on nature trails in large groups. SWAMP riders are typically found riding trails in the Tampa area together on various days and nights of the week.
According to the club’s Web site, www.swampclub.org, the club is “an association of mountain bike enthusiasts of all levels of experience who want to share their love for off-road mountain bike riding.”
SWAMP club was founded 15 years ago by Wes Eubank in order to organize a trail-building effort in the area and grew over time, according to Julianne North, president of the club.
“As more people joined, the fact that we guided people around got more popular,” North said.
Eubank founded the club in 1992 when land issues arose in the Morris Bridge area.
“They were going to close the park, and we formed SWAMP to prevent closing of the trails,” Eubank said.
SWAMP has a variety of rides in order to meet the interests of the community, including guided recreational rides, ladies-only rides, club-sponsored racing events and night rides. In order to keep the trails hazard free, there are also trail building and maintenance work parties available to anyone interested in helping.
One of the club’s most popular events is the Fat Tire Festival. This event happens twice a year and is an all-night-and-day ride during which riders camp out, eat meals together and listen to a live band. According to North, the upcoming festival in November is already completely booked, but there is a similar festival in February in Hernando County. These rides are typically 50 miles long, but there are bailout points for less experienced riders.
As the seasons change, SWAMP club organizes different trips around the country for riders.
“This summer, we went to Lake Tahoe in California, and in fall we go to North Carolina and ride the trails,” North said.
According to North, the club also travels to the mountains in northern Georgia to ride the trails and has even been to the United Kingdom.
For anyone interested in cycling, there are basic training classes offered on a regular basis for new riders. According to North, sometimes people don’t realize how fast the group rides, and for this reason, the training might benefit newcomers.
“When we ride, we split up into three groups for beginners, intermediate and advanced riders,” North said.
The beginners and intermediate groups make frequent stops for rest and will sometimes ride shorter distances than the advanced group, she said.
According to Kevin Sheridan, a member of the club’s board of directors and also the club’s Web master, riding in groups can help riders improve their skills.
“When you ride with a group of people, you might take different routes or keep a quicker pace than you would riding alone,” Sheridan said.
North said the club has 400 members, but only about five are students. If students are interested in getting some experience, they can ride the first Sunday of the month at Morris Bridge. According to North, Morris Bridge is the closest riding location to USF, and the trail isn’t very difficult to maneuver.
“It’s a fun way to stay in shape and a good way to get students started in being active,” North said.
According to North, it is sometimes difficult to find your way around the trails alone, and people typically get lost.
“Going out with a group you can find your way around the trails without worrying,” she said.
Eubank said SWAMP has three weekly rides: the Tuesday ride, the Sunday ride and a social ride held in different areas of Tampa once a week, after which riders eat dinner together. The Sunday rides are the primary rides for the club, and the Tuesday rides are night rides during the winter for which riders should have lights for their bicycles. All rides are strictly off road, so riders will always have a scenic route to enjoy while cycling.
Anyone interested in becoming a member of SWAMP or taking a ride with a group of SWAMP members can visit swampclub.org/index.htm to sign up or find out dates, times and locations for different rides. SWAMP can also be contacted by calling (813) 689-5109. Membership is $20 per year, and all members can attend club rides, socials and out-of-state trips.