Mountain biking picking up speed

You may not be able to find the hills of northern California or the rock-filled mountain trails of Georgia, but the spirits of the riders in USF’s mountain bike club are the same as those you would find in the riders of such places.

Mountain biking may not be a sport many at USF would take part in on a weekend, but the 60 members of Mountain Bikers at USF participate in a club sport that is on the rise. Club President Josh Staab said that in the fall he expects his roster of cyclists to increase.

Mountain biking is described by most as an all-terrain biking experience. The rider uses a bicycle designed for off-road applications. As opposed to typical 10-speed bicycles, mountain bikes have larger, wider tires, sturdier frames and improved suspension.

Riders can take to trails cut through rocky, mountainous terrain or wander off the beaten path to make their own trail.

The key to mountain biking, however, is biking on mountains or rough terrain. That would seem to be a problem in Florida, as Hillsborough County’s highest elevation is 170 feet above sea level. Needless to say, this is much lower than traditional mountain biking trails.

The average mountain biker in Florida bikes hills, small mountains and other rough terrains, such as backwoods trails.

“Well, being that there really are no ‘mountains’ in Florida, at USF it is more of a hill and off-road bike club,” Staab said. “We visit old rock quarries and other terrain that has been converted to make some pretty challenging terrain for us.”

Club members, however, don’t let the lack of mountains stop them.

“We do the best we can with what we have and it is a blast nonetheless,” Staab said.

The lack of available terrain requires imagination to come up with new ideas for trails and places to ride. Like any athlete, the members go where they can to train and ultimately have fun.

With just one year under its belt, the club has seen its membership and participation grow steadily. Staab said the group seeks to earn funding for trips to North Carolina so that “members can experience the rush of riding down the slope of a mountain.”

Many of the members participate in races dubbed “adventure races.” Adventure races can be described as extreme triathlons, with events such as rock climbing, rowing and mountain biking at different legs of the race.

The club also competes in the Squiggy Classic, a multi-event competition that occurs just miles from campus in Wilderness Park on Fletcher Avenue.

The bikers are looking into sponsorship possibilities for their own race in the coming year, and the club has plans to merge with the University’s cycling club. Stabb said he hopes that the merger will lead to a competition team.

Contact Campus Recreation at 813-974-3177 for additional information.