Volume 92, Issue 5

Friday, June 12, 1998

hakuna matata


Hitting the trails for off-road cycling

Gazette File Photo
I WANT TO RIDE MY BICYCLE. Cyclist Scott Busch manoeuvers through tough terrain any chance he can get.

By Karen Cuss
Gazette Writer

Taking things to extremes is a common characteristic and when it comes to sports, some athletes embody this attribute. When looking at the number of people who enjoy bungee jumping, sky diving and rockclimbing, there is no denying the popularity that extreme sports have acquired.

For those who dislike heights and prefer to stay grounded, there is one extreme sport which requires only a bike and a little off-roading. This is what keeps Scott Busch happy. While attending university in Thunder Bay, Busch discovered the thrill of cycling by simply riding trails and roads to get from place to place. By his fourth year in university he purchased a more advanced bike and entered his first race.

"I took a dare to ride in an endurance race," Busch says with a grin. "And it really beat me." But it was that initial competition in Hartwood Hills, Barrie that convinced him racing was going to be a big part of his life.

Now Busch speeds through forests, mud, water and mosquitoes every second weekend and he loves every timed second of it. Sponsored in part by a local store, Brantford Cyclepath, he dirties their jersey as often as he can. Working full time has not hampered his training however, as Busch works out regularly during the week at a gym and rides whenever he gets the chance.

"Anyone can do it," says the sport class racer. "It's very competitive sometimes but I've seen kids as young as six up to men about 72. This 72-year-old kicked my butt – you should have seen his legs." Modesty is part of Busch's style, but in reality, he has placed very well this season as the two finishes which have put him on the podium speak for themselves.

Busch's next goal is to take part in night racing events. "It's a riot. Dodging trees and only being able to see three feet ahead of you," he beams. Between avoiding treacherous terrain and other riders, skill is definitely a factor. Busch does insist, however, that with the right protective equipment, such as a helmet, any rider can improve their maneuvering skills without leaving the city. Old train track trails and backyard hills are also great for honing cycling moves.

Jamie Lightfoot, sales associate and mechanic at Cyclepath, has a number of tips and words of wisdom for the novice off-road cyclist. "If you're going to be strictly off-road, you should have a bike with a front suspension fork – it absorbs shocks to your arms and wrists. Otherwise you'll be sore after a long ride, since your arms and shoulders take most of the weight," he says.

In terms of biking accessories, Lightfoot recommends cycling shorts, a cycling jersey, gloves and glasses to protect your eyes from bugs, mud or low branches. He also makes a few suggestions to make sure cyclists are safe and prepared.

"Always wear a helmet. It's mandatory by law to have a bell and front and back lights. Don't ride alone if you're going off-road. Carry a mini toolkit, an extra tube and a pump," Lightfoot advises.

After this is taken care of, the biker will be ready to try the sport that so many people are passionate about.

"I love the outdoors and the scenery," Lightfoot explains. "Just being outside is a treat. But also pushing yourself – it's good exercise. And the adventure side of it, flying down a hill at 45 km/ an hour and trying to hang on. I love it."

To Contact The Focus Department: gazette.focus@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998