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Opportunity hiding in the bushes?: LAMBAT looks to make DL destination spot for mountain biking

Detroit Mountain offers a variety of mountain biking experience, including trail riding, downhill riding, as well as a skills park. Kaysey Price / Tribune1 / 9
The skills park at Detroit Mountain is like an obstacle course where riders can test their abilities before taking to the trails. Kaysey Price / Tribune2 / 9
Ruth Davis rides a narrow trail on the skills park at Detroit Mountain. Kaysey Price / Tribune3 / 9
William and Ruth Davis test their abilities on the skills park at Detroit Mountain. Kaysey Price / Tribune4 / 9
William Davis tests his abilities on the skills park at Detroit Mountain. Kaysey Price / Tribune5 / 9
Trails are marked according to difficulty, much like downhill ski trails. Kaysey Price / Tribune6 / 9
Detroit Mountain has a number of bike rentals for anyone looking to try out a trail. Kaysey Price / Tribune7 / 9
William Davis rides down one of the many biking trails Detroit Mountain has to offer. Kaysey Price / Tribune8 / 9
Ruth Davis takes off down a mountain biking trail at Detroit Mountain. Kaysey Price / Tribune9 / 9

Darren Coombs has been mountain biking most of his life. He's hit up some of the best down-hill biking spots in the country and been to "the mecca" of mountain biking in Canada: Whistler, British Columbia. But Coombs says he racks up a good 80 percent of his miles right here in Detroit Lakes. He says the area has its own little mountain biking mecca, and more people should be taking advantage of it.

"We really have a little bit of everything Whistler has to offer right here," said Coombs. "Obviously, we don't have the elevation that those mountains have, but what I can tell from my travels is it's the only thing we're short of."

Matt Davis, president of Lakes Area Mountain Bike Alliance and Trails (LAMBAT), says the mountain biking areas in lakes country (Detroit Mountain and Maplelag) have the variety: downhill lift-serve trails, single-track trails, family-friendly trails, a tight loop system; they just don't have the miles.

"Right now, somebody could come to Detroit Lakes and ride everything in a day or two," said Davis, adding, "To be a real mountain biking destination, on the bigger scale, you want to have a weekend, maybe even a week's worth of trail riding."

Davis and his volunteer group ae shooting to increase the existing 25 miles in the area to roughly 100 trail miles. The idea is to make it a regional spot for people to travel to for the sport. But to get there, Davis says they're going to have to raise awareness, show people in the area they have access to a great amenity.

LAMBAT will be holding two events, one on Sept. 20 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Detroit Lakes Public Library and one on Oct. 6 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Detroit Mountain, with the hopes of getting kids interested in mountain biking.

The event at the library will be more informational. Davis says they'll talk to kids about the sport, where they can find trails for it, and the different kinds of bikes they can use. The kids will also be able to get a little taste of mountain biking too—they'll get to test out some bikes, a precursor to the October event at Detroit Mountain.

"The follow-up at the mountain is Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day," said Davis, adding that the event will have bikes that kids and adults of all ages can use for free to test out some of the different trails and riding experiences the area has to offer.

He says it's not all just "bombing down a hill," like some may think when they consider mountain biking.

"Most of the trails out here at Detroit Mountain, I would say, anybody could ride no matter how old they are," he says. "It's really not that different than riding on a paved bike trail, except it's more narrow and intimate. It's really a closer connection to the natural environment that you're riding through."

Sure, there are some challenges: rocks, narrow spanses, banked corners, but Davis says with a little practice, navigating those obstacles becomes second nature. And the mountain has a skills park where people can practice those moves before hitting the trail.

"My kids, when we first started, that's all we would do is cruise the skills park until they felt comfortable going out on the trails," he says.

Now, William and Ruthy Davis, both 11, are pros. They know the trails like the backs of their hands.

"My favorite part as a parent is being able to see them get better every time we come out here," said Davis. "It's nice to see their confidence grow."

Anyone interested in trying out mountain biking and seeing what the area has to offer for the sport can attend the events at the Detroit Lakes Public Library (Sept. 20 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.) and Detroit Mountain (Oct. 6 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) or visit LAMBAT's website (https://lambat.org/) or Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/lambatmtb/).

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