In the first of a new series where we ask running, cycling and outdoor lovers to share a bit about their passion, we talk to US writer Colin Kapelovitz about biking in his beloved North Dakotan Badlands.
I began riding mountain bikes in high school, and found I much preferred their relaxed positioning to the more rigid position that I held on a 10-speed. When I began riding off-road trails in the area, I became hooked. There’s a 150-mile mountain bike trail through the Badlands which starts 35 miles west of my town, but even when I cycle in town, I gravitate toward dirt roads or short sections of trail around the city.
I learned to ride in Arizona while staying with my grandparents. I can remember the adrenalin rush that I felt when I took off unaided for the first time.
I haven’t ridden one, but I really like the look and components of the Jamis Defcon 2. It seems to have everything I like about my bike, and better. And, it sounds space age and is really expensive…
I love the mix of scenery and pounding riding. I like being able to get to places I wouldn’t have the time or patience to hike to, and getting an adrenalin-soaked workout along the way. The Badlands are beautiful and require a lot of endurance to ride in. Unlike mountains, they are large, closely spaced hills with continual ups and downs. American pioneers named them because they were a ‘bad place’ to cross by wagon. You never get to rest very long on a downhill before you head up again. The Maah Daah Hey trail I normally ride on is laid out quite cleverly, so you get to see some unique parts of a unique terrain.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park map courtesy of North Dakota Tourism
Tough one. I’ve seen lots of amazing things out there. I recall one time going up Hamburger Hill, a local leg-buster, and coyotes I couldn’t see started howling all around me. It was eerie and encouraging at the same time.
One time I was out biking in the spring, and came to some thick sand which I couldn't bike through down by the Little Missouri river. I started pushing my way through it and was exhausted when I heard ‘Hey!’ I looked all around and saw no one. Couldn't figure out if it was Jesus or my unhinging mind. Then there was a ‘Hey, up here!’ I looked up in a tree, and there was a guy in full camouflage with a giant rifle, who asked ‘Hey, buddy, you seen any turkeys back there?’ I said no and got out of there pronto before he decided that I was one...
Anyone with an interest in challenging, remote mountain biking would be rewarded coming to bike on the Maah Daah Hey trail. This is a rural section of a rural state, and the trail is sparsely ridden. I definitely see more animals than people on my rides, and long rides without seeing another human are common.
I had a major accident at the end of the 2015 season. I lost my balance going along a narrow ridge, and rolled down the side of a butte. In the process, I tore my ACL and sustained a tibial plateau fracture on my upper shin. I didn’t realize how badly I was injured and walked the mile to a campground using my bike as a crutch. I was able to call someone to come and get me. The next day I went into the hospital and realized the severity of my injury. I didn’t walk for eight months and went through extensive rehab. Ten months after my accident, though, I rode my bike again – after much pep talking myself. It took another two months to get back to single track riding, but my love of it eventually overcame my fears. Last fall, I went back and rode over the section where I had my accident. That was a very fulfilling, if freaky, bike moment.
Colin Kapelovitz is a writer and proud North Dakotan. He is currently finishing up a horror novel set in and around the North Dakotan Badlands. You can follow him on Twitter @ColinKapelovitz
Image Copyright: Panorama North Dakota by Lynn Bystrom critterbiz / 123RF Stock Photo Badlands Randall Runtsch rruntsch / 123RF Stock Photo North Dakota Badlands rruntsch / 123RF Stock Photo Rattlesnakes image: wakr10 / 123RF Stock Photo Prairie Dog on Guard tomolson / 123RF Stock Photo
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