From trails in a dirt lot, to a world-spanning sport

Column by John Akal
Posted 9/11/19

Although I wouldn’t exactly call myself a pioneer of the sport, I can say that my friends and I used to ride our stingray bikes on the trails around Golden well before anyone ever thought of …

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From trails in a dirt lot, to a world-spanning sport


Although I wouldn’t exactly call myself a pioneer of the sport, I can say that my friends and I used to ride our stingray bikes on the trails around Golden well before anyone ever thought of something called a mountain bike. Back in the late 1960’s the trails were pretty much the domain of hikers and horses or maintenance crews for power and telephone lines. There were a few in our neighborhood that we kind of created ourselves in a bumpy vacant lot by riding around in it and making jumps out of the little mounds of dirt that a construction team had plowed up before their project was abandoned for some unknown reason. One day they just started digging up about ¾ of the block, made a bunch of dirt piles and disappeared. It stayed that way for about 10 years. For the adults in the neighborhood it was kind of an eyesore and a mystery, but for us kids, it was a great place to ride. After about a year the vegetation started coming back and we ended up with a pretty cool little network of single track trails that were cut by just riding along the best routes through and over the dirt mounds.

Of course the idea of riding a bicycle off road wasn’t really a new idea, even back in 1968. In fact there was a group of Buffalo Soldiers that rode specially modified bikes from Missoula Montana to Yellowstone National Park back in 1896. Before that the Swiss military had it’s first bicycle regiment established in 1891. But it wasn’t until the late 1970’s that a couple of groups of riders started tinkering around with modified balloon tire cruiser bikes and came up with what they called mountain bikes. One group was in Marin County, California and another was in Crested Butte, Colorado. Eventually they started manufacturing these bikes and an industry was born.

My first real mountain bike was one of those from Marin and I got it back in about 1990. There have been a few modifications since then, particularly adding front and rear suspension, but overall, the basic designs have pretty much stayed the same since they first came out. Once I got mine I started exploring the huge network of hiking trails all along the front range. I also started seeing more and more folks out on the trails with their bikes. Jefferson County was just starting their Open Space program and pretty soon there were new trails popping up all over the foothills. Now we have a huge network of awesome trails for everyone to enjoy, but along with those trails comes the responsibility of maintaining them. Mountain bikes add a lot more wear and tear to them than just hiking or riding a horse does. They require much more maintenance to keep them in good condition than the park staff and rangers can provide.

That’s why a group of dedicated riders formed the Giddyup Trail Team. It’s a volunteer organization that takes on the responsibility of trail stewardship and has donated literally thousands of hours of hard work over the last few years to keeping our trails in tip-top shape around here. They are closely engaged with Jeffco Open Space staff and the City of Golden to work on improving and building all these great trails.

Of course there are costs for tools and materials involved with this, so they started the Golden Giddyup Mountain Bike Race and Expo as a fundraiser and it’s happening on Sunday, September 15. The race portion is pretty demanding and really for experienced riders. Most people who would want to participate in it already know about the details and registration for the race has already closed.

But the Expo, or Giddyup Get Down, is free to attend and open to all. It’s going to be set up in Lions Park, where the races are also starting and finishing. It’s sponsored by Yeti Cycles and will have tons of bike and outdoor industry vendors, live music by Golden’s own Rapidgrass band, libations by LAWS Whiskey House and New Terrain Brewing plus non-alcoholic beverages as well as numerous food trucks. Trust me, the mountain bike industry will be well represented here with the finest bikes, accessories and clothing. It’s also kid friendly with a riding skills course, bouncy house, climbing wall and even an ice cream truck. They expect about 2,500 people to attend this year. It’s a big party for mountain bikers.

The Expo runs 12:30-5 p.m. Lions Park is located at 1300 10th Street in Downtown Golden. For more information or to become a trail volunteer go to Oh, and bring your bike. They like bikes.

John Akal is a well-known jazz artist/drummer and leader of the 20-piece Ultraphonic Jazz Orchestra. He also is president of John Akal Imaging, professional commercial photography and multi-media production. He can be reached at

John Akal, Golden Giddyup, mountain biking, Marin


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