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Mountain biking in Brown County State Park

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By John Sittler

Mark Twain once said, "Get a bicycle. You will not regret it, if you live."

Putting that dark thought aside, videographer Jesse Wilson and I headed down to Brown County State Park this month to try mountain biking for the latest installment of TheStatehouseFile.com's summer series, "GO."

We rented our bikes - Nishiki front suspension mountain bikes - and helmets from local business Most High Adventure Outfitters, but you can also bring your own. Neither Jesse nor I had ever mountain biked, so we picked up a few tips from Emma Chafin, whose father owns the business.

She told us many beginners get focused on looking directly down at their tires, but that it is important to keep your eyes up and scanning the trail for the next obstacle. Also, she said good technique places only two fingers on the brakes, with the others holding the handlebars to aid in steering.

Having ridden bikes since I was 5 years old, I figured this would be second nature as I blasted off down the trail, with Jesse right behind me. Not so much. Fortunately for us, common sense had won out, and we started on the North Gate Trail - a beginner loop located just inside the park's northern boundary.

We were no more than 30 seconds into our ride when the trail suddenly broke 90 degrees to the right, leaving me to sail straight through the turn into the woods. I was able to ditch the bike before hitting a tree, but I was still shaken up nonetheless.

"Well," I said to Jesse, "maybe this mountain biking thing is harder than we thought."

Undaunted, I hopped back on, and we completed the 1.2 mile loop without any further difficulties. The loop had only moderate inclines, the trail was fairly wide - it never got much narrower than a foot on either side of our handlebars - and we were able to easily dodge or roll over any rocks and roots in the trail. Perfect for building our skills and confidence.

Now that we had gotten the hang of it, mountain biking was a blast. Brown County State Park is beautiful and we were able to experience it on a full adrenaline rush, shooting through the woods, jumping rocks and negotiating hairpin turns.

After a short break to rest and refuel, we decided to take on the 3.5 mile North Tower Loop, another beginner trail.

The technical difficulty remained about the same, but this time we were challenged by the longer distance that contained many steep, sustained climbs. Of course, once the climbs were over, we were rewarded with white-knuckle descents that found us yelling at the top of our lungs as we almost crashed again and again.

Once that trail leveled back out, we would stop, laugh about all our near misses and talk about how awesome that section was. Then we would climb the next hill and do it all over again.

We finally arrived back at our car, exhausted, but still running on a pure adrenaline high. I guess Mark Twain was right. We lived, and we most definitely did not regret it.

We both had a great time. The bike rentals were $35 per person for three hours, which I think is plenty of time for beginners to learn the ropes and get their fill.

This was by far the most physically demanding adventure that we have done this summer. Jesse and I are both fit, fairly athletic guys, and we were tired by the time we finished.

But don't let that deter you. Neither of us had any mountain bike experience, but we found if you can ride a bike, are willing to be a little careful and don't mind - or even enjoy - a little danger, this is an adventure for you.

See you out there.

John Sittler is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students and facutly.

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