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April 24, 2014 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Mountain bikers who call Fulton home have been without a challenging trail for more than a decade. When Ravine Street Bicycle shop owner Eric Burke moved to Fulton almost 10 years ago, his love for the extreme sport sent him on a search for a nearby trail.
“I’d ended up giving my car away, so it was kind of difficult to travel out of town and go to mountain bike trails,” Burke says. “So I started exploring around.”
Want to talk like a real rider? Here’s what you need to know.
Bacon: Scabs on a rider’s knees, elbows, etc.
Engine: The rider
Fred: Someone who spends a lot of money on equipment, but can’t ride worth a dime
Freeride: A form of mountain biking that emphasizes freestyling
HOHA: Stands for “Hateful Old Hikers Association;” it’s not a real association, but HOHA-ers favor bike-free trails
Skid-lid: A helmet
Tea party: When a whole group of riders stops to chat
Zonk: When an engine’s (biker) energy runs out in the middle of a ride
His search came up short. Fulton’s only option at the time was the paved Stinson Creek Trail better suited for walkers and road bikers. The nearest mountain bike trails were at least 30 minutes away in Columbia or Jefferson City. Desperate to ride close to home, Burke took matters into his own hands.
Burke has spent nearly three years carving his way through woods to create what he calls, until it is officially named, The Old Dairy Barn Trail. So far, he’s completed a 2-mile dirt path that dips and rises through creeks and over hills, surrounded by Fulton’s historic scenery.
Lincoln Purvis, a friend and customer of Burke’s shop, recently joined the effort. Although Purvis only has a couple years experience, he shares the same sentiment as other mountain bikers in the area — frustration with the lack of nearby trails.
“It’s good because I can get off work and come out here and hop on my mountain bike and do a loop,” Burke says. “It’s like getting out of town, but I’m still kind of in town.”
Although Columbia residents have access to a fair number of trails close by, Sarah Ashman of Walt’s Bike Shop thinks the new trail will be a welcome addition to the local mountain biking scene.
“I think the more trail access the better,” Ashman says. “I think if something is really close to where you are, you’re a lot more likely to use it.”
Burke and Purvis hope that getting the word out about the trail will attract mountain bikers from a greater distance than just the Fulton area. “Mountain bikers, we tend to travel a lot,” Purvis says.
To get people interested in his new endeavor, Burke came up with an idea that would attract the right kind of people — a mountain bike race. A spring competition to coincide with Fulton’s second annual Morels and Microbrews Festival seemed like a necessary match. But what to call it?
Burke found his answer in the view from behind his handlebars. At the trailhead, riders can see the Fulton state penitentiary and hospital buildings, hence the name — The Prison Break bike race. Trails are usually named by their locations, so it was a perfect fit for the race, Burke says.
Through promoting the trail, city officials have begun to follow its development, an accomplishment Burke says is on pace with his long-term plan for the trail. He’s hoping that the city will eventually turn it into a city park open to the public.
“The city administrator came out with his wife and looked at it, and he’s really excited about it,” Burke says. Regardless of its decision, though, the trail will exist on its own accord.
Just before noon on Saturday, a shotgun start will signal riders to hit the ground pedaling through an ankle-deep creek and up a sandy bank to their bikes. They’ll hop on and pedal for close to 12 miles, six laps around a 2-mile loop, and race to the finish line.
But for Burke and Purvis, winning isn’t the ultimate goal. “For me, it’s all about getting out in the woods and enjoying nature on a bike,” Purvis says.
A trail for every biker
Mid-Missouri bike enthusiasts can check out these trails located in or around Columbia. Whether it’s your first time on two wheels or you’ve been riding since birth, there’s a trail for you close by.
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, Six varying trails
Beginner to intermediate
Length: 15 miles, combined
Just south of Columbia city limits, Rock Bridge Memorial State Park has multiple trails fit for riding adventures. Some are smooth and easy for beginners, and others are steep and rocky for those who want a challenge.
Cosmo Park, Rhett’s Run
Length: 4.1 miles
Located off Interstate 70 in Columbia’s Cosmo Park, this trail is fun, fast and just tricky enough to keep things interesting.
Finger Lakes State Park, Kelley Branch Trail
Length: 2.25 miles
Located north of Columbia, this trail is described by bikers as short and sweet. With twists, sharp turns, steep drop-offs and hills along the way, this trail is for the more experienced rider.