A few of us here at Competitive Cyclist are involved with a local advocacy group, the Arkansas Freeride Society (AFS). We incorporated last fall as a non-profit group dedicated to promoting freeride mountain biking here in central Arkansas. The AFS worked with the city of North Little Rock to gain approval of our proposal to build an all-inclusive freeride area in Burns Park, one of the largest city parks in the nation. Our park is called the Argenta Freeride Area. We broke ground last October and have accumulated over 300 volunteer man hours to date.
The Argenta Freeride Area is our first project of this kind. While we have a comprehensive plan, one we presented to and approved by city officials, we thought it would be cool to bring in some consultation. Through some existing contacts, we formalized a plan to bring in Mike Metzger from Transition Bike Company to come ride with us and help us with our vision for the park. Our park is in its early stages with one complete section and another currently under construction. We wanted to get Mike’s point of view while we still had plenty of blank slate.
Mike Metzger is the other Metzger. He’s not the motorcycle guy, but the backflipping, wall-riding, huge road-gap-hucking young stud that rides for Transition Bikes. Mike agreed to come and check out the park and see what ideas we may be able to generate. We found out later that he’d heard stories about Arkansans being a little backward. Naturally, we took the opportunity to fill him full of hogwash about how we dated our cousins, and introduced him to a local delicacy: fried catfish. We said that they were caught right off the bottom of the Arkansas River, and he was convinced that we were at least a little weird if not truly backwards.
Metzger arrived on a Friday afternoon, making his way right to the shop. His tall, lean figure clad in a black hoody toted a bulky bag made his way through the shop with the intent of an assassin. He plops what we now realize is an old Bauer hockey bag in the middle of the floor and unzips. Out of it, he pulls his disassembled bike, wrapped in towels. That’s effin pro if ever we’ve seen it. As he assembled his bike in an open stand, he was like a magnet. He’s one of those people you meet that just take over a room with their charisma -- he wasn’t loud, overblown, or anything of the sort. He’s a humble guy with an incredible energy that just puts people at ease. He backs it with an infectious smile, quick wit and an easy-going sense of humor that just draws one in.
Our plans for our Freeride Park came about as a core group of aggressive local riders found each other and began discussing ideas. The Argenta Freeride Area will include North Shore style wooden stunts, forested downhill trails, a 4X downhill race course, Slopestyle elements, dirt jumps, and eventually, a concrete bike park. As with any great idea, we’ve made changes along the way, as new people join in the group to help build and ride. Having someone with Mike’s pedigree come consult with us was a real treat. The really great part about Mike, was that he let us tell him what we planned for each section of our park. Then he told us how he though he might approach it. No one idea was right or wrong, but was simply different. Mike liked most of our ideas and we felt proud that maybe we weren’t as backwards as we tried to be on Friday night.
The Argenta Freeride Area has two trails completed. The first, a loop around the top of a hill consists of wooden elements. We built some “skinnies” from slabs cut from oak logs and from some rough sawn oak lumber donated by a friend with a sawmill. The loop trail has a teeter-totter and a cool ladder bridge. Mike didn’t have any trouble riding our stunts – trust us when we tell you he’s got better-than-average bike handling skills. Our next project section is a downhill trail. After we rode the trail, we hiked around a bit and Mike discussed with us some good locations to build certain types of wooden or earthen elements to create the proper “flow” for the trail.
Metzger really took to our quarry, where we plan to build our 4X course and slopestyle/dirtjump area. We’ve always thought it would lend itself well to spectating, and Mike agreed. It is a huge treeless slope. It has the potential gradient for steep drops and huge road gaps similar to what we’ve seen in videos. We’ve come to the conclusion that all we have to do is build it. We’ll learn to ride it afterward. Upon completion of the park, we plan on holding events to promote our sport and raise money to help maintain the park.
Riding with someone at Mike’s level is an experience all its own. It’s the same with anyone who is very good at what they do. We found a big drop off of a rock ledge over on the west side of town. It was 8′ tall down to a sloped landing. It looked totally rideable. The only thing that was sketchy was the lip of the drop. It ran at a 45 degree angle to our projected launch path. All I could think about was pedaling to the edge and having my front or rear tire slide out along the rock ledge, dumping me face first off the drop. While it may not have been deadly, it sure wouldn’t have been fun. Mike wanted to ride it, so he dug around for some suitable material to shape the takeoff. When he was satisfied with the launch pad, he backed up into the trees and took a good run at it. He flew perfectly, 20-25 feet down to the transition and skidded through the leafy corner at the bottom. He did 5 or 6 more times making it look easy. It might have been, but it made us realize just how talented .
Sadly, none of our local crew hit it that day. We’ve promised each other that we’ll go back and do it. What we learned that day, was a lesson we’ve already had -- unfounded fears can be paralyzing. Mike knew he could ride through each part of the stunt. All he had do to was to put it together in succession. It was a big drop on a hardtail, but he was silky smooth -- effortless almost. Having Mike there was inspirational, and a good reminder to think about problems with reason. We’ll go ride that drop, and we’ll shoot some pictures, and we’ll be proud enough to send them his way.
Even though Mike visited to consult with us on the park, we managed to ride plenty. We rode downtown Little Rock on Friday night, at the park all day on Saturday, and all over town on Sunday. We hucked drops, wore out some dirt jumps, rode street, and even carved in the infamous “Hogwash Bowl” as Mike called it. More people know it as the Kanis Bowl located here in Little Rock. Mike was humble and fun. He’s a badass rider and he brought us all to a new level this weekend. His opinions, insight and advice for the park will be put to good use over the coming months. And, the new skills we learned this weekend will hopefully lead us to bigger and even better things. The AFS would like to say thanks to Mike Metzger for all of the fun and all of the help he gave us.