• August 6, 2020

RECREATION: Cyclists kick it up another gear during pandemic - Odessa American: Sports

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RECREATION: Cyclists kick it up another gear during pandemic

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Posted: Saturday, July 4, 2020 7:07 pm

For the last eight years, Steve Mitchell has seen a steady increase of people show up at the Odessa Mountain Bike Park to ride and also become members of the Permian Basin Bicycle Association. One has to become a member in order to ride at the park.

Even Mitchell was thrown back as to how much growth he’s seen over the last few months. The PBBA went from 230 members in 2016 to more than 1,000 members in 2020.

More than half of those new members have come just in the last few months due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

“With the COVID outbreak, more people have been wanting to do things outdoors instead of indoors,” Mitchell said. “In the last three months, we’ve seen a huge uptick in membership.”

The growth at Mitchell’s park has been part of an ongoing trend within the cycling community in the Permian Basin.

Jason Haislip, the owner of Peyton’s Bikes, has seen that firsthand in his shop He said it’s taken some time for him — and the industry as a whole — to adjust.

“It’s been crazy,” Haislip said. “Year over year, the market for bicycles has increased 300 percent. We do normally see an increase this time of year, but nothing like we’ve gotten so far.”

The surge in demand has caused Haislip to place several bikes on back order and he is also trying to get through the number of repair jobs needed to be done just because he doesn’t have a place to put those bikes.

Haislip’s shop is one of two bike shops operating between Midland and Odessa, meaning that he has plenty to keep him busy.

He added that he was encouraged by the number of new riders that has come in to purchase bikes or even dust off the old ones.

“I think it’s renewed some interest in outdoor activities,” he said. “Once people start checking out the mountain bike park and those activities, they start investing in it with some of the nicer bikes.”

The PBBA and West Texas Gazelles based in Odessa are two of the clubs who organize weekly rides from different locations in Midland and Odessa that bring out a wide range of skill levels.

Dan Saxton is a past president of the PBBA and has helped organize a number of events, including races at the Mountain Bike Park and Cyclefest Bike Tour and Hill Climb.

Cyclefest is an annual scenic ride that goes through the mountains around Fort Davis and is typically held in the third weekend of September.

He credits the improved technology in bikes that allow people to find something best suited for them from Class 1 e-bikes to top of the line mountain bikes.

“I see more people on bikes in general and especially mountain biking,” Saxton said. “It’s really taking off. Bikes themselves keep getting better and more fun to ride.”

Saxton added that the park has also played a key role in getting more riders out and about. While there are riders who go back and forth between road biking and mountain biking, Saxton said that the mountain bike park provides a good outlet for something more controlled.

“I think it’s a great place to ride safely and it’s fun,” he said. “The roads can get crowded and dangerous and an accident can result in serious injury. The mountain bike park is a safe place to ride and it’s enjoyable.”

Saxton helps out Mitchell on a regular basis to maintain the mountain bike park and shares a similar sentiment.

“We see a lot of families out there and I think we’ve been discovered by the community,” Mitchell said. “I think it’s definitely on the radar.”

Having a number of outlets to ride is something that Mitchell, Haislip and Saxton hope to continue to see more of moving forward.

“Any bike at all is worth riding,” Saxton said. “You can have fun riding anything.”

Odessa, TX

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