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Off-Road Cycling Enthusiasts Gather for Florida's Best in Mountain Biking

By S. Mathur

The name gives it away. As the president of the SWAMP Club, Dennis R. Trailer says, most people don't associate Florida with mountain biking. However, the SouthWest Association of Mountain bike Peddlers or SWAMP has about 850 members and miles of trails built by members under the guidance of the trail bosses. The founders of the club, Club Wes and Marty Eubank, hit upon the name while building the first trail at Trout Creek. The trails are popular with club members and mountain bikers throughout Florida and the southeastern United States.

Mountain biking is different from road biking, says Trailer, because "Mountain bike riding gives you a complete workout. You feel it in your core and leg muscles. Some road riders will join our group ride and tell me they ride 60-80 miles a week. After an hour on the trails they start to lag behind. They are not used to using your entire body to climb up a hill or negotiate turns or ride over logs or rocks." The club is open to all skill levels, and offers several training programs for beginners.

Trailer says that what he likes about mountain biking "... are the people, trails and club trips we have to other parts of the US." While from the outside it may seem like a solitary sport, mountain biking is also about community. The club meets for a guided group ride every Sunday. The fun part, says Trailer, is "The challenge of each trail, the people we ride with and working with a beginner to this sport to learn the trails and how to ride them. Every Sunday our club ride has guides for each group from the beginner to the advanced rider. What is interesting is that our members range from a teenager to 78 year old rider. We have a diverse group of members that love to ride."

SWAMP has contributed thousands of dollars and hours of hard work to build and maintain trails. Two annual events, the Alafia Fat Tire Festival and Croom 35/50 Challenge, help to raise funds to pay for materials, tools, repairing mowers and tools. Club members also help to build and maintain trails at County or State Parks in Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando Counties.

The trail builders' roll of honor includes Trail Bosses Jeff White, Alafia, Scott Roff, Boyette, Bob Wilcox, Croom, Ron Zajac, Starkey Park, and Bruce Kaczmarekz, Trout Creek, and all the volunteers who maintain or build new trails. Building the trails takes a lot of organization, imagination and hard work, but they get five star reviews from bikers:

"5starIncredible bike trails in a place that I thought "mountain" biking might be quite the joke. Thanks to the club and all the volunteers for building and maintaining such an amazing network of singletrack. Couldn't be happier that I brought my bike all the way from Alaska!"

"I rode at Alafia and Balm Boyette this past weekend and can't wait to go back! Thank you for all your hard work and dedication, those trails are amongst the best I've ever been on!"

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