Melody Dosanjh has always enjoyed backpacking, trail running and other activities that get her out among nature.
Dosanjh, originally from New Mexico, was looking for some new hobbies when she moved to Dubuque about four years ago. She quickly found Tri-State Mountain Bike Riders and found both a new passion and new friends.
“As a transplant, the community with mountain biking was one of the most beneficial things,” she said.
In the past few years, TMBR has helped shape a renaissance of mountain biking in the tri-state area. TMBR led the charge with planning and fundraising to add 8.5 miles of new trail at Cloie Creek Park and Interstate Power Preserve.
Prior to TMBR’s efforts, there had been few true mountain bike trail options in the tri-states.
After Dosanjh became more comfortable with mountain biking, she wanted to get more women to join the sport. Thus, she founded Dirt Dames to offer that supportive community.
“It’s intimidating to go out by yourself,” she said. “I wanted to make sure we could help newer rides come out and explore the trails.”
Jennie Loney, a manager at Free Flight bike shop, said she was glad to see the creation of a female-focused club. She recalled that several years ago, she was one of only a handful of women mountain bikers in the Dubuque area. She admitted it was a difficult sport to get into, so having a social group, along with TMBR’s new trails, should help grow that interest.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “I feel like I’ve made some of my best friends through cycling.”
The local riders agreed that, if you want to get into mountain biking, you need to have the proper equipment.
Mountain bikes have specialized suspensions and tires to tackle a rougher terrain, compared to commuter or road bikes that are designed for more paved surface use.
“They’re more heavy duty,” Loney said.
Having the specialized bikes makes the rough riding a more enjoyable experience.
Since mountain bikes can be an expensive investment, Dosanjh suggested those looking to get into the sport should ask around at local bike shops to see if they offer demo bikes to try.
Dosanjh and Loney said it’s helpful to go out riding with other people to get used to the trails and get pointers from those with more experience. Dosanjh also said there’s no shame in walking the bike through parts you don’t feel ready to handle.
“It doesn’t take away from the experience (of being out there),” she said.
Some areas of Cloie Creek and Interstate Power Preserve are more beginner-friendly.
Both TMBR and Dirt Dames host clinics for beginning riders to help them break into the sport. Both groups can be contacted through their Facebook pages.
Alicia Yager is a former Telegraph Herald reporter and freelance writer from Madison, Wis.