When Dan Woodall isn’t busy working at his bike store, Cycle Masters, he is often practicing what he preaches: cycling.
Familiar with bikes since he was a high school student, Woodall has been making his way to Exchequer Mountain Bike Park at Lake McClure since it opened roughly two years ago.
“It’s the only place we really have to go that’s within an hour time frame,” said Woodall, a former competitive mountain biker who now belongs to the Exchequer Riders Club.
The club is composed of cyclists from Modesto, Turlock, Merced, and surrounding communities eager to ride their bikes at trails that are reasonably close to their hometown.
“The guys that race downhill around here don’t have anywhere to go other than those ski resorts and you’re looking at a three to four hour trip,” said Woodall.
Many cyclists head to ski resorts in the off season to ride the ski lifts up the mountain and cycle downhill.
Now, Exchequer may have an opportunity to bring a downhill route and more diversified cycling to the immediate area as one of three West Coast finalists for a $100,000 grant furnished by Bell brand helmets. The grant would allow the bike park to add a trail to its 700 acre mountain bike park that currently has roughly 16 miles of trails. Presently the trails are reserved for intermediate to advanced riders, but Exchequer has plans to expand to include ones conducive to youth, beginner, and paraplegic riders as well.
“If we get this grant it’s just going to put us that much more on the map,” said Grant Parker, president of the Exchequer Riders Club.
For the past three years Bell has given away $100,000 for trail building. The first year included administering ten $10,000 grants, the second year was three $30,000 grants and this year marks the first time the company is giving away the full amount to one winner. However, Bell doesn’t just write a check — they bring in a professional crew to design and construct the trail for the winner.
“It’s even better this way,” said Parker.
Cycle Masters co-owner and Exchequer Riders Club member John Morris said the course will eventually come to fruition whether the bike park receives the grant or not, but the additional funds “would help immensely as far as bringing in man-power, tools and equipment.”
It would also expedite the building process which would prove beneficial to riders craving more local cycling options.
“Here road cycling is obviously very easy because you can hop on a road bike and go with all of the flatland around here. Mountain biking comes a little harder, so to have this park within our grasp, or at least this close, is pretty exciting,” said Woodall.
Woodall also added that local interest in biking has evolved over the years based upon industry trends as well as what’s readily available for cyclists, so adding a new course could invigorate the local biking scene.
“Over the years things kind of come and go,” said Woodall. “So, downhill went away and road biking became strong. That’s leveled out and mountain biking is coming back and downhill is becoming strong once again too. It’s ever evolving and changing.”
Long term goals for Exchequer Mountain Bike Park also include capitalizing on the resources near Lake McClure to begin an adventure race which would include kayaking, running, and cycling.
The three finalists for the West Coast competition include Exchequer Mountain Bike Park as well as Sky Tavern Bike Park in Nevada and Chutes and Ladders, or Alsea Falls, in Oregon. As of 5:30 p.m. on April 22, Exchequer was in the lead with 8,676 votes followed by Sky Tavern with 8,424 votes and Chutes and Ladders with 1,271 votes.
Those interested in voting for Exchequer Biking Park can access www.bellhelmets.com/bell-built and vote until Sunday. Voting requires participants to submit their email and then confirm their vote in their email inbox for it to count. If Exchequer wins, it will become the West Coast finalist in the national competition for the $100,000 grant between the West Coast, Midwest, and East Coast finalists.
The Exchequer Mountain Bike Park will also be having a volunteer day to work on the trails this Saturday. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and a group trail ride will conclude the day at 3:30 p.m. For more information email email@example.com.