Zoie Clift, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Your holidays just got way more awesome. Melanie Norris and her husband Paul have put together a statewide (and southern Missouri) mountain biking event to help celebrate the season. The free event is called Umpteen Rides and features volunteer guided, self supported mountain bike and gravel grinder rides on various trails including the Ozark and Ouachita mountains starting on Dec. 21 and finishing up on Jan. 1. The duo put on a similar event last year and it was well received so they decided to add more rides and prizes to the mix this go around.
“Since our ride leaders are volunteers we are asking them to showcase their favorite trail system,” said Melanie Norris, when asked how the trails featured are chosen. As to details on each specific ride, they will be posted to the Umpteen Rides Facebook page, which can be found here.
“Riding in Arkansas offers so much variety,” said Norris. “I’ve ridden all over North America and have found that the terrain and year-round riding opportunities in Arkansas are among some of the best. My husband Paul and I used to spend time in Tucson, Arizona in the winter when we lived in Washington. There was a group of folks that hosted informal rides in and around Tucson through the holidays. We decided to add our own twist to that idea and brought it to Arkansas last year. We started out with 10 rides and ended up with 22. This year I believe we will have closer to 40.”
“We are all volunteers who are passionate about nature and cycling,” she added. “All of this is done for the love of our sport and with zero dollars and the support of all of the local bike shops and some really fantastic sponsors. Ride leaders are encouraged to make their ride festive and fun so in addition to the poker run prizes, there will be ugly sweater rides, Christmas light rides, cocoa, cookies and possibly a hot toddy or two. We’ve also added a couple of rides in southern Missouri so we are really excited to have our friends to the north in on the fun.”