Riding the O.C. Trails

Jacob Peterson / el Don
Jacob Peterson / el Don
Jacob Peterson / el Don

By Jacob Peterson

Grueling uphill climbs, treacherous downhill segments and gorgeous landscapes are what attracted rider James Warner to the sport of mountain biking.

“You get to go out in the wilderness and enjoy the trees and the wildlife while getting some exercise,” Warner said. “And it’s certainly not boring.”

Unlike a session at the gym, mountain biking combines an outdoor experience with the cardiovascular workout of an endurance sport and the heart-pounding excitement of an adventure sport.

The pioneers of this fast-growing activity started riding in the late 1970s. While viewed as a passing fad by some, the sport’s popularity has surged in the decades since. It began with a group of 30-something men blazing the local paths, but is now enjoyed by men and women of all ages.

“Each year there’s a new graduating class of serious cyclists,” said Tani Walling, owner of The Path bike shop in Tustin. “Kids in the past were into track and field, baseball or basketball. Now they’re mountain bikers.”

Orange County is a hub for riders with expansive, well-kept trail systems winding through national forrests and state parks.

“Orange County has some of the best sets of trails and varieties in the country,” Warner said. “It has something for everyone, no matter their skill level or preference.”

Even dogs can enjoy running the trails alongside their owners. Warner brings his 6-year-old Australian shepherd, Rocky, along on rides. Rocky runs with his master, enjoying all the sights and smells that the outdoors has to offer. His four-legged companion especially enjoys the occasional run-in with a squirrel or rabbit.

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Located in the heart of Orange County, The Path is a full-service bike shop that is among the largest mountain bike retailers in Southern California. It provides equipment and maintenance for all riding needs and also offers group rides for people of all skill levels looking to explore the local scene with experienced guides. More information can be found on their website or in their Tustin shop.

Since mountain biking can be expensive, it’s recommended that a beginner buy a used bike to keep initial costs down. Maps of local trails can be found online or in a neighborhood bike shop. From there, hit the path and begin experiencing the dynamic benefits of this activity.

“There are a couple different fantasies that might appeal to potential riders,” Walling said. “You get the benefits of an action sport. There’s a fitness component and there’s a nature component. It’s totally inclusive.”


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