FORT WALTON BEACH — Riding is more than just exercise for the women in the Trail Bike Girls club. Trail bike riding is an escape, an adventure and a challenge.
“Everyone thinks its radical that there can be this group of women who are empowered, environ-mentally conscious and are having fun doing something adventurous,” said Joyce Cross, one of seven women active in the group.
“We just don’t mind getting dirty,” added Mary K. Haik.
Haik said she has been trail riding going on seven years, but nine months ago she began actively recruiting women in the area to join her on her rides and is continuously asking ladies who are wanting to get in shape and make friends to come out.
“We’d love to have so many ladies that there’s always someone you can go out with,” Haik said. “It can be dangerous so you always need to ride with at least one other person.”
Trail bike riding requires a mountain bike, which is designed to enhance durability and performance in rough terrain, a helmet and water. The women ride in Eglin Reservation and meet once to three times a week.
The Trail Bike Girls ride anywhere from and hour to two hours — typically eight miles per ride.
“It sounds like a lot, but it’s not,” said Jane Pritchett. “We have all levels of experience from beginners to people who have been doing this for years.”
The trails are relatively single lane trails, with some sand and pine straw.
“Doing this requires you to free your mind of everything but the trail,” Pritchett said. “You’re getting between trees, going over logs. You’ve got to be paying attention so it becomes a nice escape from your busy life.”
“We all live lives that have a lot of stress,” added club member Karlene Gentile of Mary Esther. “This gives us something else to focus on. On the trail everything else fades away and it’s just you, your bike and the trail.”