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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Jim Morgan and his friends in the Mid South Trail Association have a passion for mountain biking

Jim Morgan and his friends in the Mid South Trail Association have a passion for mountain biking
By:  Michael Lander

Jim Morgan is in the forefront of this photo with several of his friends
as they are out on an afternoon ride off Collierville Arlington Rd
on the Wolf River environmental land.  Mountain bikers often
refer to it as the "gravel grinder."

Some might say that
life is better on a mountain bike.  For Memphians like Jim Morgan, it often can be.

Morgan spends most of his days as a regional account executive for a non-profit healthcare company in
Memphis, but every chance that he gets, he likes to hit the trails and feel the earth beneath him and the fields and woods around him on his mountain bike.

The bike that he currently owns and loves is a Specialized EVO COMP
Stumpjumper that is a full suspension 29er.  It is one of seven bikes that he has had since he took up mountain biking less than a decade ago.

“I have been biking all of my life, but I really got into mountain biking around 2007, after I bought my first mountain bike, got out into the woods, and met a lot of really cool local riders while I was out on the trails,” Morgan said. 

Since then, Morgan has been a member of the Mid South Trails Association (MSTA) and last year, in 2015, he was its president.

“I had to step down as president this year, though, because of my busy work schedule, but the Mid South Trails Association is a great local organization that is made up of volunteers who help maintain all of the local area trails,” Morgan said.

Mountain bike trails are a great escape and an
adventure, which can be a totally different
experience depending upon the weather
conditions, the time of day, or the time of
year these cyclists ride.

Even though he might not be able to ride as much as he’d like, Morgan’s passion for it hasn’t diminished any over the years.

“I love being outside on the trails and in the woods.  We have some really nice places to ride right here in the city limits.  We are very lucky here in Memphis.  In a lot of other places, people have to drive a lot of miles because they don’t have any local area trails.  I also like the people and the mountain bike community.  It is really a close tight knit group,” Morgan said.

“For years, I used to ride my bike just about every day of the week and I would average around 250 to 300 miles a month and about 3,000 miles a year.  I have a job now where I travel a lot, and that cuts into my ride time, but I am still out there riding every chance I get,” he added. 

While his job may interfere with his riding time, the weather, and little else keeps him away from it. 

“I ride throughout the year. Some of the manufacturers make some really good quality gear so you can ride even in the winter and it doesn't get too cold for me around here, but when the trails are too wet, that’s when I ride on the roads,” Morgan said.

Part of the fun of mountain bike riding is
the diverse terrain and the exhilaration
that comes from the unpredictability of
what's ahead of you, not to mention
jumps, precipitous drops, etc.

When it comes to places where he likes to ride, Morgan and his friends have found plenty in and around the Memphis area to choose from.

“The Wolf River trails are a short drive from my house and, on the weekends, I usually ride from my house to those trails. That is my local trail that I spend the most of my time on, but I ride them all.  The
Tour De Wolf within Shelby Farms is being improved and Herb Parsons is a great trail that is very well maintained and Stanky Creek is another that is pretty challenging," Morgan said.

"I don't get to travel around to ride my bike that much anymore, but Arkansas has some wonderful trails and so does Alabama, too. They are great weekend trips.  There are also some great trails in North Mississippi around Oxford and Sardis, as well as around
Arkabutla Lake,” he added.

Among the mountain bike trails in the Memphis area that Morgan and his fellow mountain biking friends in the
Mid South Trails Association are concerned about are the ones in the Lucius Burch State Natural (LBSN) Area. 

A new route for the
Wolf River Greenway trail has been proposed and is being considered, which they believe will have a detrimental impact on the existing mountain bike trails.

Mountain bikes give cyclists a chance to go and
see places that they might not get to otherwise.

“The proposed Greenway trail through the LBSN is not needed and I am completely against it,” Morgan said.

“It needs to stay on the other side of the river or for it to go further east of the current mountain bike trails and through the fields near the power lines.  As someone who rides those trails every day, and helps to maintain them, it would be pretty devastating to me to see a 12 foot paved path put in with a three to four foot buffer on each side through those woods.  I would say that most of the mountain bike community is opposed to this and there are plenty of other options and routes, which should be considered,” Morgan added.

For Morgan, and others like him, he would also like for others in the community-at-large to know what all that mountain bikers do.

“I want others to know that mountain bikers are really concerned with the environment and the upkeep of trails. Not many people know that the local mountain bike community and the MSTA do all of the upkeep on the local area trails and they are all volunteers.  Runners, hikers, and equestrians do not do any organized trail work and Shelby Farms does not maintain the trails out there.  It is all done by mountain bikers.  We do it all.  I don't think a lot of people even realize that.  If we weren't out there doing all of the work, then the trails would not be accessible or maintained,” Morgan said.

One of the best parts of mountain bike riding is getting to hang
out with those who enjoy it as much as you do.  This photo
was taken at the railroad tracks near Jackson Ave. on the Epic
trail in the Wolf River bottoms with Mollie Curlin Smith, Poppy
Seelbinder, Dylan Vance, Chris Lockhart, Brian Travis, and
Lynell Barber.

For those interested in getting started with mountain biking, themselves, Morgan has a few
suggestions for them.

“I would suggest getting a good bike and not one from Target or Walmart.  You can get a good bike for $800 to
$1,000.  It’s definitely worth spending a little money to get yourself a good bike because there can be some major differences in the quality between those that are less than $1,000 and those that cost more than that.  After that, I’d recommend joining a local Facebook group like Mid South Mountain Bikes or Mid South Trails Association.  You can learn a lot from these groups and you can meet riders and join up with them on group rides.   The Mid South Mountain Bike community is a great group of people from all walks of life, and there are many riders who would love to help new people get into the sport,” Morgan said.

After that, he has some very simple advice.

“Just go out there and hit the trails and ride, ride, ride,” he said.

In addition to all this, Morgan says that it also really helps to have someone who encourages or supports you with your bike riding.  For him, he has found that with his wife, Christi.  

For Morgan, mountain biking can also be a really great way to stay in shape, which he has sought to do since his days at Ole Miss University, where he was on scholarship and where he lettered in baseball in his four years there.

Jim Morgan is in the forefront of this photo with Tony Longo
behind him. 

Even though he no longer plays baseball, he does get a great workout from his mountain biking and that is something he plans to do for many years to come.

With his wife behind him, his mountain biking friends around him, and the mountain bike trails ahead of him, life could not be better for mountain bikers like Morgan.

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