Arkansas bike group offers first aid, repairs along trails
By FLIP PUTTHOFF
BELLA VISTA, Ark. (AP) — Pedaling along a dusty trail is all about helping other cyclists when area members of the National Bike Patrol head out for a ride.
Off-road riders have seen these helpers on two wheels rolling along in their uniform jerseys with packs on their backs. The 22 men and women comprise the FAST National Mountain Bike Patrol. Fast stands for Friends of Arkansas Single-Track, an area group of off-road riding educators, enthusiasts and advocates.
They're regulars on the Back 40 trail system in Bella Vista, Slaughter Pen Trail and dirt paths in Benton County.
Their mission is helping fellow riders with simple first aid and bike repair out on the trails, said Kelly Williams, 61, director of the patrol. Occasionally, they'll help a lost rider find his way, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported .
"Fixing cuts and scrapes is 90 percent of what we do," Williams said.
But they've dealt with more serious injuries after a rider has taken a spill. Each member carries a day pack filled with bandages, gauze, swabs, everything needed to clean and dress wounds. All 22 members are CPR certified. Some are enrolled in first responder training. All are volunteers with full-time jobs.
They can also fix a broken bike. Repair skills vary from member to member, but most are able to mend a broken chain or fix a flat far away from a trail head. They carry tools, tubes and spare valve stems.
"Some could manage the service department at any bike shop. We have people who've built their own bikes," Williams noted.
FAST National Mountain Bike Patrol is one of 50 chapters of the National Mountain Bike Patrol that's under the wing of the International Mountain Bicycling Association. Members are required by IMBA to take a minimum amount of training, "but we go above and beyond that," Williams said.
It's an informal group, he noted. There's no set schedule for who will patrol or when. Members are out when they normally ride for fun, but they wear their uniform jerseys and carry their packs when representing the patrol.
"We try to be out there mostly in the afternoons and on weekends because that's when most people ride," Williams said.
The only requirement to become a patrol member is a passion for mountain biking, Williams said. Aspiring recruits get invited to ride with other members for a while to get a feel for the group and see if it is truly something they want to do. And patrol leadership sees if a rider has the dedication to stick with it.
With 22 members, the mountain bike patrol is about where it needs to be people-wise, Williams noted. They volunteer mainly on mountain bike trails in Benton County, but help out at mountain bike races and events around northwest Arkansas. The patrol sets up a tent and first aid station at some area races.
"If riders get hurt in a race, they're probably going to go ahead and finish the race. Then they're going to come to our tent," Williams said.
This is the third season for the FAST National Mountain Bike Patrol. It formed shortly before the international IMBA summit held November 2016 in Bentonville.
Mountain biking popularity has soared like a rider going over a jump, and Williams is delighted to see it. He and others in the National Mountain Bike Patrol are happy to lend a hand out there on the trail.
Information from: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.nwaonline.com