If you have ever ridden on mountain biking trails in and around Park County, odds are that your ride went better than it would have if not for the volunteer efforts of Mark Lyons.
For more than 15 years, Lyons has been a major influence in designing, building, marking and maintaining mountain biking trails from Bailey, to Buffalo Creek, to Staunton State Park, and beyond.
Lyons is currently serving as interim president for the Bailey HUNDO and HUNDito event, which draws about 300 riders into the area each summer. The event has garnered more than $500,000 for local nonprofit organizations over the last decade, not to mention the annual economic boon it creates for local shops and restaurants.
“Mark is continually working in service to his community, and the cycling community, and he does so in a silent, humble way,” said longtime friend and fellow HUNDO board member, John Gerritsen. “He won’t take any credit for his efforts, but his contributions to the cycling community, the trails we ride locally, and the HUNDO event and its beneficiaries, would be impossible to quantify.”
Lyons, 60, insists he does not ride with the same frequency or ferocity he once did. But in the next breath, he mentioned that he and some buddies recently rode about 70 miles just for kicks.
“Cycling has been a huge benefit to me from a physical standpoint,” Lyons said. “I was not in a good place physically or mentally when I started cycling, but that changed pretty quickly when I became more involved in the sport. My entire outlook changed as a result of cycling. It even prompted me to start my own business because I just felt more positive, confident, and had a better outlook on life.”
Lyons added that his involvement in cycling has more or less defined his social circles, and that most of his friendships have developed as a direct result of his involvement in the sport.
At one time, Lyons did about 90 percent of his riding on pavement, and about 10 percent of his riding on dirt. These days, those percentages have flipped.
As his interest in mountain biking has grown, so has his involvement in the development and maintenance of local trails. Lyons was instrumental in the conception and construction of the ever-popular, 50-mile HUNDito course.
“Not everyone can ride 100 miles, which is the length of the HUNDO course,” Lyons said. “So we developed the HUNDito course, and it has become more popular than Hundo in recent years.”
When it comes to biking etiquette, Lyons has an old school mentality that is sorely lacking in many of today’s riders.
“You shouldn’t skid on trails, and you should always stay on the trails,” Lyons asserted. “Downhill riders should yield to uphill riders, and everyone should leave no trace. It’s really just about being courteous. I think everyone who mountain bikes should spend at least one day each year helping with trails. We have certain days designated to riding trails and picking up any trash we can find along the way. I use the trails a lot, so I feel a personal sense of responsibility to help maintain those trails as much as possible.”
Lyons has been a key contributor in all facets of the Bailey HUNDO event since it’s inception. And for him, it is a labor of love.
“I’ve been a part of the Bailey HUNDO Race since day one,” Lyons said. “I have helped marked the trails every year, and I always enjoy being involved. I also love the fact that the event serves organizations such as the Platte Canyon Fire Protection District, the Boys and Girls Clubs of the High Rockies, Platte Canyon High School, the Marge Hudak Pool, the Colorado Association of Mountain Bikers, Trips for Kids and the Windy Peak Outdoor Lab.”
Lyons also believes that – even when competing – riders should look out for one another and promote the safety of all participants when possible.
While riding in the 250-mile Route of the Conquistadors Race in Costa Rica in November of 2015, Lyons not only gave up the race, but almost gave his life, after assisting another rider.
“We were biking through the jungle and everyone was struggling through mud that was more than a foot deep in places,” Lyons recalled. “A female rider was having a lot of trouble getting her bike through it, so I stopped and helped. I told my buddies to go on ahead.”
After successfully assisting his fellow rider, Lyons returned to his bike and hoisted it above him as he prepared to wade across a swift river. Momentarily isolated from other riders, Lyons suddenly slipped and went down in the raging current.
“I went down a chute, started pin-balling off of rocks and let go of my bike,” Lyons said. “The water got faster and faster, and I started finding myself submerged for long periods of time. I went down the river about a mile, losing all my possessions, including my shoes.”
When Lyons finally came to rest in calmer waters and clawed his way onto dry land, he was so tired and battered that he didn’t even attempt to move for quite some time.
“I was probably laying beside the river for several hours,” Lyons said. “The banks were muddy and steep, but I finally managed to climb up about fifteen feet above the water and strapped myself to a tree. I spent the night right there.”
The next day, despite having sustained serious internal injuries, Lyons began his trek back toward the biking trail. He had to cross the river yet again, and also became disoriented along the way. Not until the late evening hours, some six hours after unstrapping from roots along the muddy embankment and beginning his journey back to civilization, was he spotted, rescued and taken to a local hospital.
“I spent a week in the hospital with a damaged kidney, a damaged liver and other internal injuries,” Lyons said. “The story made the news at the time, and recently the Weather Channel flew me to Atlanta and I told my story on their survival show.”
Lyons has passed his love for cycling on to his two adult daughters, as well as countless other friends and acquaintances over the years. He says cycling is a sport that offers something for everyone, and that it can be tailored to meet the skill levels and interests of individual riders of all ages and abilities.
“You can make cycling as hard or easy as you want it to be,” Lyons said. “It can be a social thing, or it can be a solitary endeavor. Once you get started, it is natural to get better and to find ways to challenge yourself.