Men Involved: Nicholas Pearch

North 40
When did you first start riding a bike? 
I do not recall the first time that I rode a bike, however, like most people I learned as a child. I enjoyed making ramps and riding around the neighborhood. My freshman year of college I began mountain biking. I may not have been good at it, but I stuck with it and now it has turned in to one of my passions.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years? 
At first, mountain biking was mostly for fitness. I was looking for a way other than running to lean out and get some cardio in for wrestling. After a while, mountain biking just became fun, making the workout aspect secondary. The bike community in Decorah does a great job of getting rides together to keep things fresh and to have people to ride with.

You enjoy mountain biking, are there any other styles of cycling you enjoy?
I also enjoy riding gravel roads. I generally hit the gravel roads when the trails are too wet to ride.  

Gravel roads may sound dull; however there are some great views of the countryside that not many people get to enjoy. I’ve never been too enthusiastic about road riding. 

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? 
Haha yes, I do! When you have never done something like mountain biking before, there is a lot to learn. On my first ride I had no clue where I was going.  I ended up doing a lot of walking, as there are some nasty climbs, and I was a clumsy rider.  I felt like I was exploring the woods by myself in the wild. Yes, some of the down hills and other parts of the trails were frightening, but that was part of what made me fall in love with the sport. 

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
I’ve never dealt with that much nervousness out on the trails. To me the fact that you are in the woods up on almost wiping out is what makes it fun for me. Almost anyone can go out and ride a bike on flat ground. Riding on a small dirt path is hard and is what makes it fun.

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level? 
Well I have had lots of that’s for sure. I’ve never broken anything, on my body at least. I have been pretty sore following wipe-outs and not been able to finish my ride. Occasionally after hard crashes there are times when on my next few rides that I do not take corners or bumps as fast. The only way to get over it is to get back on the bike and keep riding, just realized it is dirt not concrete you are falling on to. Also there are plenty of people who ride harder and wipe out as well but don’t get hurt.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Like I stated before, getting out in the woods and exploring while hitting corners and bumps fast is the greatest pleasure I get from the trails. Almost crashing is what makes the trails for fun for me.
Fun log pile (built by Pearch) on Little Big Horn 

Tell us about your bike!
The bike that I ride everywhere is a Surly Karate Monkey. It’s the perfect ride for me. I love the steel frame and I feel comfortable riding it hard and doing foolish stuff even though I am a larger guy. It needs improvements but I can get on it at anytime and ride hard on it. I would love to invest in a fat bike or some sort for the winter so I can keep rolling through the snowfall.

Sometimes a person may randomly come up on your out on the trails doing some work, like adding in shoring and smoothing out spots. How did you land that job?
I Guess I was just in the right spot at the right time. One of my wrestling coaches, Jeff O’Gara, is very involved in an organization in town called Decorah Human Power Trails (DHPT). After talking trail riding with him through the first couple years of wrestling he asked me if I would like to do the trail work over the summer. He took me out and showed me how to do some shoring for an hour or two then the rest of the work I kind of just learned myself.

What about mountain bike trail maintenance sounded interesting to you what inspired you to want to help keep them in good shape?
What really got me interested was the fact that I needed a summer job. It worked out well because I love to ride the trails. Basically the work I do I get to directly enjoy. So, if something is not riding right I will spend the time and effort to make sure it rides good.

Little Big Horn

Tell us about your top 3 favorite mountain bike trails in Decorah. Why do you enjoy them.
This is a pretty hard since we have a lot of great trails. My top favorite has to be Little Big Horn. Big Horn has nice corners, climbs, descents, logs, and it’s a pretty good length. The second best I would have to say is lower mothers day. If you were to start from the top of boa and ride that to lower mothers day then turn back on to boa to the road makes for a super flow ride. The third best in my opinion would be public television. It makes for a easy fun ride to get up to all the trails and at the same time is a super fun downhill route to finish a ride off right.
Since you work on the trails a lot, which ones would you say are better for new riders?
Well of course the River Trail is the easiest for children or beginners. It’s pretty flat and does not have a lot of climbing. Also both the pines are super fun for beginning rider. The pines are smooth and pretty much flat plus are super cool around with all the pines trees around. I also believe that the trails higher up in palisades are flat and easier.

What do you enjoy about maintaining the trails and what kind of trail improvement is your favorite to do?
I enjoy being able to work outside all day and not having a boss telling me what to do all day. I also enjoy the fact that if I see something that I think needs work I can go and fix it up myself. Recently I have been putting in a lot of burms to make corners faster and smoother. Making burms keeps me pretty interested since it makes riding more fun.

Sometimes it seems there is so much to do all at once for maintaining trails, how do you decide which ones get gussied up first?
Pretty much I try to keep everything spread out. I keep notes of where I have worked so I can keep things spread out. I also get input from people around town. If I can’t think of anything that needs to be done I usually go for a ride and see what things can be improved. I am always open to suggestions since people ride things differently than I do. So if anyone has any suggestions please don’t hesitate to tell me!
Little Big Horn (?)

What goes into creating the shoring and nice, smooth corners?
Some planning does go into trail work. First of all you have to get to the spot. Depending on the type of trail work this could be a pain. Typically I carry a small chainsaw, fuel, bar chain oil, four pound sledge hammer, and a chainsaw tool in my pack. At the same time I usually carry four post in one hand then a hoe dag in the other. Sometimes I need an extra hand for a shovel or other items but I usually just have to make two trips.
Once you get to the spot the first thing to look for is a good tree in which you can use for backing for the dirt. I like to use dead trees for this that are not too rotten but occasionally you have to cut down a half living tree to make sure that the shoring or burm last. Finally the most important is dirt work. It is easiest and best to pull down the dirt from the high side of the hill but occasionally you’ll have to dig holes off the trails somewhere.
I have been recently looking at the way water runs down the trail to try and stop some muddy stops or erosion on the trails. Some planning does go into that but the biggest thing is to look to where the water has been running and then angle in a water channel to shoot the water down hill and not down the trail.

What do you feel would be good information for new riders to know about our mountain bike trails? 
Not every trail is going to be awesome your first time. Around here you have to pay to ride, meaning there will be some climbs and as a beginner you will have to get off your bike and walk occasionally. Starting out is the hardest part of mountain biking. 

The best way to start would be to have someone that knows the trails show you some easy trails. After that go ride those trails on your own. Don’t forget to push yourself! Once you get comfortable with those trails that you know begin to start to explore on your own. Keep in mind that you are riding the trails for fun, not for anyone else and not solely for exercise. Over time if you actually push yourself you will become a pretty good rider. Other than that make sure to have fun!  

What has been the most interesting experience or encounter you've had when you've been out maintaining the trails?
Hard to narrow down one experience that really stands out, I’ve seen countless people pass by and they all make sure to thank me for the work, some even ask to help. I always see tons wildlife, some get pretty close. The closest a chipmunk has gotten to me is within eight feet. This whole job has been an awesome experience. The community here is just so great, I am very lucky to have ended up in Decorah where the community can raise the money to pay me for a job this cool.

How can cyclists and other trail users keep the trails in good shape?
The biggest thing that can be done to help is to help volunteer. When there is an announcement for a trail building day don’t be afraid to help out. It’s good to see what goes into the building of a trail. Other than doing dirt work on your own the easiest thing a person can do is to help with any sticks or branches hanging into, or laying on the trail. Whenever I am working I make sure to clear any of those branches or sticks. When there are a lot branches on the trails after the storm it can take a long time to just get down one trail clearing branches trying to get to a spot to work. There are a lot of miles in our trail system and helping clear trails of brush and what not makes things easier for me.

What would you like to tell everyone about our mountain bike trail systems here in town? 
We have an awesome set of trails. Do not abuse them. Many hours of work and money have gone into maintaining them. Ride hard, ride fast, and have fun!