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Blazing the trail

Mike Saunier’s mountain bike expeditions

Saunier_Mark_navBy Braden Ochs | Echo

As the tread of the tire hits the muddy soil, there is no stopping communication professor Mike Saunier as he rides his mountain bike through Colorado’s rugged trails. The jolting handlebars and slick turns feel freeing—even natural—to the veteran rider.

Saunier’s first bike was a mountain bike. After he and his family moved to Colorado in 1984, he discovered a lot of trails within the terrain of the Rockies. He explored the  local territory with his mountain bike, and discovered his love for riding.

“It was just something fun to do, something challenging,” Saunier said. “It’s good fitness and something to do with friends as well.”

Colorado was, by far, Saunier’s primary destination for biking because he lived there for 20 years, but he has also explored other trails around the U.S. Saunier has biked in North Carolina, Michigan and Kentucky as well as here in Indiana. The Colorado trails proved most challenging for him because of the heavy, uphill pedaling. But the thrill and speed of racing back to the mountain’s base was worth whatever oxygen he lost at the top.

Indiana biking paths have impressed Saunier less than those he frequented in Colorado, but he has found a few that suit him. According to Saunier, the best biking paths for his taste have been in Brown County, a heart-pounding change from the normal, flat Indiana landscape.

Handling his bike with experienced confidence, Saunier cares about both the machine in his grip and the body that controls it. He rides his Ibis bike with a helmet, water bag, bike pump, basic tools and the right clothes. According to him, this equipment makes more of a difference than people think. Saunier makes sure he is protected and uses caution as he rides.

“I haven’t (gotten) injured on my mountain bike yet, thankfully,” Saunier said. “It’s a matter of riding under control.”

Saunier encourages students to invest in their individual hobbies, but he wishes Upland had bike trails for students and locals to explore in their community from a two-wheeled perspective.

“Upland needs some kind of draw, like (bike trails),” Saunier said. “I don’t think people are going to come here to go to Ivanhoe’s.”

Saunier hopes that Upland development projects take a naturalistic turn, perhaps with creating bike trails throughout Grant County. Bike paths would give students and community members access to new sights and sounds in their own backyard.

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