One woman bikes over injury and fear

By Kristen Wicker

“MoMBA is always the same trail, but never the same ride.”

Monika Kaleps knows what she’s talking about—she drives an hour from her home in the Columbus area to bike MoMBA, the MetroParks Mountain Biking Area, at least a few times each week, even in winter. Indeed, Kaleps, 52, admits she is “addicted to riding.”

It wasn’t always this way, though.

Four years ago, she was visiting her sister in California when she fell and fractured her skull, spending an anxious three days in the ICU. After the fall, she also became fearful of heights and falling.

“I realized how absolutely precious life is, and how tenuous,” Kaleps says. “It made me look at life in a different way and realize you don’t really miss something until it’s gone.”

“Fear was not in my repertoire, but it was controlling me,” she adds. “I was not fearful as a kid and loved to be in nature; I was athletic and a swimmer.”

Kaleps needed something to help her overcome this fear and the ensuing depression. She tried hiking and indoor climbing—but it was mountain biking that became her passion.

“This sport has something for everyone,” she says. “I love how it brings out the kid in you. Mountain biking doesn’t have to be this scary thing. It can be about letting your kid out and having fun.”

Yet, Kaleps admits she was “terrified” on her first mountain bike ride, which was at MoMBA. She rode with a friend on an old bike, which belonged to her husband.

“I’d ridden bikes before, but not like this,” she says. “After that first ride, I was in shock and felt like throwing up and crying. But I didn’t want to stop. I knew this was another step in overcoming my fears, one step at a time.”

“My journey began with mountain biking,” Kaleps continues. “I was terrified but strong, scared but confident. That’s what mountain biking did for me: it took what is inherent in me—strength and confidence, which had been eroded with circumstance—and brought my inner invincible kid back.”

Now, Kaleps continues to set new goals and take on additional challenges as she becomes a more experienced rider. She participates in Fast Laps races at MoMBA, serves as a mentor to new riders she meets at the park, and helps maintain the mountain biking trails during volunteer workdays.

“I have a goal each time I ride to try something new and that’s in my reach,” Kaleps says. “When those goals are accomplished, my heart soars. Every ride is a learning experience, even learning how to fall.”

This summer, new trails and trailhead amenities opened at MoMBA that help seasoned riders such as Kaleps and new riders better experience the park and the sport of mountain biking. The improvements—paid for primarily with funds from an Ohio Department of Natural Resources Recreational Trail Project grant, the first of its kind to be granted for a mountain biking-specific facility—are the most significant improvements at this outdoor recreation facility since it opened in
September 2007.

The improvements at MoMBA include comfort amenities at the trailhead, such as a new restrooms, water, bike-wash, and fix-it stations, along with new trails.

Tot Track: This 1/4-mile trail is designed for kids to practice balance and other skills on a natural-surface trail.

Hilltop Flow: This 3/4-mile trail is designed to provide a fun experience for all skill levels. Optional features develop skills, such as balance and riding over logs and rocks, that help riders navigate the more difficult features on the main trail system.

The Talon: This double-black-diamond trail is designed to challenge the most experienced mountain bikers.

Also new at MoMBA: Through Sept. 24, you can rent mountain bikes for all ages on Saturdays from 9 to 11 a.m.

MoMBA is the Dayton area’s first fully sustainable mountain biking trail system. It was designed to International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) standards, which help prevent erosion and minimize the trails’ impact on the land. MoMBA includes more than nine miles of mountain biking trails for all levels of riders through such terrain as hardwoods, a rock-bottom creek, hills, and rock-filled ridges.

“Mountain biking is part of Five Rivers MetroParks’ conservation mission,” says Randy Ryberg, outdoor recreation coordinator for Five Rivers MetroParks. “It allows riders to connect with nature in a new way and become stewards of our region’s natural heritage through active use of
the land.”

Kaleps agrees one of the best things about biking at MoMBA is the experience in nature.

“Riding at MoMBA is a great workout, a great way to enjoy nature, and great place to enjoy with a partner or friends,” she says. “Depending on the weather, the trail may be dry and fast or slick and greasy. The changing of the seasons makes for a unique ride every time. I love seeing the ever-changing backdrop the seasons bring.”

MoMBA is located at 4485 Union Rd. in Huffman MetroPark. For more information, please visit metroparks.org/momba.

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2 Responses to “Ain’t no mountain…” Subscribe

  1. Lisa August 10, 2016 at 10:00 pm #

    We love hearing Monika stories when she teaches us at water aerobics in Columbus Ohio

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