After a hiatus of about 10 years, competitive mountain biking has returned to the Rim country.
The popular pastime is back, thanks to Manzanita Cyclery owner Devin Wala who recently formed the Soggy Dog racing team.
Wala is relatively new to the Rim country having purchased the local cyclery about five months ago. Prior to moving to Payson, Wala lived in Scottsdale.
With the formation of the Soggy Dog team, the Mountain Biking Association of Arizona has agreed to hold one of its eight state point-series races in the Rim country.
The competition will be April 3 probably on a course that runs from Cracker Jack to the Doll Baby Ranch.
"We'll have a couple of loops thrown in there for the experts," Dala said.
The race, which will be the sixth in the MBAA series, will be sponsored by Team Soggy Dog and promoted by DCB Extreme Adventures in conjunction with the town of Payson and other sponsors, Wala said.
The first of the MBAA's state series races, held Jan. 10 at McDowell Mountain Park in Phoenix, drew five Soggy Dog team members and two other local racers.
Tanner Morgan paced the Dogs, touring the 16-mile lap in 1:03. Trailing Morgan were Wala (1:07), Nick Payne (1:08), Jake Martin (1:14) and Jason Knoell (1:17). Also representing Payson in the race were Brian Goble and veteran mountain biker Wayne Gorry.
Goble was first in his age group touring one lap in 58 seconds. Gorry, who was slowed by a flat tire, raced two laps in 2:14.
A former MBAA state champion, Gorry is returning to the racing scene after an absence of more than a year.
The veteran cyclist said he is elated to see racing return to Payson and believes the Soggy Dog team will be a great addition to the local cycling scene.
"(Wala) is doing a lot to promote mountain biking here," Gorry said.
Membership on the team is open to active mountain bikers 10-years-of-age and older.
Next up for local cyclists is event No. 2 in the MBAA series -- the Hedgehog Hustle Jan. 24 at Estrella Mountain park.
In addition to the Soggy Dog team, Wala also hosts rides each Thursday and Saturday or Sunday.
The Thursday ride departs Manzanita Cyclery in the Ponderosa Village Shopping Center at about 4 p.m. The Saturday or Sunday rides leave the shop at varying morning hours.
"They are pick-up rides so we kind of go when everyone is ready," Wala said.
The courses can vary, but usually they are along the Boulders trails located near Granite Dells Road.
Other popular outings for local cyclists are the social rides at 10:30 a.m. each Wednesday.
"We call them ‘cruiser rides' because you can ride anything you want, even a tricycle," Wala said.
The events open with a 30-minute ride to a preselected spot where cyclists take a lunch break before returning to the shop.
"They main thing we want people to do is have fun," Wala said.
For more information on the free rides or the Soggy Dog team, call Manzanita Cyclery at (928) 474-0744.