Biking has the ability to take people to many different locations. Mountain biking kicks that up a notch by putting riders directly in touch with the beauty of nature. The combination of exercise, landscapes, and slight risk make for an intriguing way to spend time either alone or with friends.
“There’s a certain amount of personal achievement and sheer joy you get out of riding,” says Chris Nichols, who runs Urban Assault races. “It’s probably the only addiction that’s worth having.”
Nichols turned to mountain biking after he quit drinking in the early ‘90s. He would go riding with a group of people at Lincoln Woods. He didn’t mesh well with them, so he moved on. He started riding power line trails made by dirt bike riders. He enjoyed the activity but found it to be a lonely endeavor, so he recruited some friends to join him.
“That was probably the early start of me becoming an instructor,” Nichols says. “I love introducing people to this sport.”
The hobby became a passion that Nichols turned into Urban Assault, which hosts mountain bike races throughout New England. He was inspired after reading an article in Dirt Rag Magazine about indoor racing in Ohio, and after attending the Bilenky Junkyard Cross in Philadelphia.
“The first race was held at the Conant Thread Mill in Pawtucket,” Nichols explains. “We had this crazy don’t-ask-don’t-tell waiver agreement with the property owner. Everything we did went under the radar. So many people showed up. I think the second one we did there topped out at like 300 people. It’s an amazing event; so many things happened.”
There have been about five or six Urban Assault events. The events can appear to be daredevil-ish, with high drops and tracks that go through windows. Nichols notes that safety measures are in place with medical staff on hand, but adds that it can be difficult to secure a venue.
“It’s hard to convince property owners that everything’s gonna be okay when you have video on social media of people flying out the windows on bikes,” Nichols says. He is hoping to find another venue to pull off another event as soon as possible.
“It needs to happen,” he says enthusiastically. “America needs this right now. Defying all laws of nature riding two wheels on a course man-made from the ruins of a city? Yeah that’d be awesome.”
Nichols is currently a mountain bike camp director at Hale Education in Westwood, MA. He enjoys introducing people to mountain biking and helping the sport grow.
“New England Mountain Bike Association has done a great job at creating and maintaining trail systems,” Nichols says. “[There’s been a] huge amount of advocacy and working with government agency management. I’m really digging the growth in female and youth riders. The pandemic had this weird offshoot of getting new people on bikes.”
Nichols encourages interested people to just go for it. “Don’t listen to everybody right away, just get on a bike and have fun,” Nichols says. “The progression and skill will come if you find the right crowd. Basically don’t overthink it.”
He suggests getting a Hardtail bike at first and checking out NEMBA, which is a website that has many opportunities for ride areas and new rider group rides.
Contact Chris at (401) 316-4138 or ChrisNichols416@gmail.com if you are interested in Urban Assault or mountain biking.