By Ann Leach

Kevin Kirby played a little football and ran track in school, but that was the extent of his sports involvement until a few years ago. 

“I had quit smoking and a few years after I did, I found I was struggling to take deep breaths,” Kirby said. “I began walking with my dog and I progressed from about a quarter of a mile to more than 10 miles. I guess I got bored with it and biking looked interesting and fun.” 

His biking adventures have found him participating in gravel races, mountain biking and even trying his hand at videotaping some of his rides. 

“I ride because it makes me feel good, mentally and physically,” Kirby said. “I’ve dealt with anxiety for most of my adult life and riding helps; it’s like medication.” 

Kirby finds mountain biking is more mentally and physically demanding to him and rides an electric assist mountain bike an average of 20 to 35 miles per ride, depending on the elevation gain and trail/terrain difficulty.

 “That combination of working the body and the mind is extremely relaxing after I finish,” he said. “Endorphins are released in the brain when exercising. As natural hormones, they can alleviate pain, lower stress, improve mood and enhance your sense of well-being.” 

And riding in new and different places like Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Tennessee encourages him to chronicle his rides with pictures. 

“Northwest Arkansas is the closest place to mountain bike around here,” Kirby said. “But with work, I only get to drive over from Grove (Oklahoma) once or twice a week.” 

Kirby owns Grand Lake Pawn and a commercial rental space. 

“My daughter and wife and I are currently working on building a couple of cabins for vacation rentals,” he said. “My daughter is also expecting a baby boy, so he will be a fun addition to my life.” 

Building his own bikes has become a rewarding hobby for Kirby. “I started building bikes to save money and get exactly what I wanted,” he said. “I can build, tune and test a bike in a day. The self-satisfaction of building something out of a pile of parts is nice, too.” 

Kirby intends to ride his bike as long as he is physically able. He encourages those seeking to start riding by suggesting they “get a bike, find a trail and just ride. Get someone knowledgeable to take you or join a group ride.” He is quick to encourage people to “get out and enjoy nature and life as long as you are able.” 

“Get out andenjoy nature and life as long as you are able.”– Kevin Kirby

See more photos in the April print and digital editions.