Photo courtesy of Sterling Lorence

Last week, “Strength in Numbers,” a movie about mountain biking, premiered at the Steinbeck Theater at the Monterey Conference Center. While famous mountain bikers tackle trails as far away as Canada and Nepal, the film also highlights the vibrant local mountain biking community found in Santa Cruz County.

The film features Santa Cruz area pros Ryan Howard, Cam Mccaul, Brandon Semenuk and Greg Watts. Aptos, located eight miles from downtown Santa Cruz, is internationally renowned as a hub of mountain biking.

After the premiere, a “jam session” was held, where professional mountain bikers rode with locals. Swiss professional mountain biker Rene Wildhaber was impressed by Santa Cruz’s quality terrain.

“It’s a big scene,” Wildhaber said. “There’re a lot of spots around town, each one more inventive than the last.”

The Aptos Post Office Jumps, a park in the center of town, is one such spot featured in “Strength in Numbers.” Named for its proximity to the Aptos post office, the park is famous for biker-created jump.

A creation of dirt hills and wood scraps, the park is large enough to have two riders bike different sets of jumps and hills at any given moment. Capitola rider Jacob Hyde believes that the park is important for the scene’s existence.

“This is probably the best park in California,” Hyde said. “The jumps are really close together and the transitions are just so smooth.”

Mountain bikers are not used to such open acceptance of their sport. Riders tend to carve out illegal jumps and ramps on protected forest land. Alex Reveles, a 22-year-old Soquel rider, has been riding the park since he was 11 years old. He said that Aptos riders spend much of their time trail building, if not for the jumps.

“The city is nice enough to us for not tearing them down,” Reveles said. “It’s amazing because the park’s grown from one jump probably started over 20 years ago to something that keeps growing and growing.”

Hyde and Reveles both said riding and maintaining the park has become part of their everyday life.

For both local riders and Red Bull-sponsored professionals, the park’s uniqueness stood out. Despite being a cloudy day, there was always a line of bikers waiting to ride the park again and again.

“[Post Office Jumps] is the only opportunity we riders have to build whatever [we] want, and it’s public,” said Canadian professional rider Anthony Messere. “It’s pretty awesome.”

The park is maintained by riders, who water the dirt hills every morning. Although the park was nearly closed by the city of Aptos for development in 2006, the park has become an integral part of the town in recent years, local riders say.

Post Office Jumps now receives water from the town of Aptos and has been designated as a county park by Santa Cruz County. The park has grown both in size and vision since its inception.

“They’re like a family,” Messere said. “They all share one passion — and that’s for riding.”

Reveles was amazed at how famous the park has become.

“It’s pretty cool that people travel to our spot to ride,” Reveles said. “Anywhere you go to ride, though, they know when you’re from Aptos, and they definitely know the Post Office Jumps.”