The Mountain Bike Life
Just recently I saw a video titled “Ten Things Every Mountain Biker Should Have Done”. It’s been making the rounds on social media so odds are you’ve seen it too. As I started thinking about my own bucket list, I realized just how much time has passed since I started mountain biking and what I’ve gone through. I started seriously mountain biking in ’97 and that means I’ve been riding for 16 years! I would think if I had been doing anything for 16 years I’d be an expert. Well…I’m not. The truth is sometimes life gets in the way and sometimes you have to make sacrifices. It means that maybe you should attend your child’s birthday party instead of going away for the weekend to ride the Kingdom. Or maybe you should go out on date night with your spouse or partner instead of going out with your buddies on that weekly night ride. I realize that I can’t have everything but that doesn’t mean I can’t have anything. You can make time to do what you love. In addition to ten things, here a few more that I think every mountain biker should do.

Ride Someplace New

Turns out this has been my Mantra from the beginning. Who doesn’t love riding somewhere new right? At year’s end I reflect on when (time of the year) and where I’ve ridden and I pick at least one new place I’d like to ride in the coming year. Usually it’s somewhere within a two hour drive. Living in NY gives me a great range of places to ride that fit this time constraint. Kennedy Park, Yokun Ridge, Pine Hill Park and Vietnam are some of the places that have been at the top of my list and I am pleased to say I’ve been to all of them and more.
My friend Javier and I riding one of the many bridges at Pine Hill Park in Rutland, VT
Sometimes it’s to ride a place closer to home that I haven’t ridden in a while. Thacher Park, SMBA, and Luther Forest are some of the local trails I’ve come back to after some time away and even though they are familiar they still feel new because the trails change, evolve and are continually getting better. If you look hard enough, I am sure you too can find some new spots to ride within 2 hours. Just remember to do your homework. Research new places to ride, download maps if they are available. Go with a friend or a group. Better yet, do as I’ve done in the past and contact some locals through social media, message boards or mountain bike clubs. Having someone who knows the trails to give you a tour is the most enjoyable way to ride someplace new.
Coming down :Broken Wrist” on the Bee Trail, SMBA, Saratoga Springs, NY

Learn a New Trick

For some this comes easy but for most of us its a bit more difficult. I have found that one of the best ways to learn something new is to just keeping trying till you get it right. This is mountain biking and it’s inherently dangerous…I think we all know this. If you want to try something new, you’re probably going to fall. But learning new tricks is the best way to increase your enjoyment of the sport and make you a better, safer rider in the long run. I know its hard and I know it can be a little scary but it can be extremely satisfying and progress your riding to another level.
I learned to ride Log Rides in Schenectady Central Park, Schenectady, NY
When I want to learn something new the first place I start is online. Someone has done a video or listed steps with an illustration showing the proper technique. Videos are always the best but any info is helpful. Next I check with the people I ride with, if any of them know how to do it just ask for some pointers. Most riders are happy to share tips for riding better and faster. Extra protective gear, if you can afford them, like arm and leg pads are always a good idea. Lastly start small and then move on to something bigger. You can’t run before you can walk and mountain biking is no different. Also there are some basic tricks you might need to learn before trying one that are more advanced. Research should point these out. Lastly if you’re going to try something new and there is a risk that you could injure yourself (Really? That’s just about every time you go biking but you know what I mean.), bring a friend or go with a group. Many times your friends could spot you and give you pointers to tweak your technique and it may make the difference between nailing it or crashing hard. Then if something does happen, at least you’re not alone. And as always, bring a cell phone because someone needs to get it on video!

Build a Trail

No one likes to give up the little bit of free time that they have to ride, I know I don’t. Barely having one night a week to ride is killing me but it’s all I have and better than nothing. Still, taking that one day a week that you get to ride and put it into helping build a trail is well worth the investment.
Jim Mitchell, Davis Wornal and Rob Hanks along with myself are part of the crew that built the Swapass Bridge.
SMBA Trails, Saratoga Springs, NY
For years I was involved with the Saratoga Mountain Bike Association and I not only helped run the club but helped build some trail too. Just having moved to the area back then, my reasons for volunteering in the club was to find others to ride with. But being able to give back to the trails that I grew to love was an unexpected benefit. Also most mountain bike clubs are run as volunteer only outfits. No one gets paid so participation is usually low. Even so, SMBA has not only improved their current trail network, they’ve also expanded into other areas like the trails at Pittstown State Forest and hopefully into John Boyd Thacher State Park. With proper planning, it’s amazing what a small group of hardworking and focused individuals can do in a short time. Every person they can get out there makes a difference. Getting involved with a local mountain bike club can take a lot of the guess work out of building a trail. Usually you just need to show up and they’ll tell you or show you what needs to be done. This is also a great way to expand your social network and find new friends to ride with. Everyone I now ride with I’ve met through either SMBA or group rides with CapitalMTB. So with just a small amount of your time (a couple times a year for most people) you can get not only more trails to ride but more friends to ride with. Kind of a win-win in my book. I would think this is common knowledge but don’t build illegal trails. This only hurts reputable organizations trying to do things the right way. Always have permission from the land owner to build. And as always be safe and wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and know how to use the tools. Power tools are just as dangerous as mountain biking or more so. IMBA has some great resources for trail building. Be safe and have fun.

Having a good laugh while trailbuilding in Pittstown State Forest, Pittstown, NY

Attend a Mountain Bike Festival

Really there is no reason not to. It’s like all the fun of mountain biking…cubed. There is nothing like rolling into a small town and seeing every car laden with bikes and tons of eager riders ready to rip some singletrack goodness. To me it feels like coming home. All these people get me, they understand why I do what I do and I am not crazy…well maybe a little.
My friend Rich holding up his Rocky Mountain demo bike and I think that’s some famous guy behind him.
NEMBAfest 2012, Kingdom Trails, East Burke, VT
There is a great festival that’s been going on the last couple of years at the Kingdom Trails in East Burke, VT. NEMBAfest is awesome! There are a great bunch of people that put on this show every year. Dedicated people like Phillip Keyes, that are living the mountain bike life and feel that they must share their love of riding with the world. There is truly something for everyone. Bike demos, group rides, games and activities, good food, famous industry folk, and new gear can all be found in one place. They even have lift service for several gravity fed trails right from the festival area. Lots of people camp but there are also mountain side condo and even chalet’s available. $100 bucks gets you in and includes the fee for camping and lift access for the weekend. It usually runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Every year I meet new and interesting people, always see lots of smiles. Even got a chance to meet the legendary Gary Fisher…pretty cool. You don’t really need to drive far to have fun either. You can just ditch the car for the weekend and ride your bike everywhere if you want.
View of NEMBAfest from the chairlift
And there aren’t many places that have better trails than the Kingdom. Lots of well groomed singletrack with natural and man-made features as well as lift serviced DH trails. East Coast biking at its finest. The atmosphere is just something that every mountain biker should experience. Now there are also many smaller festivals that go on every year. Many Mountain bike clubs hold smaller regional get-togethers that are usually open to the public. SMBA has the M.U.D. Event every year with bike and gear demos, good food, cold beverages and group rides on great trails. C.L.I.M.B which is based on Long Island, NY (where I’m originally from) has held the Fat Tire Festival for the last five years. The Westchester Mountain Bike Association just celebrated their 18th annual fat tire festival in June so you know they must be doing something right. That reminds me, I think I’m going to add this one to my list for next year, always wanted to go to Blue Mountain. And one more thing, this is a great way to experience a new place to ride. Here’s a tip, pick up a copy of Dirt Rag Magazine, they usually have a good list of events happening across the US.

Riders gather for a group ride at one of the many SMBA M.U.D. events.

Each one of these are doable and I think if I can get the time to go most people can too. So don’t be shy, travel to a new place, get your hands dirty, learn something new, get out there and meet new people. You’ll be glad you did and coming from an introvert it means a lot.

The Kingdom always gets a thumbs up!

Got one I haven’t listed? My list is always evolving and always open to change. Let me know what’s on your list any why. I might just add it to my own.

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