Best Mountain Bike Parks in the USA

Each of the last four years a Jackson WY event has grabbed the attention of riders throughout North America without any of them putting foot to pedal. What could be so important? The Annual Rider’s Choice Awards including BEST BIKE PARKS. What makes this award so special? The recipients are selected not by industry insiders or writers but by the riders themselves, the one who actually ride the trails.

Mid Atlantic/Southeast

Snowshoe Bike Park, West Virginia


West Virginia is famous for it’s mountainous terrain, deep gorges and rural setting. Just what a serious biker is looking for. Snowshoe offers it all. There are more than 40 downhill trails and a vertical drop of 1500 foot covering everything from roots to boulders. Although many of the regulars are die hard top-notch riders Snowshoe also offers excellent options for novices as well.

Northeast

Thunder Mountain, Massachusetts


The Northeastern US is full of people, which means plenty of riders and those riders want quality places to ride. After a tight, hard fought race this year’s winner of Best Bike Park is Thunder Mountain. Although only in operation for a little over 2 years this park has already drawn a large and loyal following, as is obvious from its selection for this award. Both natural and man-made obstacles spread over 1000 ft in vertical elevation means visitor will experience one serious day on the trail which they will not soon forget.

Midwest

Little Switzerland, Wisconsin


Despite being miles from anywhere, devoid of fancy amenities and only open on select weekends Little Switzerland has climbed to the top spot in a little over 2 years of operation. Statistically this little park does not seem like the thing of champions. There is only 10 trails covering 3 miles, the vertical elevation change is a mere 200 feet and there are little in the way of extras that the riders do not bring with them. So why is it so popular? The management has made up for what nature could not provide. Gaps, jumps and a variety of other manmade features not only add extra challenges, it also allows for changes at the park progresses.

Northwest

Silver Mountain, South Dakota


Other than a few battle fields, National Parks and related historical sites South Dakota does not have a great deal to offer the average traveler. But mountain riders are not the average traveler and Silver Mountain is not your average park. After leaving the town of Kellogg in a gondola (which happens to be America’s longest) you find yourself 3400 ft above town. What you find in front of you, or beneath you as it may be, is a long downhill run over ever changing terrain. While you may be tempted to turn around and take the ride all the way back to the top for another run you should not overlook the blue trails. These shorter, easier trails may be designed for beginners, but they offer everyone the ability to experience short bursts of adrenaline multiple times per day.

Rocky Mountains

Trestle Bike Park, Colorado


It should come as no surprise that the Region’s top pick is high atop the Rocky Mountains. What will surprise you is just how impressive the entire operation is. From manicured runs, jump lines, new trails and expanded lifts this is definitely worth a visit, even if you’ve been there before. Of course, being in the Rocky Mountains means extreme vertical elevations – 1700 ft to be exact.

A visit to any of these parks is well worth the trip and likely to be only the first of many to come.

Maintaining your Mountain Bike and Avoiding Costly Repairs


Your mountain bike is more than a toy, it is an expensive piece of sports gear. It is also an investment. Properly maintained it will be more dependable and last for years to come. Without basic care it will likely leave you stranded trail side. Do not worry, maintaining your bike will not cost you another high investment just a little time.

Preventative Maintenance, or PM, are the things you do to prevent a break down rather than waiting until a repair is necessary. Many of these simple, inexpensive actions require only a few minutes and simple tools. The easiest way to ensure that each item is checked as needed is to develop a schedule and make doing so a regular routine. Before you know it, you will do it without even thinking about it.

Every time you ride

The first thing you want to check are the tires. Ensure they are at the proper pressure, that there are no signs of damage or irregular wear. If you do see any damage or unusual wear consider replacing the tires prior to riding. Repeated issues of irregular wear should be addressed by you mechanic as it is likely a sign of a large, more complicated problem. While you are inspecting the tires make sure the axles and skewers are tight as well.

Next, test your brakes. Pump each break lever a couple times, they should solid and grab evenly. If you notice the brakes feel soft check the pads for wear. On the other hand, if they feel loose it is likely there is an air bubble in the reservoir or line. Many times, pumping the brakes a few times or turning the entire bike upside down will allow the bubble to self-bleed. Pads or brakes which will not self-bleed will need the attention of you mechanic.

Now it is time to check the shifts and gears. If you notice anything other than smooth transition from gear to gear it is time to investigate further. Start with the easiest to address. Look to see if the wheels are properly seated in the skewers or thru-axles. Next, check for a frozen chain link – if found lube chain. Finally, tune the barrel adjuster. Beware, tuning the barrel adjuster does require some experience and done incorrectly can make matters worse.

The pedals are next. Look for damage from hitting obstacles, accumulated dirt & debris or pedals that are frozen. Damaged pedals should be replaced, dirt & debris removed, and frozen pedals lubricated.

After the ride

A clean bike is a happy bike. It also makes it much easier to notice any damage that may have occurred because of that last spill. Therefore, it is important to clean your bike after every ride. Do not forget to wipe down the suspension & handlebars as well. If any damage is noted address it as soon as possible, preferably prior to storage. After everything is clean and shiny do not forget to lubricate the drivetrain.

Annually

There are several items that should be addressed at least once per season, depending on how hard you ride and what specific features you bike includes. This would include bleeding brakes, inspecting & replacing brackets, upgrading accessories, servicing shocks & repacking hubs. Your annual tune up should also include a deep clean and lube too. If you bike was stored during the off season do not forget to check for tire dry rot.

A few minutes and a couple bucks can save a lot in terms of both down time and repair costs.

Selecting a Trail

Tips for beginners looking for place to ride their new Mountain Bike

Mountain biking is a great way to exercise and enjoy the outdoors. You know that and have the gear and desire to get out there and ride, there is only one problem – you do not know where to ride. No worries, there are thousands of public trails crisscrossing the country and chances are there is one near you. But selecting the right trail is something many new riders have a problem with, so here are some tips to help you get started.

When selecting a trail there are three key features you need to consider- difficulty, elevation gain and length. Each is a critical issue, especially when deciding whether a new trail if a good fit for you.

Difficulty

In truth difficulty is a relative term, especially when you are a novice. What you buddy considers a warm up could be the equivalent of a marathon if you are not accustomed to riding. But what we are discussing here is the technical difficult. Skiers will be familiar with this term as it is the same term used to describe slopes.

The difficulty level is determined by the number of obstacles and how much experience is needed to navigate these obstacles successfully – otherwise know as without crashing. Every trail will have some obstacles otherwise what is the point of leaving the pavement. But, as a beginner, you want to limit the type of obstacles to short stretches. You also want to avoid jumps, long or narrow bridges and steep downhill sections. It is best if you limit your first few rides to smooth as possible. Some trails are marked depending on difficulty. Similar to ski slopes the easiest will be marked by a green circle and the hardest with two black diamonds.

Elevation Gain & Exposure

When biking elevation refers to the upward grade you will encounter or steepness of hills. Exposure refers to bridges, or other elevated platforms, you need to cross. Yes, more advanced trails will have very extensive bridge systems some of which will wind for long distances several feet or more on the ground.

Anyone who has ridden a bike of any sort knows that elevation is a major factor in determining difficulty. Yes, the trail may be technically easy but if it is one long hill after another you will quickly find out what kind of shape you are really in.

Have you ever crossed a narrow, wooden plank bridge on a bike before? Most riders have not, at least until they encounter one on the mountain bike trail. If you are not accustomed to performing this task, or have a fear of heights, I suggest you keep this to a minimum as well until your skills are up to the task.

Length of the ride

This sounds like a no brainer, but you would be surprised how many riders set out on an otherwise simple trail only to find themselves miserable half way through because they have discovered it is twice the distance they are capable of completing. Nothing will discourage you quicker than having to push your bike back to the parking lot or calling your buddy for a ride.

Most trails will be labeled with estimated time, as well as total distance. Remember that this is calculated for an average rider, riding at the level the trail is rated at. A novice on a green circle trail should be able to complete close to the estimated time, a novice on a double diamond will take much longer than listed. Start on short beginner trails, you can always complete multiple circuits or do more than one trail in an afternoon.

Remember, every sport has a learning curve and mountain biking is no different. Start with what you are comfortable with and you will find riding easier, more enjoyable and safer.

Tips for Beginning Mountain Biker

Selecting the Correct Gear

Have you seen all the riders hitting the local trail and thought “wow that looks like fun?”. Are you hoping you could get in on the excitement but do not know where to get started? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Check out these tips for everything you need to get off the couch and onto the trail.

Selecting a Bike

When it comes to trail riding there are three basic designs to choose from, each has its advantages.

1. Hybrid

These bikes are designed for the paved or hard dirt trail but will not perform well on gravel or loose dirt, sand or snow. If you are just getting started and want to leave the sidewalk without going off the beaten path this is a good place to start.

2. Mountain

These are the bikes you want if adventure is higher on your list than getting from point A to B. They are designed for rough terrain, twists & turns and gravity defying downhill rides. The frame, knobby tires and suspension are what you need to conquer the trail.

3. Fat Bikes

These are essentially mountain bikes on steroids, at least when it comes to the tires. The extra wide, deep chunk rubber is specifically designed for the user who want to go through snow, loose dirt and sand. Although a plus for riders who encounter these terrain features on a regular basis this can be counter productive on the average trail, where the extra weight can be a hinderance.

Protecting Yourself

Mountain biking can be dangerous, or at least more so than peddling down the sidewalk. It is not uncommon for riders to end the day with a few more bumps and bruises than they started with, and the occasional spill is not unheard of. This means that it is important add the right personal protective equipment to your arsenal.

1. Helmet

You helmet is more than a fashion statement, it is what stands between a “you should have seen it” story and serious head injury when you do wipe out. Your helmet will also provide protection from the sun, rain and the unseen branch as well. Most users find a simple dome style with visor is sufficient, but those interested in downhill trails may want to consider a full-face model.

2. Clothing

You will want to select clothing that is comfortable while being able to stand up to the rigors of the trail and still provide the extra support you need. Compression shorts & shirts are popular, and with good reason as they are designed to keep you cool and reduce chaffing. Some mountain biking shorts resemble cargo shorts but have built in compression zones, making the duel purpose capable of being worn on the trail or when heading to and from the trail as well.

3. Gloves

Even when riding in warm weather a pair of gloves are a clever idea. Gloves do more than keep your hands warm; they also protect you from branches, spills and discomfort when riding for extended periods.

4. Shoes

When it comes to shoes you have several options, but the first factor is whether you are using clipless pedals. When using clipless peddles you will need to select cleat style shoes. If using regular peddles you can choose from cleat less bike shoes, heavy lug or flat styles. Heavy lug and flat styles are good chooses when you do not want to change shoes when driving home. They are also more comfortable when you will be walking part of the trail.