By guest blogger Michael Martineau
Mountain biking is something I’ve wanted to try for some time now. To be completely truthful, though, I’ve been too timid to do it. Fear may have gotten the best of me in the past, but after a morning of ripping around the Whiteface Mountain Bike Park I know I’ll be heading back with some friends in the very near future. I’ve caught the mountain biking itch!
The mountain biking park at Whiteface Mountain has 27 trails that span the spectrum of difficulty. Whether you’re a hardcore rider (think 2,500 feet in vertical, loose rocks, and drop offs) or just beginning, like myself, you’ll be completely satisfied as you ride all day. The trails are also very well kept, so for a first timer like myself it added a level of comfort as I rode.
At the main base lodge at Whiteface Mountain, I was greeted by “Downhill” Mike. Since this was my first time on knobby tires he walked me through the different mountain bike styles and had me test two bikes so I could feel the difference. Now, I’m not a complete stranger to bikes. I do a bunch of road cycling so I am pretty comfortable on a bike. It’s when you throw rocks, roots, and steep downhills into the mix that I get a bit timid. Mike set me up with everything, shin pads, elbow pads, and a full facemask helmet (a nice bright shade of pink, too). Then it was out to the shuttle bus. The ride up the mountain (about a quarter of the way up the mountain for the easier intermediate trails) is quick and enjoyable. There is a good chance you’ll share a seat on your ride up. Downhill Mike’s four legged fuzzy, Trace, is a great seat partner though.
Once you reach the drop off, Mike gives you some tips and shows you some suggested trails to start with. From there, it’s gear up and get ready to rip down the mountain. Mike suggested I get some flowy runs in first, and that “True Blue” was running really nicely the morning I went. I rode the one minute cat track (a traverse ride across the mountain) to the True Blue trail sign, #10, and got ready to drop in. It took me a minute to get used to the full suspension bike under me, mainly because I didn’t have to brace myself for every rock or root I saw coming up. That’s the benefit of having top notch gear to rent though — your comfort level and confidence level go way up automatically!
True Blue was my favorite trail of the day, the winding berms allowed me to pump downhill and pick up really good speed. Yes, I did brake check myself a few times in the beginning. Once comfortable I loved the feeling of the wind blowing by me, feeling the bike flex under me as I went over rocks and roots, and the burn forming in my quads and core as I supported myself. While it is easy to find yourself bombing down run after run, do yourself a favor and stop to take in the views that Whiteface Mountain has to offer. You’ll be winding through the forest and then come out to a vista of the surrounding High Peaks that is breathtaking. If you have the time, take the gondola to the top of Little Whiteface to really take in the views.
Beginners, a half day rental package is probably perfect for you, although I did find myself wishing I had more time. Just as my day was ending I really started to link together runs that felt smooth and comfortable. The steeper downhills felt more inviting, the angles I was taking on the berms felt comfortable, and my confidence was soaring. What may have only been a foot of air off the mini jumps set up throughout the trails felt like five feet of air. So, what I am trying to say is a half day is good but a full day is highly recommended, even for beginners.
My day at the Whiteface Mountain Bike Park was one that will stay with me for a long time. It was my first real mountain bike experience. The trails were inviting while also providing you with a challenge. So if you’re looking to experience something new, bolster your riding skills, or are training for an upcoming downhill race, Whiteface Mountain Bike Park is a place you should definitely experience. I can’t wait to go back!
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