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Mountain Biking Insider Tips

Insider Tips from Local Mountain Biking Experts Philip Keyes &
Rob Adair

Want to work a little outdoor adventure into your summer vacation? The vast network of New Hampshire mountain biking trails provides the perfect escape route from your day job to the Granite State’s deep winding woods and forest-fresh air. To guide you, we caught up with two local mountain biking experts from the New England Mountain Biking Association (NEMBA); Philip Keyes who has been the Executive Director of NEMBA since the position was created in 1998, and Rob Adair, President of NEMBA’s White Mountain chapter for the past decade.

The Trails

How did New Hampshire become a sought-after summer mountain biking destination? “What’s happened is that groups like NEMBA partner with land management agencies to build trails that mountain bikers really want to ride,” says Keyes. “The old trails were old cart roads or hiking paths, so they tended to be wider and not a super-great experience for mountain bikers. Mountain bikers tend to want a tight, twisty single-track that has a lot of turns and challenges...Recently we’ve been building trails for mountain bikers that are ‘died-and-gone-to-heaven’ type of single-track trails.”

Adair gets specific, noting while it’s still fairly under the radar, the Albany Town Forest in Conway is a wonderful place for all abilities to ride. “It’s great to take beginners, but if you’re an advanced rider it’s also really cool because it’s smooth, fast and flowing and rides along the river,” he says. “NEMBA’s White Mountains chapter assisted with restoration of those trails and constructed the west ends of the Swift River and Davis Farm trails. These are scenic single-track trails with no real hills and only a few rocky spots.” Adair also stresses just how many miles of trails riders have to choose from in the area.

Technique

Sure, you never forget how to ride a bike once you learn, but when it comes to mountain biking and the rugged off-road terrain of New Hampshire, you’ll need to pick up some additional skills to attack the hills.

“When you’re mountain biking and going up or down a steep hill, you want to know the proper technique,” says Keyes. “Especially when it comes to braking. There’s a lot of skill involved.” For example, keeping just one or two fingers on the brake and using the others to maintain control can help ensure you use them progressively—not hitting them too hard. Keyes also recommends tapping into the knowledge of experienced riders, suggesting one of the thousands of group rides NEMBA organizes.

The Bike

This isn’t the place to bring your racing bike or BMX. Mountain bikes were specifically designed for, well, mountains. “Right now bike technology has improved so much that even with a low or mid-level bike you’re getting some very sophisticated technology,” says Keyes. “You’re getting a bike with front suspension, maybe even rear suspension. That’s going to keep you much more in control. They also come with disc brakes which are much more resistant to water, snow and whatnot.” Don’t have your own? There are mountain bike rentals available across New Hampshire, particularly at resorts in the White Mountains Region, highlights Adair.


What (and Who) to Bring

Bring your helmet, snacks, water and a friend. “You also have to bring a little know-how with you,” says Keyes. “There’s a strong sense of self-efficiency in mountain biking—taking care of yourself and fixing things yourself. It’s important for people getting into this sport to change a flat and make basic adjustments on their bike.” So make sure you have a multi-tool, a water bottle or hydration pack, a bike pump and a spare tube too!

What to Wear

We’ve all seen people riding bikes in tight pants and bike jerseys. And while you may question their fashion sense, ultimately, they wear what works. To stay dry and comfortable, Keyes recommends wearing synthetic moisture wicking materials like Lycra jersey, as opposed to cotton. “Some have pockets, some are more like leisure wear. You don’t need a lot of clothes,” he says. Some riders also wear fingerless mitts in the summer to help absorb the shock of bumpy terrain on their hands and padded shorts to ease soreness from the seat.

Trail Etiquette

In addition to all of the above, it’s important to abide by some basic biking rules. Trail etiquette is what keeps New Hampshire’s many trails in great condition and it keeps your fellow bikers, hikers and horses happy.

Keyes advises: “Only ride on trails that are open to biking; not all trails are. Also, ‘leave no trace.’ Don’t go riding on super-wet, muddy trails that are going to be damaged by hiking or biking. Don’t cut through trails. Pack in what you pack out. Control your bicycle. Make sure you’re not running off the trail or running into other people. As far as yielding, there’s a posted triangle. Bikers should yield to equestrians and pedestrians. You should never scare animals. If you’re going by an equestrian you have to be very careful. We recommend getting off your bike and asking if it’s okay to go on. Horses have a different DNA.”