Before this day, the extent of my mountain biking experience was a few steeper trails in Connecticut. And like you probably could have guessed, wasn’t that difficult of terrain. But hey! It looked like an awesome time and the expectation lived up to the experience!
A few minutes on google leads me to a new mountain up in Massachusetts, Thunder Mountain Bike park at the Berkshire East Ski Resort. None of my friends had any interest in doing some lift-access mountain biking, when excuses ranged from, “I don’t have the right bike for it” to “It sounds dangerous and I don’t want to get hurt.” Whatever, they missed out. So I ended up driving up by myself on a beautiful Saturday morning in August. When I arrived at the mountain, the parking lot was full of cars (which is weird to see at a resort in summer) and had to dodge bikers that were flying around the lot between cars.
Got what little gear I owned on while in the parking lot, then rode up the trial to the lodge to pick-up my pass, only to see dozens and dozens of riders flying down the trails, funneling to the lift along with me. I won’t lie, I was definitely nervous about getting my bike onto the specialized 3 bike rack lift for the first time. I did not want to be the guy that holds up the lift… No one wants to be that guy. Two guys from New Hampshire joined me for one of the longest lifts in the North East… Longest duration that is. They invited me to follow them on some green trails before they hopped off onto some more difficult ones.
As I headed down the first trail, I originally thought to myself, “Zach, you can ski anything, this should be no problem. Everyone can ride a bike.” Boy was I wrong. Those guys flew through the trails that I was spending most of my time braking on the turns that they were cruising through. But the trail was so much fun and so challenging at first. Lap after lap, I was picking up speed and staying off the brakes almost entirely. I began to corner correctly from high side down to the inside corners, catching air off all the rollers, and navigating all the rock sections correctly. By lap 5, six separate groups of people had asked me if I was riding a hardtail bike, to which I had to say, “yes…” Note to self: Rent a downhill bike next time! It wasn’t bad but my wrists were pretty sore the next day from absorbing all the vibrations that a rear shock would take. I was limited to all the greens and blues because I wouldn’t have been able to take the drops and some of the constant rock sections as well on a hard-tail.
My favorite part of the day was the jumps trail. Unlike ski jumps that have launch ramps into landings, these were all just tabletops with steeper lips for the launch. So if you didn’t have enough speed (i.e.: me on every single one during my first attempt) you just rode across the top of the jump and no falls or bails resulted.
Don’t Forget to::
-Bring/Rent a downhill mountain bike. You will have way more fun.
-Keep drinking water at the base, camelback, or at the summit. You sweat way more than you think with all that gear on.
-Ride with a partner/group at all times, not only for safety, you can match their speeds for all the corners and jumps correctly.
-Don’t think skiing knowledge will translate to DH Mountain biking trails