I realized today that most of my posts have been about commuting, so this one is going to be a tribute to my new love: mountain biking. How many times have I rode the trails, you ask? A whopping 5 times! So, no, I’m not an expert, and, yes, I’ve taken a fall or two trying to keep up with my more experienced trail partners. My legs are starting to look as bruised and scratched as they did when I was 10 and spent much of my time outside climbing trees. It doesn’t matter – the trees, fresh air, and adrenaline have me hooked.
To give you a little background, my husband and I decided to try mountain biking after our return from a recent ski trip to Park City, Utah. We love to ski out West (Whistler and Jackson Hole are our favorites), but find it hard to hit the slopes more than once or twice a year. We’ve always considered living in a ski town, but also feel a commitment to Indianapolis. So, after our latest itch to pack up and move West, we thought we should explore some activities in Indy that would excite our senses in the same way that skiing does.
Hoosier Mountain Biking Association to the rescue! After a quick Google search, I had all the information I needed to get started on my MTBing journey. The HMBA site is a great resource for anyone starting out. To respect the integrity of the trails and the land, it’s imperative that cyclists only take to the trails when the conditions are right. The HMBA homepage makes this easy, with a list of all the main MTB trails in Indiana and a red (no go), yellow (use caution), or green (go forth and have a blast!) light next to each. This can be disappointing, especially when you get all your gear ready before checking the trail status…which happened to me last Tuesday.
So, what do you need to know before you go?
- Mountain bikers are generally very courteous, especially to beginners. Don’t feel bad about the fact that you can’t go over obstacles right away or keep up with your trail mates, just move to the side and let people pass.
- You don’t need a ton of gear to get started. My mid-range bike (Trek 4300) has taken all the abuse a beginner can give it and still works beautifully. A helmet is a must and bike gloves are a good idea. Beyond that, you don’t need much. The rest is mostly for the comfort of the rider, not necessary required for the budget-conscious beginner.
- Trail etiquette is important. Like any sport where safety is a concern, it’s imperative that beginners read up on the “rules of the road.”
- Some trails are better than others for beginners. I can’t say much about this, since I’ve spent all my time at Fort Harrison and Brown County State Park. I will continue to ride Fort Harrison because it’s the closest trail to my house, but I would recommend a place like Brown County State Park for beginners. They have at least 2 beginner trails (Pine Loop is wonderful!) and several intermediate trails, while Fort Harrison is still under development with only 1 intermediate complete, 1 under construction, and 1 beginner trail that is almost too easy (but still fun!)
After a ride, it’s always nice to stop for a locally crafted brew and some food truck grub. Triton has been our spot after our weekday rides at Fort Harrison.
If you have any additional tips for beginning mountain bikers, leave a comment! Follow me (@hoosierbikegirl) for news, updates, stories and more.