The very first mountain bikers were not thrill-seekers looking to conquer narrow trails strewn with jagged rocks and a gauntlet of monolithic stone rising above them. They were actually Buffalo Soldiers with the 10th Cavalry Regiment. This all African-American unit rode modified bicycles while serving in the Indian Wars as well as the Spanish American war. The bikes were designed for the servicemen to use in off-road expeditions from Missoula, Montana to Yellowstone.
No matter the historic legacy of mountain biking, today’s experience is all about a two-wheeled adventure for adrenaline-seeking daredevils. Types of mountain biking include cross-country, winter downhill, free ride, endurance biking and extreme biking.
The sport even has a governing body—The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA). And the organization recommends the following:
Mountain biking is an extreme sport, so make sure you’re all geared up before hitting the trail. A helmet is a must, and no biker should ever begin to pedal without one. Elbow pads and knee pads can also be worn to help prevent bumps, bruises and scrapes for that inevitable occasional fall.
Know Your Limits
Some areas of the trail will be more treacherous than others. If you don’t feel comfortable riding forward, get off your seat and walk your bike to safer ground. There’s nothing embarrassing about avoiding unnecessary risk.
Survey the Trail
Before you go up, down or around any hills, go for a slow, leisurely ride to scope out what’s along the trail. Should you ride up to a section that looks challenging, stop to see what’s ahead. And always be aware of blind corners. If you can’t see past something, neither can other riders.
Use Common Sense
If you think riding over an obstacle or performing stunts is a bad idea, you’re probably right. Trust your instincts, use caution and work your way up to difficult riding situations. Those are the best ways to make sure you ride another day.
Experience all three great two-wheelin’ mountain biking destinations:
3 Mile Smile via Badger Pass | Las Vegas, NV
This trail starts off moderate, but gradually steepens to a saddle ridge in the mountain with spectacular views. There are switchbacks at the top that allow riders to follow tracks that extend for great distances. The trail is lined with several mild jumps and the rocky White Rhino section, an exciting and challenging diversion from the smoother trails above it. 3 Mile Smile via Badger Pass is easy to navigate and its stable terrain makes it suitable mountain bikers of all skill levels. This a great desert activity the entire family can enjoy together.
• 9.6 Miles
• 1,127-Foot Ascent
• -1,125-Foot Descent
• 4,862 Feet High
• 3,960 Feet Low
• 4% Average Grade (3°)
• 19% Maximum Grade (11°)
North Country Trail—Marilla Trailhead | Mesick Village, MI
The climbs on this trail are fiercely steep and cut through the sides of Michigan’s magnificent mountains. The majority of climbing takes place during the first 9 miles of the trail until crossing North Coates Highway. Some riders elect to turn around at this point—but those that continue see very little traffic as the trail narrows into a singetrack that stretches into areas that are more and more remote. Riders can go as far as their stamina allows, but will need to reserve some energy for the fast-paced trip down the side of a ridge to the bottom of the trail.
Please be aware that hunters share North Country Trail—Marilla Trailhead November 15-30. Wear orange or plan to stay off the trail during those dates.
• 28.9 Miles
• 2,589-Foot Ascent
• -2,590-Foot Descent
• 1,121 Feet High
• 740 Feet Low
• 3% Average Grade (2°)
• 17% Maximum Grade (10°)
Hangover Trail | Sedona, AZ
This is one of the best mountain biking trails in Sedona, Arizona. It’s rated as extremely difficult because the trail shoots up to a saddle that juts through the middle of two enormous red rock formations rising up from beneath the canyon. The extreme nature of this trail is even more evident because the ride takes place on slickrock, with roll-offs, step-ups and off camber sections. And at 200 feet above the canyon floor, the appropriately named Hangover Trail can make even experienced riders feel a bit woozy.
• 3.2 Miles
• 244-Foot Ascent
• -753-Foot Descent
• 5,224 Feet High
• 4,673 Feet Low
• 6% Average Grade (3°)
• 36% Maximum Grade (20°)