A Beginner’s Guide to Mountain Biking in the Catskills
It may sound funny since you probably grew up riding a bike, but mountain biking for the first time is a whole different story from getting together with friends to ride around after school or explore dirt roads around town. There will be obstacles, there will be tree roots and rocks, there will be times you do not understand how your body is moving one way, while your tires are taking you in a completely opposite direction. This is normal.
So – how do you handle this as a new-to-mountain-biker? Stay loose and let the bike work. Mountain biking tires are made to tackle and roll over uneven surfaces. That is why mountain bike tires have so much tread on them – to grip tree roots and rocks, and to keep the bike stable on shifting surfaces like sand or loose dirt.
A great thing to do is to take your bike out on flat surfaces and test how the breaks handle, how the shifters work and get comfortable in the saddle. A great place to go for your first mountain bike ride is on Greene County’s Huckleberry Trail or on the Windham Path. These easy-to-access trails are ideal for beginners to the sport and groups with multi-level riders.
It’s pure instinct, but one of the first responses we have to encounter a tree root or stone in our path is to slam on our breaks, which usually ends in tears and scraped shins. Instead of gripping your breaks when you encounter something on the trail, pedal harder to maintain momentum. It makes clearing tougher sections of trails much easier.
Once you’ve found your rhythm and have successfully pedaled through some more challenging terrain, head to the Tannersville-Hathaway Trail System where mountain bike trails offer a beginner-friendly place to practice your skills and build confidence.
One of the best things you can learn when beginning to mountain bike is how to handle your weight on the bike. Once you’re in the saddle, you don’t just stay there. You move with the terrain as much as your bike does. When you’re pedaling downhill, your weight shifts back and you can even come off the seat and balance on your pedals. This ensures that you stay balanced and don’t flip over the handlebars. When you’re pedaling uphill, your weight shifts forward. In fact, it’s kind of rare for you to stay seated while mountain biking unless you’re on a very smooth surface. That’s what makes it really fun!
The Great Northern Catskills’ mountain biking trails provide terrain for every level of mountain biker, and it's easy to progress from one trail network to another when you’re ready. In fact, there are more than 120 miles of mountain biking trails in Greene County – including the downhill mountain biking trails found at Windham Mountain Bike Park. Bike rentals, lessons, and kid-friendly experiences make this a solid place to start out if you want to learn how to mountain bike and a) don’t have the equipment, and b) don’t know what you’re doing.
The bottom line for being a beginner in a new sport, especially when it comes to learning how to mountain bike, is to have fun and enjoy the ride.