Friday, August 3, 2012

Mountain biking at SMBA: when is riding no longer “just” cross-training?

Riding at SMBA.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.
I haven't posted much about mountain biking this summer, but I’ve been riding once or twice a week since April. Recently – since June - I've been splitting my time between SMBA and the trails on the Saratoga County forestland (the Kalabus-Perry parcel) out my back door. The two are only about 5 miles apart as the crow flies, yet the terrain and trails couldn't be more different. The K-P county forest parcel is part of the Saratoga Sandplains and the trails are smooth and fast, not a rock or a root in sight. SMBA’s terrain, on the other hand, is what you’d expect from the foothills of the Adirondacks: bedrock is close to the surface, there are beaver flows and wetlands, rocks and roots are everywhere, the trails are technical and challenging.

When I started mountain biking last summer I called it "cross-training." To be sure, riding has improved my running, and vice-versa. I still call running my primary summer sport, but over the past few months riding has become something more than “just” cross-training.

There’s no doubt that riding at SMBA, and particularly Blue Sky’s Thursday night group rides at SMBA (last night’s ride was my fourth or fifth), have helped me ride better and stronger this summer. But don't mistake my enthusiasm for expertise. Being reasonably fit has helped, but I'm still learning basic technical skills: shifting my weight on the bike, climbing, cadence, bunny-hopping a log smoothly, avoiding granny gear. I carry a spare tube and a pump, but if I get a flat while I'm riding I'll probably have to walk my bike out of the woods.

Full-day trips to destinations like the Kingdom Trails aren’t in the cards for me, but I am looking to check out a few more local riding options like Luther Forest, Spier Falls and the Schenectady Central Park trails. I’d love to get a chance to ride the BETA trails in Wilmington. And I’d like to try a local, low-key race (hmm…), even if I finish dead last. Of course, once I pin on a race number, it’s definitely more than just cross-training.


  1. The bug has bitten you.

    I am in about the same boat, except that I have no interest in racing. As fitness and biking skills improve, however, I find that I want to go faster, especially on group rides, which has resulted in a few crashes. Currently recovering from bruised ribs after the last trip over the handlebars. MTBing is the best summer training for tree skiing, IMO.

  2. The Kingdom Trails are pretty amazing, but I've only ever run there rather than riding. I did a run last year there on some terrain that I couldn't believe people were riding. Well, a lot of them were walking at times. I've learned over the years that if I want to run there, I need to start early before the cyclists arrive by the thousands.