Passionate members of Southern Vermont’s mountain biking community share tips on mountain bike etiquette, safety, preparedness, and gear maintenance
STORY BY BENJAMIN LERNER
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY STRATTON MOUNTAIN RESORT
As the sun shines down from the summer sky, the beautiful hills of Southern Vermont beckon mountain bikers of all skill levels to enjoy memorable moments of healthy recreation. Whether you’re an established mountain biker or a total newcomer to the sport, the phenomenal Mountain Bike Park at Stratton and the lovingly-maintained public trail systems in Bennington and Rutland County offer a spectacular riding experience. Before embarking on your unforgettable summertime mountain biking adventures, take a moment to brush up on these valuable etiquette, safety, preparedness, and gear maintenance tips. Provided by integral members of the Southern Vermont mountain biking community, these suggestions are sure to help you make the most of your time on the trails.
Bike Park Manager
Stratton Mountain Resort
Stratton Mountain Resort’s Bike Park Manager Tony Bailey goes above and beyond to ensure that every mountain biker who comes to Stratton enjoys a safe and pleasurable ride. “Safety is paramount,” says Bailey. “You want to make sure to ride within your skill level and get to know the trails before you take them on at speed. I always like to say that whenever you’re riding a trail, you should ‘pre-ride it, re-ride it, and then free-ride it.’ If you approach the trails in that manner, you can get familiar with the terrain before you start to open up and cut loose with your riding.”
For novice riders at Stratton who are looking to properly prepare for a fun day out on the trails, First Run Sports in Stratton Mountain Village offers full-suspension bike rentals and lessons. Visiting riders can also rent helmets, knee pads, and elbow pads. In terms of apparel, Bailey suggests investing in a long sleeve shirt or bike jersey to protect from scuffs, brush and scrapes. Tight-fitting pants with elastic ankles are best to prevent pant legs getting stuck in bike chains, and it’s also important to wear closed-toe shoes.
Over the past several years, Bailey has worked closely with Sinuosity, a Vermont-based trail building firm, to expand the Stratton Bike Park’s trail system. Together, they will finish building out the first three phases of construction this summer, which will bring several new elements to the park. A “Skills Park” at the bottom of the mountain will allow novice riders to practice fundamentals in a relaxed and approachable setting, and a “Jump Trail” will give seasoned riders a chance to showcase their aerial skills.
Bailey says that the Bike School at Stratton Mountain is ideal for riders who are looking to improve their skills. Lessons are available both in the morning and afternoon, as well as group and family lessons. “Stratton’s instructors cater the mountain biking lessons to their students,” says Bailey. “The lessons focus on all aspects of mountain biking technique, including shifting, braking, and proper riding stance. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the basics of the sport.”
Bailey is also a biking coach at Burr & Burton Academy (BBA) in Manchester. He is grateful to be able to work with local students to help foster their love of mountain biking. “I’ve always had a passion for teaching others,” says Bailey. “It’s great to see the progress that the kids make.
Woodworking teacher and Mountain Bike Coach
Burr & Burton Academy
As a Mountain Bike Coach at BBA, Jon Mowry is proud to work with Tony Bailey” “and several other knowledgeable coaches to help BBA’s students reach their athletic potential. In addition to bringing the BBA mountain bike team to the Stratton Mountain Bike Park for practices and competitive events, Mowry also likes to take them to the Northshire Area Trail System (NATS) in Northern Bennington County. He believes that all riders heading out onto public trails should follow several important etiquette rules.
First of all, downhill riders should always yield to uphill riders. Although uphill riders get the right of way, Mowry still tells his students to pull over and stop for down- hill riders. He adds that riders need to be respectful of hikers who are sharing trail space on trails that are open to both hikers and bikers – especially hikers with pets. “Mountain bikers should always yield to pedestrians regardless of which direction they’re traveling in.”
“As a Board Member of NATS, Mowry is deeply involved in local efforts to maintain and build Southern Vermont’s trail systems. He says that it’s critically important to not ride the trails when they are wet. “If you leave tracks and ruts on the trail, you should not be riding on it.” He emphasizes that bikers who are riding” “down narrow “single track” trails should stay in the middle of them. “The idea is to keep the ‘single track’ trails at the same width. If there’s a wet spot or a rock in the middle of the trail, people often start riding around it. That can quickly degrade the whole trail system and cause unnecessary erosion.” “Mowry encourages bikers of all skill levels to join Vermont Mountain Bike Association (VMBA) and become actively involved in their local mountain biking community. “When you sign up for VMBA, you get to choose a local chapter, as well, such as NATS. Half of your membership dues go to VMBA, and half go to the local chapter that you choose. We did a membership drive earlier in the year, in which r.k. Miles matched all of the membership fees that we collected until the end of April. We’re using the funds from that drive to develop the Raptor Lane Trails in Dorset.” Some of the trails at Raptor Lane are being designed and built by Sinuosity, which is the same firm that designed and built the Stratton Mountain Bike Park. NATS welcomes donations from all of their member riders, and also appreciates every rider that joins in their cleanup and trail maintenance efforts.
Mowry says that organized trail cleanup events (which are promoted through the official NATS social media pages) provide fantastic opportunities to network with other local mountain bikers in the area. “You can also do small things when you’re riding the trails to aid in cleanup efforts. If you’re riding and there’s a stick in the trail, take a moment to stop and move it out of the way. All of that work makes a difference.”
Mountain bikers looking to ride Southern Vermont’s public trails should familiarize themselves with the Trailforks app, which allows riders to view and download trail maps of the public trail systems that they are visiting. “If a trail system is on Trailforks, it’s a reliable indicator that its open for public use,” notes Mowry. “You can also find trail maps for local systems online, such as the Mount Equinox Trail system behind BBA. The maps indicate which public trails are open for mountain biking and which are exclusively reserved for hiking.” The NATS website (natsvt.org) is a great resource for finding local riding options with links to the Trailforks maps. Other notable trail systems in Southern Vermont include the Slate Valley Trails in Poultney, Pine Hill Park in Rutland, and the Bennington Area Trail System (BATS). Maps for each of those trail systems are also available online through their web- sites.”
High Performance Director
Stratton Mountain School
Joe Colotti is a consummate athlete who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of health and fitness. As the Stratton Mountain School’s (SMS) High Performance Director, he works closely with the venerated winter sports academy’s students to help them achieve their athletic performance goals. Colotti’s resumé includes years of experience as a Major and Minor league baseball strength coach and exercise science professional. He is also an avid mountain biker who has competed as a member of the Team Granite MTB mountain bike team at several high-profile events.
According to Colotti, a mountain biker’s overall fitness plays a very important role. “Having a level of baseline fitness is going” “to help you enjoy your ride even more. Cycling is primarily an aerobic sport, and aerobic fitness can be achieved in many ways.” In addition to training on public trails and at the Stratton Bike Park, Colotti recommends that riders diversify their conditioning routines to include aerobic endurance training, core strength training, and leg strength training. “Leg strength training is especially important if you plan to ride for over an hour. Core strength comes into play when you are riding on more technically-demanding terrain. Maintaining a good center-of-mass position on the bike helps you keep your balance through tricky trail sections.” Colotti adds that proper core strength training can also help to prevent injuries and muscle fatigue. “If you properly prepare for the riding season with core strength training, you can help reduce the stress on your lower back.” For skiers and snowboarders, mountain biking can serve as a wonderful off-season sport. “There is an unbelievable synergy between the skills used in snowboarding, skiing, and mountain biking,” notes Colotti. In addition to the cardiovascular endurance benefits and balance skills, mountain biking offers athletes the ability to better their mitigation and assessment skills. Mountain bikers have to watch the terrain, choose a line, and check the surface conditions in a manner that closely parallels an athlete that is racing on skis or a snowboard.
Colotti adds that the core values that define mountain biking culture are directly in line with SMS’ underlying “B.E.A.R.S.” philosophy. He elaborates: “B.E.A.R.S. stands for ‘Bravery, Effort, Accountability, Respect, and Strength.’ Mountain biking takes all of those. You have to be brave to take on a challenging downhill trail, and it takes effort to complete a difficult uphill” “climb. You also have to be accountable to other riders on the trail and be respectful of your natural surroundings. Lastly, you have to be strong to be a good mountain biker. That goes far beyond physical strength. In order to complete a challenging ride, you have to have a strong mind, as well.”
Owner of Battenkill Bicycles
Located in Downtown Manchester, Battenkill Bicycles is a well-stocked and inviting shop that features a vast range of top-of-the-line mountain bikes, eBikes, fitness & urban bikes, road bikes, and gravel bikes from brands such as Specialized, Trek, and Electra. Rentals of road bikes, hybrid bikes, and mountain bikes are also available, and bike apparel from high-quality brands such as Garneau and Specialized is sold on-site, as well.” “The Trek Wavecell helmets at Battenkill Bicycles have been clinically proven to be up to 48 times more likely to prevent concussions, and their Garmin cycling computers and rearview radar lights are must-have accessories for prolific riders. Battenkill Bicycles is staffed by approachable and knowledgeable bike enthusiasts, including its owner, Barrack Evans. Evans is an active member of the Southern Vermont cycling community. After purchasing Battenkill Bicycles from Robin and Amy Verner in 2016, Evans has continued to build their devoted following of loyal customers over the past six years. Battenkill Bicycles is well-known for its reliable and reasonably-priced maintenance and repair services, and the store serves as a community hub for the local cyclists and mountain bikers. For mountain bikes, Evans recommends a basic tune-up at least once a year, depending on how heavily the bike”is used. A full-tune up includes a comprehensive cleaning and degreasing of the bike, a cleaning and relubrication of the chain, and an adjustment of the brakes and shifting mechanisms. In addition, nuts and bolts are tightened to torque specifications; bearings, hubs, and bottom brackets are adjusted; and the tension of the wheel spokes is readjusted to make sure that the wheels are “true” in their alignment. Additional specific brake, drivetrain, suspension fork, accessory installation, and wheel installation services are available upon request.
“The tune up gives you a general idea of the state of the bike and what things need to be addressed,” says Evans. Battenkill Bicycles’ Bike Technician, Greg Mees, adds that although novice mountain bikers would be wise to bring their bikes in for” “regular maintenance, there are certain tools that are essential for riders who are interested in doing minor repairs at home. “For home repairs, you’ll need some good metric Allen wrenches, a chain tool, chain lubricant, and some tire levers to replace tires. We also sell some good portable multi-tools here at Battenkill Bicycles that you can carry with you on the trail. It’s always a good idea to bring one along with you in case you have some mechanical issues during your ride.”
Evans encourages all riders enjoying the trails in Southern Vermont to install the Strava application on their smartphones. “It’s a social networking application for athletes,” says Evans. “It uses GPS data to record and track your rides, and it’s a great way to connect with other riders.” A unique beacon feature on the Strava application allows riders to link a chosen emergency contact to their account, who receives automatic text messages with details of the rider’s location. The application feature allows for up-to-date GPS tracking in remote locations.
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