Authored by 2022 Kaden Ambassador Cheryl Brodowski.
I’ve only been mountain biking for a couple years (it’s a great new sport to pick up during a pandemic), and one of the many things I absolutely love about it is the places it takes you. The trails, the terrain, the views, the towns and lunch stops along the way… you really get to experience a region. And for me, so far that has mostly meant experiencing different regions in Vermont (which are all amazing!).
As much as I LOVE Vermont, I was excited at the idea of going on vacation primarily surrounding mountain biking and seeing a new region. So, earlier this year, I did! I wanted to share a little bit about how it went and what I learned.
Choosing the destination:
There’s no shortage of mountain biking destinations across the US; Moab, Sedona, Bellingham, Park City all quickly came to mind. However, when discussing the trip, my spouse and I decided for a number of reasons that we preferred to go somewhere within driving distance from Vermont. Fortunately, the East Coast has plenty to offer. I found an article about Brevard, NC and the more we researched and read, the more I was sold – and so we booked it.
Planning and tips:
Even though we did a fair amount of research in advance, once there were 7 days of mountain bike vacation to plan, I was definitely nervous about the trails, my abilities, my fitness, etc.Here are some tips that I will keep top of mind the next time I plan and embark on a mountain bike vacation:
You don’t have to do everything. If you’re visiting a region that has a lot of trails nearby (Brevard, NC has at least 200 miles of singletrack within a 30-mile radius), you’re likely not going to ride it all in a week, so don’t get frustrated if you can’t find ways to pack it all in.
On day 1, find a baseline and get to know the region. Since I didn’t really know what style the trails were or how they were rated, we found a network with lots of blue trails to ride. It gave us a good understanding for the trail ratings and signage in the area, along with what kind of mileage we could expect to cover and the types of technical features we’d see (in NC, river crossing and long doubletrack climbs were a norm).
Ask the locals. Once we had that first day of riding under our belt, we found a bike shop/food truck/bar establishment to hang out at and did some chatting. Mountain bikers are super friendly and are happy to talk about their trails, so we were able to say “we rode X and felt good on it, what else should we try?” All the recommendations really helped us decide the “must do” trails for later in the week.
Rest days are important. After day 3 my bike saddle was getting painful in a way I hadn’t experienced before and I could tell my legs needed a break. So, we took a day to do other things – we hiked, went horseback riding, visited the Blue Ridge Parkway, and had a happy hour overlooking waterfalls.
Remember that it’s a vacation! When I ride after work or on the weekend, I don’t often take the time to session features or take all the photos. But, on vacation we remembered to take our time. Also, we decided not to care about what we looked like when we visited wineries after biking one day.
The trails are new to you, you will mess up. I’ve found that knowing a trail like the back of your hand, or at all, is super helpful to riding it well. That’s not going to be possible on vacation, so don’t get down on yourself if you feel a little out of sorts. Also, we missed a turn and climbed an extra mile in very hot weather one day… it happens. Again, local riders were super helpful in getting us back on track.
Paying for the Trailforks app was worth it. ☺
My biggest takeaway – just like in my home state, my internal fears and nervousness about being able to ride the trails or find routes that my abilities could handle were unwarranted. Don’t let being a beginner hold you back from getting outside your trail comfort zone!
These are, of course, my unprofessional thoughts regarding mountain bike vacations! I’d be curious to know what else has been helpful for others who have traveled to unknown regions to mountain bike.
Happy vacationing and happy biking!