Hey Roofnest Flock, Tim Nickles here.
From the Appalachian Mountains to the Sierra Nevadas, there’s hardly a corner of our great country where you can’t find a new mountain bike trail to enjoy.
Whether you find yourself wandering a new city while on a business trip or stopping off in a small town along your road trip route, nothing beats taking time out for yourself to explore new trails on your two-wheeled friend.
But relying on a basic Google search could leave you jostling for space on the most populated trails in the area, wishing you knew where all the best kept secrets were hiding.
The bottom line is, no one owes you the best kept secrets and inner knowledge of their local biking scene. But there are ways you can earn the respect of local riders, which can put you in their good graces and give you access to incredible trails you wouldn’t have found on your own.
I’ve picked up a few tricks of my own while on the road, and below are my 3 biggest tips for riding like a local no matter where you are.
1. Order a Round of Apps
When we say order a round of apps, we unfortunately don’t mean a plate of nachos for the table. We mean downloading a few of our favorite mountain bike trail-finding applications on your smart phone to help you locate the best rides wherever you are.
We love Trailforks for several reasons: not only does it list all the best mountain bike trailheads by region, but it also provides maintenance and seasonality reports, allows you to plan complicated ride routes, and has a ride log where you can keep track of all the rides you’ve done throughout the year.
You even have the option to add GPS tracks to your rides to identify which trails you rode & compare your time with other riders. Trailforks utilizes this user data to create heat maps of local trails in the area, so you can either gravitate toward the most popular rides or take the road less traveled.
MTB Project is part community resource, part easy-to-use trail finder that allows users to explore over 138,330 miles of mountain bike trails across the country. You can filter your trail search through qualities like:
- Trail Type
- User Rating
- Elevation and more
MTB Project’s user forums allow you to read or ask questions about specific trails in the area so you can glean some local knowledge and tips. You can also post photos and even browse a list of any biking or outdoor clubs in the area.
2. Volunteer Your Time
From a Facebook group to an online forum to a simple Google search, most areas with great mountain bike riding have a local bike club that do trail work, events, and more (like the Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz).
To get integrated into the scene, contact one of the clubs and volunteer a few hours to help out with trail work. Even if you’re brand new to trail building, they’ll be happy to have an extra pair of hands. You’ll earn the respect of these riders and get in good graces with the locals who know the best kept secrets in the area — like which trails to avoid at which hours, and other hidden gems.
While you’re on Facebook, look for group rides in the area. Many of these groups have hundreds of people in them, so you can hop onto an upcoming group ride, or contact a few members to set one up on your own.
3. Get Extra Extroverted
Everyone hates the word networking, but there’s no doubt that getting talkative will help you connect with local riders and find the best-kept secrets.
Whether you’re parking at a trailhead or are at a coffee shop and see someone pull up with a mountain bike in tow, strike up a conversation and ask where they like to ride. Sometimes you can glean more from a ten-minute conversation than you can from an hour of online research.
Another good source of information is a local bike shop. Head in and make a small purchase, say a $10 tube, and get friendly with the staff (the mechanics are probably the best bet). Pepper the conversation with questions about where they like to ride and voilà, you’re ready to take off with a local rider’s compass at your disposal.
Last but not least, remember to be prepared to offer some local nuggets of your own from wherever you’re from. If you make the conversation a valuable exchange for the other rider, you’re likely to actually make a friend in the area — who knew!
Not a local to Colorado? Here’s a good way to find some of the best rides in the area — IMBA curates lists of rides for all the states called “Epics” – here’s their list for Colorado!