Recently, I gave mountain biking another try. This was my second try at the sport, after my first time last summer was kind of a “fail”. At the recommendation of a co-worker, my husband and I went to Hillman State Park (also known as Bavington) , and we hoped that the trails were a bit more beginner-friendly than at Brady’s Run Park, which is basically a super-steep valley. Another aspect that drew us to Bavington is that the reviews that we read online said that as far as PA parks go, the trails stay pretty dry due to all of the pine needles. This time of year, that’s extremely important. You don’t want to bike on muddy trails, and it has rained a lot lately.
Indeed, the trails were mostly dry due to all of the pine needles. Just some mud in low-lying areas, which is to be expected. The trails were what my husband considered to be “intermediate” level – still lots of hills, twists, and turns (this is Pennsylvania, after all) but there were flat(ter) portions where you could catch your breath. I was scared at first, but after falling in the parking lot (let’s not talk about that!) I didn’t fall again. I did have to get off my bike and walk about 30% of the time. I wasn’t able to get up some of the hills, and was too scared to go down some of the steep ones. My husband telling me that I might fall over the handlebars if I didn’t keep my weight back certainly didn’t help!
Mountain biking requires processing lots of inputs at once – you need to keep an eye on what is coming up immediately ahead, have a sense of what is further ahead, and also be aware of what is happening right now, all so you can adjust weight/position/gears/brake accordingly. I didn’t get comfortable with it until about halfway through the ride. It’s a lot to process, especially if you have to “think” about everything. After awhile, it starts to become more automatic. Thank goodness!
We covered almost 7 miles, which isn’t bad for my first “real” ride. The trails were in awesome shape, and that credit goes to the Pittsburgh Trails Advocacy Group, which maintains the trails at Bavington.
In the past, my husband and I have tended to get lost on hikes and bike rides. We can’t find the trail if it isn’t marked. The trails at Bavington weren’t blazed, but they didn’t need to be – it was obvious enough where the trail went that a blaze isn’t necessary. It did split off a few times, and we used this map which we then overlaid with our current location to know exactly where we were. It was so helpful and we never had to question if we were lost. Gotta love technology!
I have a newfound confidence when it comes to mountain biking and I plan on doing it a lot this year. It definitely went better than I expected!