What are you dreaming about this time of year? Colorful flowers? Milder temperatures? If you’re like Mark Shannon, junior engineer for Ontario County Department of Public Works, Engineering Division, your head is filled with thoughts of mud-covered mountain bike tires.
Shannon, an avid mountain biker, has loved riding his bicycle since he was a kid. About 20 years ago he moved to Naples from Ormand Beach, Fla., and discovered the joy of riding single tracks, the name for narrow mountain biking trails that are only about the width of a bike.
“I love the remoteness of it all. Being immersed in nature in the woods, it’s a total escape,” Shannon says.
Controlling the Obstacles
Mountain biking is an entirely different experience than riding a road bike or cruising along a dirt road. According to Shannon, mountain biking demands being entirely focused on the task at hand. In addition to the topography, a trail poses numerous natural obstacles—rocks of all sizes, tree trunks, tight turns, roots, gullies, creeks, sand—sometimes all within a few feet of each other.
Riders refer to the acute awareness of managing the obstacles as “riding your line,” where you negotiate each obstacle and are mentally preparing yourself and your bike for the next rapidly approaching set of challenges. Bikers who ride the line are masters of their environment.
“If you see a biker going fast, trust that they are in complete control and aware of their surroundings,” Shannon says.
Responsibility to the Trails
For Shannon, mountain biking is a four-season sport. In winter he puts sheet metal screws in the tires for traction on ice. Riding in the spring highlights a critical element for all mountain bikers: stewardship and environmental responsibility.
While some mud makes mountain biking fun, a trail that is overly saturated with water is prone to erosion, and mountain bikers know to stay off the trails in these conditions. Mountain bikers also know to stay on the paths. Cutting trails crushes plants and creates another source of erosion.
“The mountain biking community adds to the critical mass for preserving the trail network in the wilderness and making it endure,” Shannon says.
Shannon’s Favorite Trails
Ontario County has a world-class network of trails, and Shannon says that’s in large part thanks to efforts by the Genesee Regional Off-Road Cyclists, the local chapter of International Mountain Bicycling Association. GROC builds sustainable trails for mountain bikers and hikers, and trained GROC volunteers work on trail development and maintenance.
Each park has its own personality and Shannon enjoys them all. His two favorites are Ontario County Park and Dryer Road Park. In addition to a large trail network, Dryer Road has a dedicated pump track (a short dirt loop with jumps and raised banks) and obstacle park. Shannon likes Tryon Park for its technical challenges. “There are some rock gardens with big-time crunches if you don’t make it,” he says.
The Family That Rides Together
Shannon also shares his love of mountain biking with his 8-year-old son, Chris, and 11-year-old daughter, Alana. In addition to the trails, the three of them play on the obstacles that Shannon puts in his back yard. If the trails are too muddy, Shannon takes them to indoor skate and bike parks like CranX Indoor and Outdoor Bike and Sports Park in Syracuse or the Rochester Action Sports Park.
Which trail is right for you? Go for a test ride at one of these parks, which have designated trails for off-road biking.
Dryer Road Park
7405 Dryer Road, Victor. The park has 10 to 15 miles of trails for single-track biking, as well as two pump tracks, jump lines and a skills area with raised boardwalks and obstacles. (585) 742-0140 | MyGroc.com/Places-to-Ride/Dryer-Road-Multi-Use-Trails.html
Town of Victor Trails
85 East Main St., Victor. Victor’s parks include 55 miles of multi-use trails for biking and hiking. (585) 234-8226 | VictorHikingTrails.org
Ontario County Park, Gannett Hill
6475 Gannett Hill Park Drive, Naples. This park in Bristol Hills features 17 miles of trails for all riding levels. (585) 374-6250 | MyGroc.com/Places-to-Ride/Ontario-County-Park.html
Harriett Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area
6775 Canadice Hill Road, Springwater. With 12 miles of bike trails, mostly single-track with some double-track roads, Harriet Hollister is good for all levels of riders. (585) 335-8111 | MyGroc.com/Places-to-Ride/Harriet-Hollister-Park.html
Stid Hill Wildlife Management Area
5662 Route 64, Canandaigua. Located in the townships of Bristol and South Bristol, Stid Hill’s trail is steep and prone to erosion, making it challenging. (585) 226-2466 | www.DEC.NY.gov/outdoor/24444.html
Ontario Pathways is a series of flat trails built on abandoned railroad beds. Serious mountain bikers may not find it challenging enough, but it’s perfect for beginners. (585) 234-7722 | OntarioPathways.org/Info.htm
Summer mountain bike races around Rochester.
The Hard Core 24
July 23-24, Ontario County Park. 6475 Gannett Hill Park Road, Naples. For New York State’s premier 24-hour race, held at Ontario County Park in Naples, individuals or relay teams ride a designated course for a full 24 hours. (585) 381-3080 | TheHardCore24.com
S6 Endurance Mountain Bike Race
Aug. 21, Harriet Hollister Spencer Recreation Area. 6775 Canadice Hill Road, Springwater. Hosted by Rochester’s Park Ave Bike Shop, the S6 Endurance Mountain Bike Race is a six-hour event set on a course roughly seven miles long. It covers 800 vertical feet of climbing, designed with experts and beginners in mind. Participants can race solo or as a team—two-person or open class format for three or more racers. At the time of publication, the date for the race has not been set, but it will be held in August. (585) 657-777, ext. 223 | BikeReg.com/Suicide-Six-S6