Priest Lake offers world class mountain biking. From single track to meandering roads, you will find something your speed. Choose a trail along the lake or ride up to a peak that overlooks Priest Lake and the entire valley. Since most visitors are in the area to enjoy the lake itself, trails are hardly ever crowded. Take a dip in a high alpine lake, check out an active fire lookout, or find some fresh huckleberries right off the bush.
Mountain biking basics
Elkins Resort’s easy access to mountain biking trails makes it the perfect activity to add to your next vacation with us! Mountain biking is a fantastic way to take in the beautiful views, fresh air, and get a little exercise. But, if you’ve never tried it before, here are some tips to get you started.
Mountain biking is a lot of fun but the potential injuries are not! Please prepare for your mountain biking adventure by bringing or renting a helmet, wearing sturdy shoes, and wearing appropriate athletic clothes. You’ll also want to take plenty of water and some small portable snacks as well as sun and eye protection.
Mountain biking can be quite a good workout and is a lot of fun, but you’ll want to keep your body relaxed so you can absorb the shocks as you go over bumps much easier. Rigid arms and legs might make you feel sturdier but it’s also a good route to sore muscles the next day.
Your bike will have a range of gears that will either tighten or lesson pressure on the chain. You’ll generally use a higher gear on flat terrain and a low gear when climbing up a hill. For beginners, it’s a good idea to shift into a few different gears on flat ground so you know what each one feels like and you can determine which ones will be best for you when it’s time to really use your gears.
Just like you use your turn signals in your car it’s important that you shift gears before you start climbing. You do not want to shift gears after you’ve started your ascent as the shift could be hard on your gears and you might suddenly lose your chain.
Keep pedaling! If you can safely pull off the trail, then do so for a quick rest but otherwise you should keep pedaling to keep momentum. Always pedal through gear shifts, though it may feel awkward it’s much better for your chain. As you climb up the mountain, the slower you go the harder it will seem. Keep pumping those legs to make the climb easier.
Body shifts and focus
Mountain biking is often compared to another downhill activity: Skiing. Much like you shift your weight and need to pay attention to the terrain with skiing, you’ll want to do the same for biking. Keep your eyes on the part of the trail that you want to go, not the areas you want to avoid. Your body will follow your eyes and therefore so will your bike, so keep your eyes on the road and not looking at that patch of mud or log you want to avoid. A good rule of thumb is to look ahead 15 – 20 ft. for any obstacles you don’t want to tackle.
There are also two body positions that bikers use: Neutral and attack. Neutral is similar to road cycling where you’re sitting up straight but in the attack position your back will almost be parallel to the ground and you’ll want a deep bend in your arms and knees. Imagine you’re trying to get your chest to your handlebars and get your arms and elbows to resemble chicken wings.
You’ll need to adjust your seat’s position during your ride as well. When climbing a hill, it’s better to have your seat slightly higher so you can reach about 80% of your full leg extension. When it’s time to come back down the mountain you should lower your seat. Bringing your seat down lowers your center of gravity and makes it much easier to control your bike on the way down.
Front brake vs. back brake
Unlike leisurely strolls on a flat surface, you’ll be hiking up the trail and descending at a fast pace and it’s important that you know where the weight is held so you can brake correctly. Most riders are used to back brakes, slowing the wheel behind you as it generally has more power and weight diverted to it. But with mountain biking, especially going downhill, it’s better to use your front brake since your front wheel is bearing the weight. Gently ease your front brakes to slow down, if you clamp down too suddenly you may find yourself on the ground after flipping over the handle bars. You can also evenly apply pressure to both brakes for a smoother slowdown.
We’re not trying to jinx you but chances are good that you could fall off your bike at some point. It’s OK, it happens to every rider at some point. If you realize you’re falling, pull your arms in. Your instinct will be to brace yourself by sticking your arms out but this could result in a twisted or broken wrist. After your fall, check to make sure you’re not injured and then check your bike to see if the seat’s been twisted or if your chain has come off the cogs. If you and the bike are OK then get back on that trail!
On some really difficult trails you may see hike-a-bike sections that require you to walk your bike. There’s no shame in walking your bike on terrain you’re not ready for.
Please remember to follow mountain biker etiquette and keep a lookout for other cyclists or hikers and if you’re approaching another group, call out to make your presence known.
Think you’re ready to try mountain biking on the trails near Priest Lake? Start your adventure by booking the perfect cabin to retreat to after your time out on the trails!