By JEFF MARTIN
Visitors and residents of Western New York don’t have to walk the hundreds of miles of trails throughout the area if they don’t want to — they can ride their mountain bikes, too.
Lovers of the activity commonly refer to it as MTB, and there are literally hundreds upon hundreds of wooded trails that accommodate the two-wheeled machines. Snap on a helmet, fill a water bottle and you’re good to go.
And this time of year is the best time of year to mountain bike.
John Rafferty, a Gowanda resident who works in Buffalo at an advertising agency, said he moved to the Southern Tier a few years back to be able to hike more often. When he discovered Sprague Brook Park, a county park just outside Springville, he was surprised that more people were navigating the trail system on bike rather than on foot.
“It looked like a great time,” he said. “The way they have the trails out there, you feel like you’re on a ledge overlooking the valley, but it’s not at all dangerous.”
After an initial investment, which can be costly, Rafferty was ready to roll. His first outing, he often jokes, wasn’t as successful as he would have hoped.
“Ate some dirt a couple of times,” he said. “People do it the first time thinking it’s just like riding a bike on the road, but it’s far from that. It takes a lot more balance than I ever thought it would.”
Once he worked on his balance, Rafferty began exploring other areas in both Erie and Cattaraugus counties. Again, some investment (bike rack, GPS) was necessary, but those are in the past now and it’s been a low-cost affair.
Last year he discovered the Art Roscoe cross-country area at Allegany State Park, an area not far from the main entrance located outside Salamanca.
“Fantastic system,” he said. “You meet a lot of bikers on the trails, especially this time of year.”
Jim Allen, long time member of the advisory board for the Western New York Mountain Bicycling Association (WNYMBA), said the trails at Allegany State Park have been the organization’s main focus this year. One of two proposed single-lane mountain bike trails will be completed in the spring, he said.
“There’s really been a concerted effort to improving the system there at ASP,” Allen said.
Organized years ago, the WNYMBA has been an ongoing force for all matters related to mountain biking.
“We don’t want to pat ourselves on the back too much, but most of the trail systems in WNY have been our creations,” Allen said, adding that most of the trails are designed for more than just mountain bikes.
“They’re multi-use,” he said. “We don’t want to exclude anyone.”
Other trail systems Allen speaks highly of include Golden Hill State Forest and Little Rock City near Ellicottville.
The group is in the middle of an important fundraiser. Because of the intense work involved in building new and maintaining existing trails, the group of approximately 200 members is looking to purchase a Muck Truck, or a powered wheelbarrow. It costs about $3,000, Allen said.
“Transporting rock and fill by just regular wheel barrow is exhausting,” Allen said. “If riders want good trails, then we need the equipment.”
Most of the work performed by WNYMBA is centered in the Ellicottville area, where the number of mountain biking trails is about 40 miles worth on state lands as well as at Holiday Valley and HoliMont. The terrain, Allen said, is popular with residents and visitors alike because of the variations, including professional class and amateur.
“There’s a trail for every rider in Ellicottville,” Allen said. “The length of them is impressive, too. You could ride from Ellicottville to Allegany State Park if you tried hard enough.”
For those not interested in riding mountain bikes, weekend October chairlift rides at Holiday Valley take you to the top of Spruce Lake and are available for $5 per rider. And as Allen explained, most of the mountain bike trails also serve as hiking trails, so there are options for everyone looking to enjoy nature — especially during the autumn season.
Startup costs for mountain biking range from $500 to $1,000, Allen said.
“When I started I couldn’t imagine paying so much, but I’m glad I made the investment because it’s a good way to get out and stay healthy,” he said.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, WNYMB will meet at the Bike and Bean shop in Ellicottville for its regular meeting. Beginners are urged to show up, Allen said. There is also an annual Fall Fest mountain bike race on Oct. 13. Riders should meet at the training center at Holiday Valley. Also, the group offers beginners a chance to ride with the group as a kind of introductory session, though those outings are sporadic throughout the year.
For more information about trails in the area, visit www.enchantedmountains.com or visit www.wnymba.org.