By Alicia Dziak
Photo by Ron Grucela
Summer is the perfect time of year to get outdoors and challenge your body. Whether that means training for a marathon or navigating tough terrain, WNY is full of opportunities to push your body to the limits and to take in the natural beauty of your surroundings.
One such activity that continues to grow in popularity is the high-adrenaline sport of mountain biking.
The Western New York Mountain Biking Association, better known as WNYMBA, started in 1992 to give athletes more places to ride, and boasts a motto of “keeping mountain bikers off the street.” The group got together to stop trail closures, work toward improving access to existing trails and getting permission to construct new trails.
“The WNYMBA) prides itself in working with riders of all genders, ages and abilities,” said WNYMBA president Jacob Bodway.
For those just starting out in the sport, Bodway said, “My best advice is to be patient and to start on more beginner-friendly trails to work up cardiovascular endurance. Just going on one of the many rails-to-trails in the region is a good way to get out on some dirt trails without any roots or rocks. The Eastside and Westside Overland Trails in Chautauqua County are also great for beginners who are looking for a bit more challenge (it’s where I started mountain biking). Finally, joining us on a group ride at Sprague Brook is another good way to follow more advanced riders and to gain advice on how to be a better rider.”
The group rides he refers to happen every Wednesday at 6 p.m., when the club holds a ‘no rider left behind’ ride at Sprague Brook or at Hunter’s Creek County Parks. “These rides are geared toward beginner and expert riders alike,” Bodway said. “We typically have a handful of more experienced riders who show a group of beginners the trails and offer advice on how to best ride them.”
Aside from the weekly group ride, the organization has some other special events planned this summer.
On Saturday, July 21, the Singletrack Stampede mountain bike race will happen at Sprague Brook. “This race has Beginner, Sport, and Expert classes, so anyone can race, regardless of skill level,” noted Bodway.
On Aug. 4-5, WNYMBA will host a weekend clinic/party/race at Long Point State Park in Bemus Point, N.Y. “Aug. 4 will be a clinic to provide new and intermediate mountain bikers with the necessary skills to ride WNY singletrack trails. After the clinic, the club will hold a cookout at one of the park’s many pavilions,” explained Bodway. “Aug. 5 is the King/Queen of the Point race, which is a very beginner-friendly race.”
Aug. 10-12 is the WNYMBA camping weekend at Holiday Valley. “This is a weekend for riders of all skill levels. We set up camp near Spruce Lake and have a weekend full of group rides, cookouts, and campfires,” said Bodway. He added that this a family and kid-friendly event, but that for insurance reasons, all who attend must be a club member.
Aug. 19 is the 5th annual Harris Hill Hustle race at Harris Hill State Forest in Gerry, N.Y. “This race is rather challenging, but it is open to beginner riders,” Bodway stated.
In addition, WNYMBA volunteers design, develop, and maintain trails across the State, working with every major recreation land manager. “We have trail work days all season, with the lion’s share occurring in the spring and fall (summer is for riding),” said Bodway. “Typically, we’ll post these dates on the WNYMBA calendar, the WNYMBA Meetup page, and our Facebook page. Our volunteer trail building days are excellent opportunities for all community members to learn how to build, maintain, and respect the trails and the outdoor environment.”
According to Bodway, WNYMBA works tirelessly with local land managers and stakeholders at the county, state, and national levels, to ensure that mountain bikers have a seat at the table. “We want to ensure that we have continued access to the trails that we have already built and that we have opportunities to build new trails when the opportunity arises,” he said. A good example is at Allegany State Park, where the group is in the first stages of constructing a new 8-mile trail system, with another 12 miles planned down the road.
“At its core, WNYMBA is all about having fun! Riding bikes is a super healthy way to relieve stress, get in shape, and meet new people,” Bodway noted. “WNYMBA does its best to encourage the growth of a cycling community in WNY (not just mountain biking).”
For more info and to become a member, visit www.wnymba.org.