May 17, 2018 | Christy Jones, Greater Houston Off Road Biking Association President
May is Bike Month! With the warmer weather and repairs to the trails after Hurricane Harvey, why not take on one of the fastest growing outdoor sports in the country – mountain biking! The Greater Houston Off Road Biking Association has been building, maintaining, and advocating for natural surface cycling trails for almost 20 years and now offers over 100 miles of trails along 15 area trail systems.
Don’t know where to start? Head to you local bike shop for expert advice and to try out a bike. Bikes fit everyone differently so talk to a specialist for what your goals and experiences are and try out a variety of brands. No need to settle on the first bike you see and note that some shops offer rentals, demos, trade-ins, used bikes, and even lay-a-way. Helmets are a must and are best to be fit by an expert as well.
Now you are ready to hit the trail – but which one? You may have flat local off road trails along greenways behind your neighborhood to practice and get to know your new bike. Most of our trail systems in the Houston area are beginner to intermediate. Maps and general information about each trail can be found on our website: www.ghorba.org
Balance is the most important skill you can learn to have a successful off road ride so turning left or right or doing a figure eight around two trees will do much to help your balance skills. Lift your weight off your seat when going over a stick or root for a more comfortable ride. Taking a free mountain biking skills class is a great idea as well – we offer a quarterly skills class to our members but you can take a class through a local bike shop as well.
Safety on the trail is important – take time to read the posted rules at the trail head and read the notes on the kiosks for even more information. Jotting down the emergency number(s) will help as well.
Our trails are all multi-use and are shared with hikers, runners, dog-walker, equestrians, as well as other cyclists. Everyone yields to horses, and bikers yield to all on foot. Calling out ‘Biker!!’ or using a bell to warn others on the trail that you are riding around a ‘blind’ corner is a common curtesy as well.
Earbuds or loud music is a big no-no and could contribute to an unfortunate accident. Please use only one earbud and don’t play your music too loud so that you can hear out for other riders.
Basic maintenance skills are learned over time but your local bike shops offer skills courses – sometimes free, sometimes for a fee.
One of the best aspects of mountain biking in Houston is GHORBA’s many Facebook pages offer opportunities for new friendships, social rides, advice, races, trail status after rain (please don’t ride muddy trails), and more. Each trail has it’s own Facebook page so join GHORBA, GHORBA Girls, and your local Bike Trail’s Facebook page. Pages are usually maintained by the Trail Steward that will post trail work days – a wonderful way to volunteer to keep your trails open. We also offer activities on our webpage so check in to www.ghorba.org from time to time.
On behalf of the Greater Houston Off Road Biking Association, Happy May Bike Month! Hope to see you out on the trails soon!