Central Bucks Biking Club is a pro-environment, safety oriented, recreational and social biking club that believes in promoting a healthy lifestyle with biking as its focus.
Mountain biking is one of our main activities other than the various road biking events and rides. There are many within the club that both off-road and on-road biking are important and essential parts of their fitness and recreational lives. Many within the club are active ride leaders and promoters of both styles of cycling. Although CBBC did originally start out as a primarily road biking club, off-road cycling is rapidly gaining popularity within the club and many weeks of the year one can find mostly MTB rides on the ride list.
Most of the MTB cycling takes place during the fall and winter months of the year. October and November are particularly busy months due to the cool but not frigid weather, while December through March are also well booked but attended with the most diehard MTB riders due to the temps. Usually, by May, the rides wind down to be replaced by road rides once again. So for many of us, we wear two hats (err, two helmets ... err, two bikes ... well, you get the picture).
Mountain bike rides are of three main categories including advanced (A, B+), intermediate (B, C+) and starter or novice(C+ through D). There are many rides in all categories for anyone interested in getting off the macadam and onto some natural terra.
CBBC MTB has always felt that the trails and the MTB environment are of paramount value and we are its stewards. We are the caretakers of the trails and, as such; do not believe in the abuse of our parks and paths. We do not believe in litter, direct abuse of any park area, and overuse of any park area. One key philosophy is that wet trails erode quickly, when so used, by way of flora and root damage caused by our bikes. You will find that many rides are cancelled if the ride leaders feel that the trails are too wet to avoid damage with use.
We also feel that these rides are social and recreational rides, and not intended for competitive behavior. We do use these rides as training for other endeavors but do not push ourselves within the realm of CBBC listed rides to compete aggressively. There are many clubs and teams in the area which use group rides to advance competition skills but we typically do not espouse risky, aggressive behavior during MTB club rides. Specifically, should a rider take an injury, there is no way to evacuate him and EMT/Ambulance crews would have an extremely difficult time extracting an injured rider from a deep forest trails. So, safety is key.
A relatively late comer to off-road riding is Cyclocrossing. Cyclocrossing can be compared to a steeplechase race, but on Cyclocross or MTB bikes. A 'Cross bike is similar to a road bike but with a wider fork, seat stays and chain stays to accommodate fatty knobby tires. Not a hybrid, but more like a beefed up road bike with MTB brakes. A few of us in the club own such bikes and use them in multiple capacities.
When joining an MTB ride, always arrive early. There is a little more prep time with MTB gear and we try to depart on time. Pay attention to the level of ride and refer to the MTB ride category description to determine whether a particular ride is above your head or at your capacity. Some rides involve a lot of climbing and technical areas. In some cases, ride leaders have other responsibilities outside the particular scheduled ride and have to finish the ride in a timely manner. Some rides are trails with multiple directions and some involve loops. Loop rides such as Pennypack and Washington Crossing allow for cutouts that can send slower or tired cyclists back to the cars, allowing remaining riders to stay on schedule. Rides like BlueMarsh are more intense rides, looping around a lake or creek, with no possibility of shortening the ride. If you are a slower rider, you might be taken out for an hour and doubled back so the main group can push on and finish the ride on time. On a 24 mile loop ride like the BlueMarsh-shorter loop, the difference between 8 MPH and 6 MPH means an extra hour on trail and significantly increases the ride length past the point intended. Remember that technical problems with bikes frequently happen and can lengthen trail time as it is. We try to stay on schedule and ride within the pre-described time parameters as best as possible. Slower riders might be doubled back on the advanced rides such as BlueMarsh or Wissahickon. Rides such as Core Creek or some Pennypack rides will accommodate slower riders and groups will always wait at hilltops on such rides for the slower cyclists. Rarely, a cyclist who is clearly over his/her head on an MTB ride might be refused further involvement for purely safety reasons. The ride leader has the responsibility of maintaining control and decorum in rides that involve unique risks such as MTB.
Night rides started in earnest in 2003-2004 as a regular occurring schedule. Any night ride should be approached with caution and safety foremost in mind. Good lighting equipment and a well maintained Mountain Bike are simply the basics. Try repairing a worn chain or a flat tire at 8:30 pm, 20 degrees Fahrenheit with minimal light. Be smart when joining any night ride and make sure you have good gear, you'll thank yourself for it. Most of the Night Rides involve parks with technical areas so have experience with such terrain before biting into night biking. For anyone who is interested, start out with the Thursday night tow path rides ("Nite Owls") and you will get a chance to gain after-dark experience and see what kind of lighting and bike gear works for you. Join the advanced night rides once you have reached a comfort level. The Wednesday night Pennypack rides are simply superb for gaining skill in the single-track. Wissahickon and High Rocks (Tohickon) are very challenging rides day or night.
If you are joining rides for the first time, call or email the ride leader. Find out what kind of pace, climb speed, and cycling time is to be expected. Ask about trail terrain and technicality if you are unfamiliar with a site. Ask if it is a ride for novice or advanced riders. You can always describe your skill levels and MTB experience at other parks and chances are the ride leader will be able to easily compare your capabilities to CBBC MTB riders that he/she is familiar with. With that done, the leader can recommend you to any appropriate ride. Our experience is that most people are honest about their own capabilities and can be fitted to a ride suitable to them. Rarely, someone with inadequate skills arrives and endangers themselves at scheduled rides. Be honest with your MTB capability and we will find a plethora of rides you will love.