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An Adventure on the Ellicottville Bike Trails

August 26, 2010

The blog was created after the adventure in 2010.

Arguably one of the best places to mountain bike in the region, Ellicottville, New York was the setting for our latest outdoor adventure in the Enchanted Mountains of Cattaraugus County.  On Monday, August 16, Jeremy and I ventured out with the crew from the Ellicottville Bike Shop on their weekly ride.

The Ellicottville Bike Shop

Run by Dennis Baldwin, a former manager of the popular Mud, Sweat, n Gears’ ski and bike shop, the Ellicottville Bike Shop was established a few years ago in 2007.  Dennis, who is not only an excellent bike mechanic, but also an experienced and highly skilled biker, leads a group of mountain bikers on a ride through the town and up the slopes of either Holiday Valley or HoliMont and ends with some downhill fun. 

Each Monday, the group leaves right from the shop at 6:00pm sharp.  Depending on the week, anywhere from just a few riders to more than a dozen take part in the trip.  Typically, the ride lasts around two hours.  Anyone is welcomed to join providing they have the proper equipment and Dennis recommends that a rider have mountain biking experience.

Other guided rides are offered throughout the week if you make arrangements with Dennis at the shop beforehand.

Note for Beginners

Trail at ASP

If you are looking for a great place to start mountain biking Dennis recommends going to Allegany State Park and head out on the Art Roscoe trails as they are wider (double track) and the hills are great for beginners. So stop at the Ellicottville Bike Shop for advice and get a map of area's mountain biking trails.

We decided to tag along for the Monday night ride this week.

Our Preparations and What you’d Need

Much like you can imagine, there are a few obvious things you’d need to bring along if you’re planning on joining Dennis and the gang for their Monday night ride.  Here’s a short list of the necessities:

  • A properly working mountain bike
  • A helmet
  • Water
  • Proper attire
  • Weather-related necessities (i.e. bug spray, sun tan lotion)
  • The ability to ride pretty tough single track trails for around two hours

Helmet rentals are available along with some of the other necessary items.  You may also want to wear gloves and other protective items, but they are not required. 

Now, it’s important to understand the type of bike that you’ll need to participate in a ride of this nature.  A properly working mountain bike does not necessarily mean your grandma’s old Huffy, or you’re BMX bike that you just did 360’s with at the park today.  On a typical Monday night ride, you’ll be climbing steep hills, going over obstacles such as rocks, logs, and tree roots, and navigating through rough trails and tight corners.  So, a bike that will be able to handle these elements is pretty important. 

Leaving from the Shop

I entered the shop prepared to ride with all my necessary gear.  Dennis graciously provided me with one of their top-of-the-line mountain bikes and a helmet, both of which came in very handy as the trip went on. 

Having a great bike, which Dennis just finished building, proved to be way more helpful than I thought would be necessary prior to riding with these guys.  This is the reason for my emphasis on the quality of your mountain bike.  For your safety, and for the longevity of your bike, it’s really important to make sure it can handle a pretty rough and intense ride. 

Also, since I knew I’d have to write this article before leaving from the shop, I brought my camera and my Flip Camcorder along with me.  I thought some snapshots and maybe even some video would be great to go along with my writing.  However, about ten seconds into the trip, I realized that biking and taking pictures is not a great combination.  In fact, it’s nearly impossible to do, especially while you’re riding up hills or skidding around turns, as we did for pretty much the entire ride. 

So, I left the picture taking up to Jeremy. (Jeremy here: I had all our cameras!)

We continued on the road through Ellicottville until we reached the trails at the base of hills at Holiday Valley.  Here is where we started our journey. 

Initial Climbing

There is a very good reason that, as a necessity to take part in this adventure, you are recommended to have good physical endurance or be an experienced mountain bike rider.   Just to get to the trails that we rode on, we had to climb up the side of the slopes to the top. This was made up of two steep hills, both of which were long and pretty challenging.

Jeremy: Hey folks, Jeremy here, I'm going to chime in. I'm out of shape and was consistently cramping up while doing these long climbs on a mountain bike. If I was a sheep I would have been devoured by wolves as I couldn't even keep up with the group or see them for that matter. Dennis was nice enough to come back and check on me.

Jeremy: You should have physical endurance for this! On every climb, I was sweating buckets, drinking water like mad and my heart was about to break out of my chest. I'd look at Dennis and he was cool and breathing normally. Ok back to Shane's experience.

Shane: Now, being a relatively experienced mountain biker, and a pretty active guy, this task was not quite as daunting for me as it would be for some (Jeremy). If you aren’t used to biking, however, you really might not make it up the hill, especially in time to keep up with the rest of the group. 

This brings up a very important point.  The Monday night ride is definitely not for beginners.  In fact, as I talked with Dennis and the rest of the crew, I learned that almost every one of them competed regularly in weekend mountain bike races. 

Does this mean you have to be a professional mountain biker to go with them? Nope.  Yet, if you’re looking for an easy ride, this isn’t for you. If you want to take a mountain biking tour, contact Dennis and he'll help you out..

The Trails

Despite growing up in the area, I was never much of a skier and couldn’t tell you exactly what trails we ventured across.  In fact, it was actually the first time I’d been on the hills at Holiday Valley.  Needless to say, whenever we weren’t in eye sight of the actual slope, I was pretty lost.

I simply followed the group wherever they went.  This wasn’t quite as easy as it sounds, as I struggled a bit jumping over logs and keeping my pace up downhill and through tight squeezes between trees.  The group, however, was really good about making sure they waited at each turn for everyone to catch up.  This kept people from getting lost, and it provided some reassurance just in case someone took a spill on their bike.  With the exception of my chain catching on a log and falling off, I managed to stay on the bike most of the ride. 

The only information I can provide you with the actual trails that we went on is that we were on “single track” mountain biking trails.  For those of you that aren’t familiar with these terms, it simply means that only one bike will fit on the trails because they are so narrow.

I’d never ridden on single track trails before, and I have to say, it was very cool.  Not only were the trails nicely laid out and as challenging as you’d want, but the scenery was great.  Trying to jump logs and stay on my bike around sharp turns as trees and blackberry bushes whizzed by only proved to be minor setbacks. 

The Ride Down

After two hours of climbing, falling, and then climbing some more, it was a bit of a relief coming off the hill knowing that I was in one piece and my bike was still intact.  And to boot, I really wasn’t even that dirty, all things considered.  That was until I hit just about every mud puddle on the last part of the trail.

Our spirits were high and we all got a great workout and experienced a little bit of an adventure, more so for me than the others, I’m thinking.  We even had a bit of a comic relief as one of our fellow riders’ road a wheelie almost the entire way back.  I was pretty impressed and a little jealous. 

The Verdict

All in all, it was an awesome ride with a great group of guys.  It was great to get back on my bike, since I haven't been able to ride much this summer.  Everyone was friendly from the start and as helpful as you could ever want.  I’d definitely love to do it again, especially now that I know what to expect. 

Jeremy: The climb killed me but I had a great time on the single track even though I bit it on a small tree stump. I'm going to condition myself so that I have great endurance for next time. We'd like to thank Dennis for the great time and I'd like to thank Dennis for waiting for me.

Shane: Maybe I’d even keep up with the guys in the front? Alright, that’s pushing it, but I’ll be back for another ride. There’s better conversation in the back, anyways.