By Alison McGee
As spring slowly peeks its way through the melting snow, many Berkshire athletes are getting ready to hang up their skis and snowshoes and unearth their summer gear—for a large portion of those athletes that means mountain bikes. While some lucky riders have already been out on their fat bikes and studded tires all winter long or pedaling away on trainers indoors, many will note it’s just not the same as the on-season riding loved so dearly in this area. All winter the local bike shops have been working diligently on tuning up the well-ridden mountain and road bikes and groups of cyclists have been working hard behind the scenes to get ready for riding season—whether by training, attending trail advocacy meetings, fundraising, or event planning. This is an area where the mountain biking community, full of energy, thrive just as much off the trail as on.
The Berkshires’ famed cultural landscape of theaters, music, museums, and historic landmarks is balanced perfectly by a lush and varied natural landscape that boasts miles of trails for all users. Home to an immense amount of state, city, town, and other green spaces, it really offers the best of both worlds. Organizations like the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) have begun partnering with local mountain bikers to enhance and maintain the trail systems that weave throughout the region. While there’s still a lot to be done to make it all truly accessible, visitors and locals alike can enjoy a variety of things already. From easy-going trails to switchbacking climbs the Berkshires has technical rock and log features and rolling descents. Popular spots include Pittsfield State Forest, Kennedy Park, and Balance Rock.
Riders looking to explore these amazing trails have plenty of options for guided or social biking experiences. On Mondays in the summer, a large group of mountain bikers meets at Pittsfield State Forest for introductory rides through the lower trails, fast-paced sessions on their favorite loops, or climbs rewarded with swift descents followed by parking lot celebrations. Tuesdays at Springside Park in Pittsfield have flourished into an all-levels racing experience with the Berkshire Mountain Bike Training Series, a weekly race that is free to participants. It includes a strider-bike race, a kids lap, and longer multi-lap timed races through the parks rolling singletrack. These nights have boomed as a social and athletic epicenter for all ages. On Wednesdays, you can find riders spread from the north to the south. There are tight-knit social rides in Glendale, complete with instruction for overcoming bridges and obstacles, and up at the Greylock Glen, where volunteers alternate between trail maintenance and enjoying the fruits of their labor. Thursdays often include fast-paced rides out of Kennedy Park or a smattering of rotating social rides in other parks.
Another opportunity for kids, girls specifically, is the national Little Bellas program. It comes to the Berkshires in the form of a week-long ½ day camp for girls at Pittsfield State Forest. It focuses not just on riding technique and skills but on mentoring, camaraderie, and confidence-building. Local shops often offer learning opportunities or helpful hints for ride experiences. These sometimes include a monthly bike maintenance how-to from the Arcadian Shop in Lenox; free bike demos, fix-a-flats, and other events through Berkshire Bike and Board; more bike demos from Plaine’s Bike, Ski, Snowboard in Pittsfield; and local tips from Berkshire Outfitters in Adams.
All of this wouldn’t be possible without the trails. Luckily, there is a dedicated group of trail advocates working to support, maintain, and grow the physical riding network in the Berkshires. The New England Mountain Bike Association is a regional advocacy group with a chapter right here in the Berkshires. Riders from all over the county have been working hard in the background to support the fantastic trail systems that exist here. They will be bringing even more events and guidance to the area as the year progresses.
No matter what your riding style, time constraints, or experience is, the Berkshires are without a doubt a special place to be on your bike. Reach out to one of the shops or to Berkshire NEMBA this summer and start exploring the beautiful trails that weave through the region.
Alison McGee is the Berkshire Chapter President of the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA), a mentor for Little Bellas in the Berkshires, and the Massachusetts Ambassador for SheJumps.