As more trails are built in Rim Country and existing ones are fixed up, there has never been a better time to get into mountain biking with a set of rideable trails, even for beginners.

If you are new to riding or just new to riding in this area, consider joining the Rim Country Mountain Biking Association on a Saturday trail ride.

The group is highlighting some of the best trails in the area on these rides, which are open to all and free.

This Saturday’s ride is at 8:30 a.m. from the Pine Trailhead. Thanks to the Pine-Strawberry Fuel Reduction Committee, a three-mile singletrack loop weaves its way through the forest, across two dry streams and then tops out above Pine with a tremendous view of the area. The trail then flows back to the start. Now this is Rim Country, so there is some climbing on the trail, but because mountain bikers built it, the grade changes are passable on a bike. And this trail is one of the best for new riders as there are minimal rocks on the trail and only a few drops.

The following ride, on May 12, is the Highline Trail ride, starting at the 260 Trailhead of State Route 260. This is a great intermediate ride now that Volunteers for Outdoor Arizona (VOAz) re-worked it using hand tools and a mini backhoe. The trail no longer follows a rutted drainage route, but hugs the bottom of the Rim until it bottoms out at See Canyon.

This ride truly has what every rider looks for: mild climbs, beautiful views and the rush of a downhill, plus there is water at the end thanks to See Springs.

Riding with a group is a great way to get started riding, even if it can feel a bit embarrassing being the new person on the trail. The group not only knows where the trail is heading so there is no risk of getting lost, if something happens, like a flat tire, there is a team to help get it fixed quickly. And most of these rides are designed to be ridden in a few hours.

As a female rider, I was always afraid of being the slowest in the group and holding everyone up. When I started mountain biking eight years ago to impress a guy, I couldn’t tell you the difference between a derailleur and a crank, much less get my front wheel up and over a root. I know a little bit more about bikes today, but am still working to improve my skills. The great thing about mountain bikers is they are generally some of the most encouraging and helpful people around.

On a recent group ride, several new riders came out. Medal-winning rider John Lake held a free skills course in the pine trailhead parking lot and then on the trail stopped before a technical section to discuss how to tackle it.

His No. 1 piece of advice: momentum is your friend. If you stop, the bike is going to fall over so use speed to help you get over things, around corners and down rocky descents.

One participant said no one had ever talked to them about technique before — they had just been told to do it. Practicing in the parking lot by weaving through a set of cones got everyone thinking about wheel placement and then the confidence on the trail to try things they may have walked before.

Mountain biking has not only built me up physically, but given me the mental strength to try things I once thought unimaginable (like riding 15-plus miles in a monsoon storm!) giving me a sense of confidence you can’t pick up anywhere but on the trail — even with the stumbles.

This Saturday marks the inaugural Women’s Mountain Biking Day. Join simply, the International Mountain Biking Associations (IMBA) says, by experiencing, sharing and expressing your love of mountain biking.

May bike rides

Group trail ride schedule for May; all rides start at 8:30 a.m.

May 5: Pine Trailhead (beginner/intermediate ride)

Due to the Pine Trail Run taking place that day, the Pine Trailhead will be closed. Plan to park at THAT Brewery or in Pine and ride to the trailhead, roughly .5 mile south of Pine on the east side of Highway 87.

May 12: 260 Trailhead

May 19: Pine/Strawberry Trailhead

May 26: Trail 200

Contact the reporter at abechman@payson.com

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