CONWAY — Biking is booming. The valley’s loaded with miles of bucolic paved and dirt backroads, and singletrack for all abilities winding through a variety of properties with different landowners, including the White Mountain National Forest.
The surge is a byproduct of the cabin fever stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
While there is plenty to explore, make sure to be kind and aware when riding. It’s been an exhausting summer as trail parking spills out onto roadways, trash is left behind and tempers shorten.
The landscape is gorgeous, but ride respectfully. Leave no trace. Park smartly, Ride even smarter by following the rules of the road, like pedaling with the flow of traffic, and trail etiquette in the woods by controlling your bike and riding only on open trails.
And when you head into a valley dining, lodging or retail establishment after a ride, be nice to the employees. A lot of them ride bikes, and many have had a helluva summer due to COVID, a labor shortage and blasts of tropical-like heat.
Let’s get to the basics.
To get around, download the Trailforks app for mountain biking. On it, you’ll find trails for the two mountain bike clubs that build and maintain treasure chests of sinewy pathways around the valley — the White Mountains chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association and Ride NoCo, a k a White Mountain Bike Coalition.
Both clubs also have valuable maps and information posted on their websites (nemba.org and ridenoco.org) and are very active on various social media sites.
The Ride with GPS app is very helpful for road bikers. The Mount Washington Valley Bicycling Club puts its rides on the app and also has some favorites listed on its website (mwvbicyclingclub.org) while also posting frequently.
Group rides are great for learning area roadways. Join a club. Make a donation.
For mountain biking, there are a few hubs that include the Marshall Conservation Area, Hemlock Lane by the North Conway Walmart and Cranmore Mountain Resort with straightforward access and parking.
The Marshall Conservation Area on North Conway's West Side Road is the valley’s go-to mountain biking center with its plethora of trails for all abilities. It also has a multi-tool repair station at its entrance on West Side Road making it also accessible for road bikers traveling some of North Conway’s most popular pavement. Lager’s Lane and Lucille’s are good for able Marshall rookies.
North Conway’s East Side trails take riders through Redstone Quarry and classics like Pillar to Pond and Outer Limits. Get to them off Hemlock Lane or Thompson Road.
Cranmore, with its bike park, is another way to access the East Side and also the expanding Hurricane Mountain Zone with its exhilarating downhill trails. The HMZ has largely intermediate and advanced runs but is slated to get some vertical with less bite in the near future.
The notches are great for climbing. The Kanc (Route 112), Crawford Notch (Route 302), Pinkham Notch (Route 16), Evans Notch (Route 113) and Bear Notch Road are epic road rides.
A few ski areas are open through early October for biking.
Both Bretton Woods near Crawford Notch and Great Glen Trails at the base of Mount Washington in Pinkham Notch require trail passes and serve up varieties of terrain, including miles of singletrack, while GGT also has wide and welcoming carriage roads.
Cranmore Mountain Resort is in its second year of lift-serviced downhill mountain biking and offers both instruction and lessons for beginners and beyond.
If you want some worry-free bicycling, the Mountain Division Trail in Fryeburg, Maine, is for you. The paved rail trail rolls some 4 miles between the Maine Visitor Information Center on Main Street east to the pathway’s terminus at Route 113. The visitor center has plentiful parking, restrooms, water and picnic tables.
The trail is White Mountain flat, has benches on which to rest, offers fine views and is a great fit for families.
North Conway’s Whitaker Woods off Route 16 also has off-the-road riding to please pedaling parents.
The valley’s bike shops are lifelines into the cycling scene. They are there for repairs, apparel, gear, bikes and friendly advice on where to ride.
Rentals are available, too, including e-bikes, which offer quite a boost on the valley’s swelling hills and notches.
Don’t expect shop employees to divulge their favorite trails, but they will certainly steer you in the right direction for your ability.
Just be nice.