Mountain biking is one sport that’s thrilling the first time you go out. Surfing, skateboarding, tennis, golf, distance running . . . not so much. But progress-driven as we are, your 10 th ride through a beginner trail can get a bit stale. Helen has always had great places to get into mountain biking and then a couple of trails that might make experienced riders rethink their own expertise (Unicoi, Hickory Nut). Intermediate places to build new skills have been harder to find—until now. The Yonah Preserve Trails were just completed in June, built by the most passionate members of the mountain biking community, SORBA—Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association.
The Yonah Preserve, just 9 miles from downtown Helen, is a great place to move your beginner skills toward intermediate:
1,000 acres of preserve with a lake
7 miles of multi-directional trail
2 different 3+ mile loops
More downhill than uphill focused (254’ ascent and 270’ descent on the Creek loop)
Enough grade, but not too much—2 degree average and 8 degree maximum inclines
According to Woody’s Bike Rentals owner Woody, the area’s most well-known outfitter and a key member of SORBA, the preserve trail is the best maintained intermediate option in the area.
He notes, “These trails are meticulously planned and maintained, so you can count on the compacted surface and the intention behind each curve, grade, and obstacle.”
Woody also adds that a trail like Hickory Nut is so prohibitively long and full of difficult climbs that beginners may tap out before they ever get to make any progress. “The obstacles at Yonah are all optional,” he says. “Riders can choose to address small boulders and other challenges or go around them.” There is also a creek crossing and dam ride-over to keep you inspired aesthetically.
Here are some skills you might isolate to practice at Yonah. You don’t have to leave your young or slower riders at home to get better yourself.
Weight and Unweight the bike as you cross a small boulder or limb by first pulling back on the handle bars and lifting, and then pushing into them as you lean back. https://www.liv- cycling.com/global/campaigns/uphill-obstacles/20746
Cornering: go in slow near the outside and out fast on the inside of a downhill corner; keep your weight on the leveled pedals; feather the brakes, both of them together. https://www.liv- cycling.com/global/campaigns/downhill-cornering/20744
Off-cambered riding: roads are angled to our advantage usually—that is a lower inside and a higher outside. Off-cambered riding means turning with the inside is higher. This is one of the least intuitive skills—you keep upright and centered and lean your bike into the slope. https://www.liv-cycling.com/global/campaigns/off-camber-trail/20748
If you are looking for an instructor or just need some rentals and shuttles, check in with Woody. Yonah is open from now until mid-March, entering its first falls and winter seasons. More trails with increasing variety are planned at Yonah in the coming years, so stay tuned!