No Mountains Needed: Pace Bend Mountain Bike Race and Festival is March 24-25 in Spicewood
SPICEWOOD — The term “mountain biking” is deceiving in that mountains aren’t necessary. In fact, the Highland Lakes and Central Texas boast some incredible mountain biking opportunities even though our elevations pale in comparison to the Rockies and the Appalachians.
What the region lacks in “mountain” trails, it makes up for in technical trails.
“Typically, when people think of mountain biking, they think of mountains, but we don’t have those elevation changes,” said Kent Browning, an Austin Ridge Riders Mountain Bike Club member and officer. “So we tend to have very technical trails.”
These types of trails feature rugged terrain, ledges, rocks, trees, and other challenging obstacles.
If you’re not a mountain biker, or unfamiliar with the sport, you might not realize the number of riding opportunities that exist in the Highland Lakes — with more on the way.
A good first lesson on the sport is the Pace Bend Mountain Bike Race and Festival on Saturday-Sunday, March 24-25, at Pace Bend Park, 2011 Pace Bend Road, located at the traffic light just east of the Texas 71 bridge over the Pedernales River. There is a $10 (cash-only) park access fee, but you can watch the race for free.
Of course, if you’ve never hit the mountain bike trails before, you probably shouldn’t register for the race, but it’s a good opportunity to learn about mountain biking and see how blessed the area is with trails. Browning described the Pace Bend Park race as one of the most challenging on the Texas Mountain Bike Racing Association series.
On Saturday, the kids and youth divisions compete starting at 2:30 p.m. with the 10-and-under followed by the 12-and-under at 3 p.m.; 13- and 14-year-olds at 3:30 p.m.; and 15- to 18-year-olds (as well as Fat Bike Races) at 4:30 p.m. On Sunday morning, the expo and festival get into full swing with the adult and pro categories races. The first race takes off at 8:30 a.m., and the last one hits the trail at 1 p.m.
The event is a great opportunity to ask questions and learn about mountain biking. Browning said one thing he loves about the sport is the supportive, community atmosphere, both on the trail and at races.
“A lot of people like the environment of mountain bike racing because it’s friendly and encouraging,” he said. “I think about mountain bike racing as human against the trail, not so much as human against human.”
Browning described mountain biking as a chess game in which a rider must think ahead as they approach a trail feature. How are they going to navigate this field of rocks? How are they going to climb that hill with knotty tree roots guarding the trail? How are they going to handle this ledge or drop-off?
Browning said Central Texas has a good selection of mountain biking trails from easy, crushed granite paths to extremely technical ones that challenge even the most experienced riders.
In the Highland Lakes, riders can hit the trails at Pace Bend Park, Reveille Peak Ranch (105 CR 114 in Burnet), Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area (2820 CR 414 in Spicewood), Colorado Bend State Park (2236 Park Hill Drive in Bend), and Pedernales Falls State Park (2585 Park Road 6026 in Johnson City). The Austin Ridge Riders have been instrumental in developing a number of trails in these parks.
Browning added that landowners are also discovering the benefits of mountain biking, and hiking, trails. Many studies have shown that when people move to a community, or consider moving to an area, something they seek out is a good trail system.
If you think mountain biking is something you’d like to try (don’t fret about your age because Browning knows riders in their 70s), a good way to start is to meet up with riders with skills similar to yours. The Austin Ridge Riders host regular rides during which they divide participants into skill-level groups.
Browning also recommends you get a properly fitted bike built for the activity. Most big-box or discount store mountain bikes that you can purchase for a couple of hundred bucks aren’t going to cut it. You might have to spend at least a $1,000 for a decent entry-level mountain bike, but the technology and workmanship that go into a good bike pays dividends on the trail.
A great place to learn about the sport is the upcoming Pace Bend Mountain Bike Race and Festival. Go to austinridgeriders.com for more information.
For more Highland Lakes races, check out our guide.
Find more articles like this in Picayune News