Bicycles: Mountain Biking
The Contagiously High-Energy Way to Explore Catalina's Interior
''Until mountain biking came along,'' observed legendary woman mountain biker Jacquie Phelan, "the bike scene was ruled by a small elite cadre of people who seemed allergic to enthusiasm." That statement captures the gung-ho enthusiasm of mountain biking, a sport with a contagiously high energy level that finds a perfect outlet on Santa Catalina Island.
This off-road style of cycling, which began in the U.S. around the early 1970s and has evolved into a worldwide phenomenon, may be practiced anywhere, but it generally involves rough trails rather than paved roads and thrives on twisting, turning, hilly terrain with lots of downhill action. Specifically designed for the sport, mountain bikes–first developed in the late 1970s–generally feature large, sturdy tubing, sturdy tires with big treads to grip the ground, shock-absorbing systems, and 21-speed gear systems.
You'll find everything you need to enjoy mountain biking on Catalina. First and foremost, island bike shops will rent you high-quality mountain bikes by the hour or by the day. (You can also bring over your own mountain bike; see details below.)
The Catalina Conservancy makes a wide variety of trails around the island, designated on a map, available to mountain bikers. Highlights include rides from Avalon up Airport Road to the Airport in the Sky; along Escondido Road to Little Harbor; along Two Harbors Road to Two Harbors; Parsons Landing Road to Parsons Landing; and Middle Ranch Road into the "outback" of the island's heart. Most of the roads are gravel. While there are none of the tight, twisted trails known as "single track," experienced mountain bikers generally find that Catalina offers at least some degree of technical difficulty, combined with outstanding aerobic exercise–thanks to some of the steepest grades in the state–and uncommonly good scenic pleasures. All routes are well marked.
So, whether you're an experienced mountain biker or someone who's fairly fit and interested in trying out the sport for the first time, Santa Catalina Island is an ideal place for you to hit the trail or road and see what all that contagious enthusiasm is all about.
Getting Ready to Mountain Bike Catalina
Visitors wishing to enjoy mountain biking on Catalina's interior must purchase a Conservancy Membership and your Freewheeler Bike pass is a benefit of membership. The Conservancy Office in the Explore Store at 125 Clarissa in Avalon, open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (may be closed during lunch time) or during regular business hours at the offices of Two Harbors Visitors Services. Due to the Island's rugged interior, only mountain bikes with deep knobby tires are allowed, (sorry, no "hybrid" tires) and riders must wear approved safety helmets. Riding is limited to the primary roads. Riding on secondary roads, service roads and hiking trails is prohibited. Annual Passes begin at $35 (Students $25) and include a membership in the Catalina Island Conservancy. For more information call the Conservancy House at (310) 510-2595 ext 100.
Bicycle shops in Avalon have mountain bikes available for rental by the hour or by the day; to get in any significant riding, it's wise to go with a day rate, which will cost you in the range of $20 to $25. If you want to bring your own mountain bike to the island, you can do so for a small one-way fee of $6 on Catalina Express or $7 via the Catalina Passenger Service. Either way, you are required to wear a helmet that complies with the safety standards of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or the Snell Memorial Foundation. Elbow and kneepads are also a good idea.
Wear loose, comfortable clothing appropriate to the season, avoiding skirts or trousers with flapping hems that could get caught in chains, gears, or spokes. Bring along a plastic water bottle to keep yourself well hydrated. Water and telephone services are also available at marked spots along the interior's roads and trails.
Time to Allow: All Day.
Reservations are not required.
Prices and availability are subject to change.