Lake Placid's Mountain Bike Clinic at Mount Van Hovenberg

Dispelling the myth that we're all just accidents waiting to happen
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Follow the leader: Joe Kahn shows 'em how it's done on the flat slalom course  (Nathan Borchelt)
Placid by Mountain Bike
Bunny-hopping Along the Adirondacks' Jackrabbit Trail
Pedal along Lake Placid's extensive cross-country singletrack

Over 2,500 Feet of Vertical Regret: Mountain Biking Down Little Whiteface
A riveting descent of the East Coast's most revered—and feared—mountain

Access and Resources
The BETA on the Van Ho Mountain Bike Clinic and the 411 on Lake Placid
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Like many of the sports that have become alt-media darlings, mountain biking might seem more extreme than common sense would dictate. Portrayals of helmet-clad madmen in baggy shorts dropping off massive cliffs may make for exciting, caffeine-infused soda commercials, but they don't showcase the peaceful side of the sport: a cyclist enveloped in nature, the steady grind of gears and the hum of tires on hard-packed singletrack the only sound as you cruise through old-growth forest, over Utah slickrock, alongside sandstone arches, through streams, over fallen trees.

That's where Joe Kahn comes in. For the last five years he's been taking the menace out of mountain biking, and he's got over 30 miles of pristine terrain on one of the most mythically charged parts of the Lake Placid region at his disposal: the cross-country skiing course of Mount Van Hovenberg (known locally as Van Ho), host of the 1980 Winter Olympics and a perpetual über-athlete's playground. After careful negotiation to convince the Olympic Regional Development Association (ORDA) that opening their revered real estate to mountain biking wouldn't damage its environmental integrity, Lake Placid-based High Peaks Cyclery has hosted ten successful season at Van Ho, offering first-timers and veteran fat-tire fanatics unlimited access to a trail system that varies from the serene to the extreme. And as director of the Mountain Bike Center and chief host of the Adult Riding Camps, Joe is there to make sure you can manage the former before attempting the latter.

I joined Joe at 10 a.m. on the second day of one his two-day training seminars. When I arrived he was taking his two students Kim and Dotti, a pair of road cycling enthusiasts from Rhode Island, through the obstacle course—a tight circle with log-crossings and six- and 12-inch man-made jumps—adjacent to the High Peaks Cyclery Van Ho headquarters.

"I show them the right technique here, in a controlled environment," Joe explained. "Then it's less intimidating when they encounter it on the trails."

Published: 29 Sep 2003 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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