Mountain biking can be an extreme adventure, but it can also be a family outing. While the rugged Ozark hills can be intimidating, there are also quiet roads winding along river bottoms that are relatively easily negotiated. Even some of the paved highways have only moderate traffic and can be ridden safely. Consider the skill level and stamina of each rider and choose a route that will give each one a pleasant day outdoors amidst the inspiring scenery of the mountains.
The bad news is that bikes are not allowed on the hiking trails of the Buffalo National River. The good news is that there are miles of old roads, logging roads, and quiet country lanes where you can spend an enjoyable day with your bike. Choose National Forest lands, roads along one of the rivers, or a mountain backroad for your biking explorations.
For most of your choices, the terrain is somewhat challenging. Steep hills, lots of curves, creeks, and fallen timber add to the adventure. Always be sure someone knows where you are going and the route you will take.
Take along a few essentials and the most important is another rider. Help could be very welcome in an emergency. Other items you might want to carry are a tire pump, spoke tool, patch kit, chain tool, allen wrench, energy snack and water, a couple of extra chain lengths, and a few feet of duct tape for all kinds of emergency repairs. A name and phone number on a label inside your helmet is a good idea.
We're assuming you are an experienced bike rider if you're taking off into the wilderness, but a few tips on a couple of common Ozarks hazards might be helpful. When riding over water, remember your brakes will be less effective, so be careful. For most of the small spring branches you will find, you can ride across normally, but don't ride into it if you can't see the bottom! If the water is real deep, try ratcheting your pedals by doing quarter pedal strokes and, instead of cranking in a high gear, try spinning in a low gear. After riding through the water, pulse both brakes a few times to scrub off the water.
You will probably encounter fallen logs. Practice on small logs before taking off into the woods. This is a skill that won't happen overnight. Loft your front tire by pulling up on the handlebars while pedaling hard. Land that tire squarely on the log and at the same time, move your weight forward and crouch down. When the tire hits the log, jump forward and throw your handlebars forward, jumping mainly off the front wheel. Your chainring should clear the log and your front wheel should land on the ground as your rear hits the log. As long as your chainring clears, you should have no trouble landing.
A few other cautions: Do a map study before you start and carry a compass. A large trash bag can make a rain coat, a sleeping bag, or a water carrier, if needed. Stay on the trails or roads, wear proper clothing, and don't forget the sunscreen.