Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mountain Biking 101

We are in ski paradise here in Dillon! There are 5 ski resorts within about 15 miles! The only thing is that it’s summer and there’s no snow for skiing. I discovered that most of the ski resorts open to mountain bikers! You and your bike get to ride up the ski lift and then you ride down! This sounded like pure genius to me! I love riding the ski lift – being out in the open high off the ground with my feet dangling out is really fun and riding downhill is fun and when you get to the bottom you could get on the lift again and go again! I’m starting to get interesting in biking, and will likely be buying a bike soon, and was excited to add mountain biking to my list of things I like to do!

I looked at a couple of the resorts and discovered that Keystone offered a class, Mountain Biking 101, it was for totally newbies and taught you all the basics in 2 hours! They also said that you’d get a lift ticket good for the day and you could extend your bike rental all day too! Luckily for us Keystone is the closest resort to us, only about 10 minutes away!

This morning we called and got signed up for the class and discovered that we had to be there by 9:15! It was 8:45! Yikes! Luckily we didn’t have to pack much and we were quickly on our way up the road! We got a little lost in the resort and had to call for help, but found where we needed to be and were right on time!

We got started with the bike rental, filling out paperwork and getting safety gear. My first clue that this sport might not be for me came when the rental guy handed me a motorcycle helmet to wear! This thing was huge! Then he gave us knee/shin guards – they attached mid-thigh and extended down to your ankle. I could hardly walk! Then the last thing we got were elbow pads – the guy handed them to us and left us to figure them out. It was another clue when it took us more than 30 seconds to figure out how to get them on.

We had some time to kill before the class started so we went to the restroom - those knee pads made it harder – then we tested the bikes riding around the village. The bikes were really nice! Smooth gears, easy to steer, serious brakes!

Soon our instructors arrived, there were 2 because one guy was learning to teach the class, so we basically had private instruction! First we went over to “skills park” area to learn the techniques. This area had some rolling bumps, rocks, roots, bridges and bank turns to practice on. When you mountain bike you stand up most of the time and that helps you steer. The bike has amazing suspension and bounces off most things. The skills park was just a little scary thinking about the obstacles, but when we did them it was fun! We rode off a big rock and over a large log, the bike just went right over them with no problem, the shocks help a lot! The bank turns were harder but once I got a feel for it, it was fun! I was feeling like maybe this mountain biking thing would be fun.

After a little while in the skills park we headed down a gravel path to get to the van we were going to take up the mountain. There were few obstacles in it and it was easy to navigate. It was also a gentle slope, just enough to keep the bike moving, but not enough for it to pick up too much speed. I enjoyed that and told the instructor that and he said that cross country biking might be more my speed!

Our first single track trail at the top looked easy enough – the instructor talked us through the obstacles and we knew what to expect. There were two bank turns and a puddle and beyond that it was pretty much straight down.

I got on the bike to head down and right off I was going really fast! I think this trail was much steeper than the ones we’d been practicing on! I tried the brakes – I knew the front brakes would grip tight and possibly send me flying over the handle bars and the back brakes were making me skid. I then kinda panicked and tried to use the coaster brakes like I do on mom’s bike, that of course was totally useless and my pedals were just spinning! I couldn’t get it slowed down! I guess the trail leveled out a bit because the bike finally slowed and I felt more in control and navigated the bank turn and then went crashing through the mud puddle like I knew what I was doing. That was fun if you don’t count the terrifying part at the beginning!

Next we learned about brakes on the road! We were practicing using the back brake and making it skid and then gently adding in some front brake to keep it under control! Control is my friend! :-) I liked the road portion of the lesson – it was nice and wide, gravel, no obstacles!

Next was another single track trail. This one was longer and more challenging. It started a little more gently, but there was a huge ditch in the middle that despite the instructor telling me about it, it took me totally by surprise! I made it over just fine but not without screaming like a baby! The next part was a set of switchbacks and the edge was *right there*! One wrong steering move and you’d be over the edge! We wound around the rest of the trail and finally came to a flat part! I guess I was so relieved to be done with the challenging stuff I relaxed a little too much and got over in the soft part of the trail! This softer dirt caused the wheels to slip and over I went! It didn’t hurt, but it still wasn’t too fun!

The rest of the lesson was on the road riding back to the resort. I mostly enjoyed that, it was very steep in places and it was hard to satisfactorily control my speed, but I did enjoy it more than I had the single track stuff!

Overall the lesson was a very good experience! The instructors were great, they really talked through everything and coached us through the techniques. It was challenging and scary, but I did it and was successful and actual did most stuff pretty good, but I don’t think mountain biking is something that I’m going to do again! We did this mostly for a learning experience and see if it was fun and to help me decide what type of bike I might want to buy. I was thinking that I wanted something with more “mountain bike” capability but now I’m thinking as long as I can get down a gravel road or a dirt road I’ll be good!

When we got back to the resort the lesson was over and Dad and I decided that we needed to get some lunch and then we’d ride the chair lift up and ride the road back down. The road was 7 miles from the top to the bottom and I thought it would be just perfect! There was a pizza place right in the village so we went over there and had a yummy veggie pizza!

As we were getting up from lunch ready to go get our lift tickets and head up it started raining. Just a few little drops at first, but then harder. Soon it was pouring rain! We took shelter under the overhang in front of the bike shop but soon the rain turned to hail and was blowing so we moved in to the bike shop! It was hailing so much it was accumulating! There was a layer of hail along the sidewalk! We were fully expecting that the shower would blow right over and we’d be able to go up the mountain soon. It just kept raining! Then there was lighting. As soon as there’s lighting or thunder they close the lift! They don’t open the lift again until there have been 30 thunder free minutes. We waited a little while longer and we kept having more thunder and lighting. Finally we decided that we didn’t want to stand around anymore and returned our gear and headed back to the campground. Judging from how the storms moved this afternoon and the way thunder echoes off the mountains I’m guessing that they never re-opened the lift this afternoon.

I’m bummed that we didn’t get to ride down the mountain and I’m going to stick to road biking!

Tomorrow we are heading back to Frisco to rent the bike I rode yesterday and ride around town – all road/bike path biking!

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