Hanging with my instructor at Park City (Canyons Village) mountain biking clinic
Photo Erika Wiggins Jun 19 2015 / Park City Resort
Athlete Hailey Klotz Jun 22 2015 / Deer Valley Resort
Photo Chris Pearson Jun 22 2015
Jun 17 2015 / Snowbasin
Seriously…this 40-something-year-old chick never expected to take up mountain biking. But a pro instructor at Park City Mountain changed that. I walked in a marginal cyclist at best. No joke, I needed a refresher on braking. Growing up on a sailboat, I didn’t even own a bike as a kid. By the end of the day, I’d gained so much skill and confidence I wanted to buy my own bike.
Sadly, I’ve noticed too many gals, especially my age, seem to think mountain biking is a guy’s sport. I’m calling bull on that garbage. Mountain biking is truly an inclusive sport, including all genders, ages, and abilities. Here’s the spoiler, just about everything in this post applies to both men and women. Women are just as capable in this sport. The main differences you’ll encounter have to do with fitting a bike to our size and shape.
Considering Utah is one of the top mountain biking destinations in the world, I’d be silly not to embrace the sport and share it with my girlfriends. Something like a girl’s mountain biking getaway would be epic! We could bike all day, get our adrenaline up, see beautiful views and have a few laughs, then enjoy a nice dinner and soak in the hot tub. Hmmmm and maybe a massage….yup I’m in!
Like most sports, there’s a right and wrong way to get started. Here are some tips for beginners to get you started off right. I’m also including some fun ideas for planning a girl’s mountain biking getaway for any skill level.
Sign up for a clinic or lessons
A clinic is a huge confidence builder when you haven’t had any experience mountain biking. My instructor was experienced at helping new cyclist face their fear of obstacles and drops. She spoke to me in a way that calmed my worries and instilled trust. That said, I suggest taking lessons as a first step.
Another advantage of going this route is learning about bikes and protective gear before investing. I asked my instructor to give me her thoughts on “Bike Buying 101.” Her years of experience were invaluable.
It’s also possible you may not enjoy the sport, although I doubt it. I took lessons for a writing assignment and assumed I wouldn’t like it, but left totally hooked!
Several Utah resorts offer lessons. I took mine at Park City and had a great experience, so I can recommend their program personally. They even have an obstacle training area. I appreciated having a female instructor. With over 20 years of experience, and having overcome a fear of downhill riding herself, she was a perfect match for me. I felt she understood my apprehensions and introduced skills in small steps.
When choosing a clinic, look for one that has instructors with a Professional Mountain Bike Instructor (PMBI) certification. PMBI instructors not only possess good skills, they are trained to teach. This can make a big difference in your first mountain biking experience. I never felt overwhelmed by my instructor even though it was my first day. To read more about my experience at Park City, view the post on my blog.
Dress for adventure
For your first lesson, you can wear comfortable clothes that don’t bind, but aren’t so lose they can get caught. I’d also suggest choosing fabrics that are breathable and can stand up to abrasion. Fitted gym clothes work well.
You’ll also need sunglasses or goggles, gloves, and protective gear. All but the glasses are typically available for rent.
While there are a confusing number of bike shoes available, running shoes should be fine for your first days out. I wore trail runners with a good tread.
Take it slow
Once you’ve had a little exposure to mountain biking, you may want to head out on your own to practice your new skills. Keep things positive by staying within your abilities.
Learn some basic maintenance
Tires go flat. It’s a fact of life. When you head out on your own, either ride with someone who knows how to repair or replace a tube, or learn to do it yourself. The other option is to stay close to facilities.
Choose the right trail
Your best bet is to ask your instructor for trails they’d recommend for your skill level. If that’s not an option, visit a local bike shop or ask other cyclists who know the area. Lastly, a lot of trail information is also available online, including difficulty ratings.
Load up your pack
Pack all the same things you would for a hike, including a first-aid kit, water, snacks, and an extra layer. Also, pack a spare tube, patch kit, tire lever, and pump.
Know the rules of the trail
Most sports have rules and mountain biking is no exception. They are designed to protect both people and the environment. Here they are for quick reference: IMBA Rules of the Trail
Find your tribe
Riding with a crew is fun and helpful but picking the right group is key. Team up with other riders of the same level who won’t leave you behind or push you past your safe limits.
I’d love to find a group of ladies to bike with someday. Yes, I love my sweetie, but girl-time is special. Add in adventure, and I’m double happy!
Get out there
Mountain biking is no spectator sport; you have to get out there to build your skills. This means getting out on the trail. It doesn’t matter that you’re slow, timid, or even have to push your bike at times. Everyone has to start somewhere, so get out there!
Before planning anything, check-in with your girlfriends. Do they want to spend a majority of the time on two wheels, or would they enjoy chilling at the spa? Do they want to build skills? Or would they prefer to leisurely rides? All downhill adventure? Or cross-mountain tours? Once you have a feel for what everyone expects, it’s time to make plans.
Select a location
The ideal destination depends on where you’re traveling from and if your group is scattered across the country. If you live within driving distance, no worries! But if you have to fly, check your options before booking anything else.
Lessons, tours, or freestyle?
Biking lessons and clinics range from beginner to advanced. If your group is new to biking, or wants to build skills, this is an excellent option. Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort even offers a women’s bike weekends. Tours are another option. You get the advantage of having a local guide show you around, making the most of your time on the trail.
Once you have the adventure planned, schedule some downtime. There are a number of spa and luxury dining options available at resorts. My vote is still for a massage! Other resort options include pools, yoga or hikes.
Hunt for the perfect combination of lodging and activities for your group. Focus on the most important features first and then add the missing ingredients. For example, find the ideal location and lessons, and then book a room or condo.
Nail it down
Flights are the hardest part to book with a group, so I suggest doing some initial research first, and then book flights. Once the fights are set, book rooms, lessons, and other activities.
Here’s a partial list of Utah ski areas offering mountain biking this summer:
Park City - An awesome school and access to Park City trails.
Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort – Checkout their woman’s clinics!
There’s so much I could share about mountain biking in Utah, but hopefully this information will get you started. With this, grab some girlfriends and get out there!