Sorry – we aren’t extreme enough to bring the nice camera biking, so we only got iPhone photos.
Probably my second summer living in Colorado, we were in Buena Vista camping with friends and decided to go mountain biking. I’d never been before but liked road biking and mountains, so it seemed like a good idea. Except that some of my friends were not beginners/were fearless and none of us knew the area. So less than 10 minutes in, while trying to navigate through a crowd of people, avoid the 20 foot drop off the cliff to our right into the rushing Arkansas river, and rolling over some fairly technical features, my friend flipped over her handlebars right in front of me. BTW – did I mention that I’m afraid of heights? Yea.. so I was done. Andrew, being the amazingly understanding man that he is, turned around with me as we walked our bikes back to town and instead grabbed a coffee. That was the end of mountain biking for me – I was too afraid to do it again, and instead, if people asked me if I mountain biked I would just say “it’s not for me.”
I went years (5?) being afraid to try it again, and honestly feeling a little bit like a wimp UNTIL I went to REI Outessa last September (more on that later). I signed up for the beginner mountain biking course with a friend – we were both sure that we were going to hate it and built our schedules around that idea, ensuring we would still have a super fun weekend even if that part was miserable. It turned out to be so much fun that I cried at the end. The height of all of my emotions is crying, so watch out for me. Something I thought I was never going to get into and I had fun, didn’t fall, and didn’t even get off my bike. Granted this trail was just built before the event and had zero technical parts at all, but it was a total success. It was so helpful to have instructors teach us how to tackle tight turns, what to do when you break/go downhill, and the proper positioning. And it didn’t hurt to have an amazing pro shouting “you’re doing awesome” and other encouraging things in her Scottish accent. My friend, Allison, and I were both excited to ride again!
What is crazy is that almost every woman I talk to about this has had a similar experience (and maybe some guys who are not willing to admit it?), though many of them are still in the “not for me” camp. YOU GUYS!! It’s so much fun! You have to try it again! Keep reading for my tips on conquering your past bad experiences!
My weekends earlier this summer were jam-packed with ultra training, but now I finally have some free time, so Andrew and I rented bikes from a local shop and headed to Alderfer Three Sisters Park in Evergreen. I’ve run here many times and remembered it being fairly easy with a good climb at the beginning.
Except… it wasn’t easy at all. The problem with trail running is that technical features and uphills are way easier when you are running than when you are biking – this is how I’ve found such great camaraderie with mountain bikers on the trails. Which is why I’ve had some serious FOMO around mountain biking. So here we are, in the middle of a tough bike (MTB Project rates it as a blue, so it’s not that bad… but it was hard for me!) that previously would have probably ended my mountain biking for another 5 years. Instead of crying (see note above), I had fun! So here is how you can finally enjoy mountain biking, even if it’s above your skill level:
- Check your ego. You are learning – cut yourself some slack. If something is too scary or hard to bike through, hop off your bike and walk – no shame. If you start to get tired, take a break. How awesome will it be when you can conquer the sections you are walking through now?? I have no idea… but I can imagine it’s pretty awesome.
- Take a class or go for a beginner group ride. Some of the things I learned at the REI class saved me from eating it more than a few times this weekend, especially while I had the death grip on my handlebars while crawling downhill.
- Find your tribe. Ride with people who are encouraging and understand your riding experience. Instead of going out with really experienced friends, find some other beginners to go with so you can laugh together about the hard parts and cheer each other on! Andrew and I had fun high-fiving when one of us made it around a hairpin turn without jumping off or got through a technical section.
- Find a trail with few hikers. I don’t trust myself enough yet to safely pass hikers on the trail, so I’d rather just avoid the issue altogether. I like the MTB Project App because you can read other riders’s descriptions and see if it will be a good option for you. Or ask your more experienced friends/coworkers for advice.
- Bring good snacks. Isn’t this true for life in general? We brought some homemade chocolate chip cookies and enjoyed them after the big downhill (my least favorite part).
If you’ve been experiencing some mountain biking FOMO, love the trails but have never mountain biked before, or just didn’t think it was for you – I hope this changes your mind! Email us if you’re local and think it’d be fun to do some beginner group rides!
PS – that sweet cactus shorts kit is from Wild Rye and I want all of the things! And yes, I bought a mountain biking kit and don’t even have a bike – had to be prepared for Outessa 2017 – Mt. Hood!
PPS – we aren’t cool enough to be sponsored (yet?!), but we still link to products and companies we love and hope you’ll love them too!
PPPS – I’m heading out for a ladies/lady dogs backpacking trip this weekend and can’t wait to share the deets with you! Exclamation points!