Winter Park: First time mountain biker? Take a guided ride
July 16, 2008
When it was my turn to lead, I lowered my gears and climbed uphill, and then stood on the pedals and glided downhill. While weaving between trees, the sun shined through in flashing patches on a dirt path full of obstacles. When I remembered to look up, I saw an incredible view of the surrounding mountains.
It was my first time on a mountain bike and I’m hooked.
I had a great experience Tuesday thanks to the guidance I received from Jenn Metz, Winter Park Resort Ski and Snowboard School training manager.
“Think of it as another piece of playground equipment that you just haven’t experienced yet,” is Jenn’s message to others who haven’t tried mountain biking. “If hiking is your swing set, then this is the teeter-totter. It’s just another way to play on the mountain. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have being fit.”
When I arrived at the resort, I thought I’d try downhill biking because it would make for a more exciting story. Fortunately, Jenn didn’t allow me or I probably would be writing this story from Granby Medical.
I received a bike, helmet, pads and gloves from the resort. Before I started, Jenn took me to an isolated area and taught me how to switch gears, the correct athletic stance for both climbing and descending and practiced tumbling in case I might fall.
We then made our way to the lift. At the top of the mountain I watched some downhill bikers go down a trail strewn with rocks. I realized attempting downhill my first time trail riding would have been like skiing down a double black diamond the first time I went skiing ” potentially suicidal. You have to work your way up.
Jenn said other people also make assumptions about mountain biking.
“Some people assume since they already know how to ride a bike there’s nothing different about riding a bike on the street and riding a bike on trails,” she said.”It does take more skill than just riding on the road. It takes tactics, it takes understanding of the equipment and if they are consistent in their application and they keep learning than there’s no reason why they can’t be a very skilled downhill rider and have a lot of fun.”
Before the session, I told Jenn my goal was to just have fun, and she asked if I was more interested in being safe or having fun. I said, “50/50.”
In skiing they say you’re not skiing hard enough if you don’t fall. So, I knew I wouldn’t mind a couple scratches or bruises, as long as I could still walk to my car afterward.
I followed Jenn’s lead and we started the first path. One of my mistakes as we started riding uphill instead of changing the shift with my thumb to pedal easier, I changed it with my index finger, making it harder and my bike came to a halt. Another challenging part was going up hill and over rocks, but I just peddled hard and actually made it to top.
Jenn said I was catching on enough to try Long Trail. She showed me how to get over bigger rocks and then watched me to see how I did. I didn’t have enough momentum and kept falling off the trail. I finally gave up and moved on.
We biked several miles of trails and some parts were more challenging than others. At the end of the trail, I followed Jenn’s instructions on the berm turns, where you have to let go of your brakes and shift your bike, by leaning into the turns.
I didn’t want the trail to end, and now I feel like I’ve been missing out all summer. I’m really glad I got a chance to try mountain biking this summer, and was lucky to have a professional teach me the basics and correct form. I also got a good workout. The next day, I could still feel the burn and had no injuries. It was an amazing outdoor experience.
I have a good idea of what the rest of my summer will be filled with ” mountain biking.
After the trail Jenn gave me some homework ” to look ahead, combine some of the skills she taught me, and let it become more of an “automatic process” and less of a “thought process.” In addition, I am to discover 10 new trails in the Valley.
“You got good in three hours,” she told me.”You were able to ride what is considered a blue trail, an intermediate trail. You were able to conquer the initial steps and be a very successful trail rider in three hours..”
Jenn has been trail riding cross country for about 20 years, when riding her nickname is “Dirt Princess”
“When you don the gear it looks kind of silly and I think you have to have a little fun with it, and so you have to let your inner child come out. Every inner child wants to have a super hero name. And because somebody already took Downhill Diva. I figured I was going to get dirty, and at the end of every day I’m covered in dirt so I call myself the Dirt Princess.”
She said classes and training is very important.
“I always thought it was about just being braver in order to go bigger, and now I’m starting to see it’s all skill, it’s all application, it’s all tactics and now I can do things I never dreamed I could do. It’s just really exciting. I’m only going to push the limit so far. I’m not willing to take the risk of severally hurting myself because my life is athletics. I’m biking all summer and skiing all winter.”
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