A girl’s guide to mountain bike lessons

mountain bike lessons at breck

I definitely love and live the Breckenridge lifestyle – skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, running, etc. – but I have always been a hack on a mountain bike.  This week, I decided to change that.  I took a beginner mountain bike lesson at the Breckenridge Fun Park, just a few steps outside my office door.

My cohort Danielle and I met our guide/instructor Cary at the guest service building in the heart of the Fun Park at the base of Peak 8. She is this adorable, mountain-biking bad ass, complete with the manners and accent to make any southern mother proud.  Since we already had bikes, helmets and sunscreen – we were off to the learning area to master the basics.IMG_2935

This was very much like a ski or snowboard lesson:  Cary walked us through what the lesson would accomplish based our current skill levels, explained our gear, a.k.a. our bikes, to familiarize us with our tools… and then got us going!

The 2.5 hour intro to mountain biking lesson I took focuses on these key skills to prepare you to ride some classic, Colorado single-track:

  • Braking – both front and back brakes
  • Shifting Gears
  • Obstacles: Rock Garden, roots, step ups, step downs
  • Turning: switchbacks and banks

We honed these skills in the learning area – and to be honest, Cary told me some beginners might spend the entire lesson working on these skills in this area of the mountain. But, since we were just a class of two and already acclimated to the altitude, and biking in general, we were able to take only a few breaks and were ahead of schedule. Therefore, we decided to try out our new skills on some Peak 8 trails.Mountain Bike Lesson chairlift

This is where my lesson was really elevated to a VIP-type experience.   Our bikes were carefully loaded and unloaded on the Colorado Chair without us moving a finger, and we had some great conversation with Cary on the way up – it was a great chance for her to talk to us about the trail we were about to tackle and offer us personal tips based on our progress (plus the view is amazing!).

When we got to the top of the chairlift, Cary carefully guided us to the Swinger Switchback trail, checking in on our water and food needs (she carried extra water, snacks and sunscreen just in case!) And with a deep breath – off we rode!

As a 39-year-old, professional woman, falling off anything has become a new fear of mine – from my skis and snowboard, the steps on my front porch. I am not a fan of scraping up my legs, arms or face.   But, as soon as we hit the single-track, I became more and more comfortable with my bike and newly learned skills. I embraced my inner 10-year-old, tomboy and found my fear dissipating with every turn, bump and climb.  I was having fun mountain biking – a first for me! In addition, Cary was encouraging and careful to check in with us on new obstacles headed our way on the trail and offer breaks as needed.

At the end of our lesson, Cary offered each of us additional feedback and skills we should be practicing to become better at the sport.  And after a few high-fives and hugs, the lessoned ended and I now had the confidence keep mountain biking, knowing I will actually have fun while doing it. The experience really opened up a new way for me to enjoy my mountain and little mountain town – an unexpected, added bonus for this Breck girl.  Thanks Cary!

Here’s what you need to know about Breck’s mountain biking lessons – and good luck!

— Kristen Stewart