Family Mountain Biking 101

Mountain biking is fun and it’s fast. It takes place outdoors in beautiful and remote places. It offers great exercise, and even though it’s long been considered a sport for men, the thrill and enjoyment of it are attracting more women and kids all the time. Heck, one of the best female mountain bikers on the planet, Rebecca Rusch, calls Sun Valley home.

If you’re interested in getting into mountain biking, there’s no better place to learn—or improve—than right here in Sun Valley. There are over 400 miles of single track in the area.

“People interested in mountain biking come in here all the time,” Greg Bearce, the supervisor at Pete Lane’s Bike Shop in the Sun Valley Village said. “A lot of people don’t have the access or ability to get out there to play, so when they come here they want to take advantage of all we have to offer and a lot of people want to try mountain biking.”

To help you and your family explore mountain biking, here’s a CliffsNotes version of Mountain Biking 101.

Safety First

Having the proper safety equipment, gear and bike are the first things to focus on when mountain biking.

Whether you want to cruise cross-country or bomb down the face of Baldy, helmets and proper footwear are musts, as are knee, elbow pads and gloves for challenging and technical rides.

“Safety first. If you’re going to do any kind of riding you need to have the proper protection,” explained Josh York, a rental specialist at Pete Lane’s.

Pete Lane’s rents out a large selection of bikes of all kinds, from little kids’ bicycles and adult comfort cruisers to top-of-the-line road and mountain bikes. They also rent out “flat packs,” which includes all the biking necessities like spare tubes, a pump and bike multi-tool.
“We have the bike for the performance you need and can help guide you towards the types of trails you want to ride,” Josh said, pointing out that preparation and knowledge are the big keys to staying safe.

“You want to have a nice long season, not a short but exciting season that sends you to the hospital,” he said.

Stay Hydrated

“A lot of people who’ve never done it before think mountain biking is going to be easy, but nothing about mountain biking is easy,” said Greg, who’s been mountain biking for a couple of decades now. “You have to have some level of fitness, because you have to get uphill to enjoy the fun part of going downhill.”

Biking on rolling terrain or going uphill is a workout, especially when you’re already more than a mile high, like you are up here in Sun Valley (5,750’). Even taking the lift to the top of the mountain and then riding down Baldy’s 3,400’ of vertical is a much bigger workout than most folks would imagine—and it sure does get the heart racing.

So a day of mountain biking should be treated like any other strenuous exercise like skiing or road biking. You want to eat healthy, high-energy foods before—or snacks while—riding. You also want to stay hydrated, which means not drinking alcohol while on your bike. Save the beers for the après biking.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

Even the best mountain bikers always have more to learn about terrain, technique or gear. That’s why Sun Valley has become such a mountain biking mecca, and why it’s such a great place to take up or enjoy the sport. There are endless miles to ride and a large community of knowledgeable bikers happy to share their know-how, so long as you’re not afraid to ask.

“Everyone can use improvement. You can always learn more and it’s always good to work on the fundamentals. That’s the surest, fastest way to get better,” said Greg, who has been instructing mountain bikers in Sun Valley for a decade.  “A fresh set of eyes and tips from someone who knows how to teach can improve any rider. It’s about being open to improving.”

Pete Lane’s offers guided Mountain Biking 101 classes. Greg said that they are tailored to the experience and fitness level of each rider, and that they can be “a very powerful tool to help people get over obstacles.” Give them a call (208.622.2279) or stop on by the bike shop across from the Sun Valley Lodge for more details.
Mountain biking may be bit of a workout, and it might be a tad scary and challenging at times, but it sure is fun, especially if you have a good attitude, the right equipment and know which trials are going to best match your skill and fitness level.



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