You can learn to mountain bike, Vail Valley |

You can learn to mountain bike, Vail Valley

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyDallas residents Sophia, left, and her father, Chris Westphal, ride down Cinch road Friday at Beaver Creek in Colorado's Vail Valley

VAIL, Colorado –One wrong turn at Vail and a beginner mountain biker could be in for a long and difficult journey – and maybe even some tears of fear.

Mountain biking doesn’t have to be terrifying, though, say local professionals and beginners alike. With the right gear, the right attitude and a good trail map, mountain biking can be an inviting sport for beginners.

Sure, $4,000 bikes might make those considering the sport think twice about it, but beginners don’t have to buy elaborate full-suspension bikes, said Mia Stockdale, a professional mountain biker and co-owner of Vail Mountain Bike Camps.

“I think for a beginner, just a hard-tail (front-suspension) bike works just fine,” she said. “It’s fairly lightweight – full-suspensions tend to be heavy.”

It’s also important to make sure the bike fits right. Just because the seat is the perfect distance from the ground doesn’t mean the bike is a good fit.

Beginners can go to any bike shop and get measured for the right bike, she said. And if you’re buying a used bike online or from the classifieds, you can take those bikes in for measuring, too.

Gear also needs to fit – a helmet that’s going to fly off during a tiny spill isn’t going to do beginners any good. Shoes need to be the right size, but beginners shouldn’t worry about clip-in shoes – shoes that attach feet to the pedals – that’s something that comes later with more experience.

Bonus gear items would be things like knee pads and armor, but beginners aren’t likely doing the serious downhill tracks that would require that type of gear.

Gear aside, it’s technique – at least a little of it – that people really need. The number one skill beginners need to learn is the downhill stance on the bike, Stockdale said. You need to be standing up, keeping the pedals level and leaning slightly back.

“(The downhill position) is one of the key things,” she said.

If you can’t get into or can’t afford a private lesson or skills workshop, the best option is to ride with someone who knows what they’re doing, Stockdale said.

Another useful tip: Use both breaks, Stockdale said.

Many beginners don’t want to use the front break because they think they’ll fly over the handle bars, but the front break actually provides most of the stopping for the bike.

If the thought of getting on a gondola with your mountain bike scares you, don’t let it. Vail’s Lion Down trail, marked as a blue run, is a nice mix of easy spots and more challenging single tracks, Stockdale said.

There’s also green runs – Eagle’s Loop, Upper Fireweed, Village Trail and Cub’s Way – featuring gravel roads and great views.

At Beaver Creek, beginners have several options, said Michael Holden, spokesman for the mountain and an intermediate mountain biker.

“There are some really beautiful trails that go horizontally across the mountain, which is nice to not be constantly climbing,” Holden said.

Allie’s Way is one of Holden’s favorite trails. It’s all single track, taking riders through aspen groves and wildflower fields, and it’s easily accessible from the dirt roads Dally or Cinch.

“Everybody loves Allie’s Way,” he said. “A lot of people use it as part of their ride on Beaver Creek.”

Village to Village, a trail from Beaver Creek Village to Arrowhead Village, is another trail that’s fun and good for beginners. There’s a lot of traversing and the trails goes from double to single track through open meadows, aspen groves and custom bike bridges.

Stockdale like the rides down in Eagle, too. The race course loop for the Eagle town race series is some of the best riding in the valley, she said.

Visit for a list of local bike trails for all riding levels. Another site,, has a list of trails divided by levels of difficulty.

Vail Mountain Bike Camps offer private lessons and bike camps for adults and children. Visit for more information.

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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