The Mountain Bike Life

Another one of my exciting summer riding locations this year comes from tagging along with my girlfriend’s family, yet again. The destination was Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont, for a few days of rest and relaxation; projected activities included getting up early to read and some leisurely hikes. Naturally, I asked if I could throw my bike in her car. It was a classic “Oh, I’ll bring my bike and if by some chance I have a large block of alone time (unlikely), I’ll get to bike” kind of situation, until I walked in the condo door and saw two mountain bikes parked within feet of the entrance. Not only did her cousin and wife bring their bikes, but I was able to get out riding with my girlfriend for the first time.

Took this with my Olympus tough camera near Smuggs.

My first day of riding, with her cousin and his wife, was on the Trapp Family Lodge trail network in Stowe. It was a $10 fee to use the trails, but it was well worth it to ride some really well-maintained stuff. We took a couple loops on the lower blue trails to scope it out, and then moved up to some more challenging stuff. We found a double diamond trail called “Tap line” which offered a really technical climb and an awesome descent. From the top of tap line we went all the way to the bottom across some nice, flowy trails. It was easy to keep our momentum up and enjoy the descents.

Me with the Trapp Lodge in the background

The scenery was about as beautiful and as European as riding on the East Coast gets, set just beneath the famous Trapp Family Lodge. Even the drive there was beautiful and enjoyable. I’d recommend the trails if you’re vacationing in the area, despite the entrance fee, as the surrounding area is beautiful. There are some other great trail networks around that I didn’t have the time to check out.

Glamour shot.

The following day I went back to the trails with my girlfriend so she could try mountain biking for the first time. She rented a Giant FS Anthem for $28/2 hours, which I thought was fine, except it seemed to have the geometry of a men’s bike. The top tube was uncomfortably high for her, despite being the correct frame size. We started out on a green trail that was a perfect starting point for someone who hasn’t mountain biked before. Fortunately, she has been road biking for years, and was definitely comfortable on a bike.

I probably jumped the gun in bringing us to a blue trail, and she fell on a banked turn on the descent. But, like a champ, she redid the same trail without falling. It was awesome to get to coach her through the first time on the trails, despite what you can imagine is a fairly tense scenario.

Happy biker.

In the end, we did a couple loops of the blue trails and her confidence really grew. It really pays to have a well-maintained trail when you’re learning, so take that as some advice. Some other advice that paid off was “Look in the direction that you want to go.” Banked turns on the downhill seemed to be her biggest challenge, and she said that if she was looking where she wanted to go, the wheel seemed to follow. I see a ton of articles telling people how to get better, but not many on how to start on that first day. I found myself struggling for good pointers, but here’s a quick start:

1. Look where you want to go. Especially on downhill banked turns, the wheel will follow.

2. Getting out of the saddle helps you balance when the terrain gets rougher. Also keeps your butt from getting as sore.

3. As tempting as it is to “ride” the brakes, things will flow more the less you do.

4. If you fall, definitely try that segment again. Even if it’s not the same day, conquering something that tripped you up is gratifying and great for building confidence.

I think pointers for first timers are really important, and I’m sure there are more. Feel free to post!

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