Recently, I tried mountain biking for the first time. It was both a terrifying and exciting experience that made me appreciate the sport in a whole new light.
I met our guide, Sutra (real name Jacob Brett) at the trailhead of a popular biking trail, about 20 minutes outside of Salmon Arm. Sutra is a rare immigrant from New Zealand. As with many small towns in interior B.C., there are more people leaving than going – especially young people. It’s a growing concern that may yet be overcome, with renewed interest in mountain biking and other outdoor sports in the region.
Sutra, a mountain biking instructor with Skookum Cycle and Ski – Salmon Arm
I was equipped with a mountain bike courtesy of Skookum Cycle and Ski, one of the local hubs that supplies the region’s growing biking community. After some trial and error on flat pavement, our two-hour ride began with some beginner trails.
It was an insane departure from my usual urban cycling.
When the offer of a mountain bike tour first came up, I thought it would be easy. Surely, since I bike often in the summer (and sometimes even uphill), a two-hour ride should be a walk in the park?
Not really. Mountain biking is its own beast, and the muscles you use are different from regular cycling. The gears were a bewildering mess to me, and I would frequently shift up when I was supposed to be shifting down. I did a lot of walking the bike that morning. I also wiped out once while tearing down the hill, trying to ride on Sutra’s effortless coat tails.
Sutra and his sweet decked-out ride from Norco Bikes
Here are some quick tips for beginner mountain bikers that I picked up over the two hours:
1. Take more water than you think you’ll need. Really. I was done my bottle less than halfway through.
2. Always lean forward when going uphill. While the action seems counterintuitive, it helps your balance and puts those leg muscles to work.
3. Be prepared to stand as much as possible, especially going downhill. It’s all about greater control and balance, plus you get less of a jarring ride on your behind.
4. Get used to shifting much more often than regular cycling. Probably as much as every few seconds.
5. Know when to call it quits. An hour of mountain biking burns much more calories than cycling, with good reason. Expect to do half as much as you’d normally, if you lead a relatively active lifestyle.
Mountain biking is a maddeningly exhilarating ride, and I can see why people flock to it – especially in beautiful Salmon Arm.
Disclosure: Guide generously sponsored by Ways2Ride and Skookum Cycle and Ski. Special thanks to my guide Sutra (Jacob Brett). This review was neither paid for nor expected, and consists of my own thoughts of the experience.