Building and testing your mountain biking skills


Walk into any local coffee shop or brewery in Boulder and listen carefully, and the odds are good you’ll hear someone boasting about conquering one of the local singletrack trails. Even if you’re not ready to build your own legend and point your tread straight down your favorite Flatiron (not recommended if you want to live), there are still plenty of ways to shred dirt and build up those skills and confidence as you earn those 29er wheels.

Mountain biking can range from slow, technical routes over wet, rocky or root-strewn trails to packed, fast but more forgiving singletrack trails. Learning to hit the dirt properly is a little more complicated than having Dad let go when you aren’t paying attention.

Valmont Bike Park is a perfect place to start and has partnered with Avid 4 Adventure to offer five-day skills camps (ages 7-16) and private instruction on features ranging from extra small to extra large. Private and group lessons are available starting at $195. Check for more information. Community Cycles and Boulder Mountainbike Alliance are also hosting a beginners trail ride on June 15 at noon, starting from their shop at 2805 Wilderness Place in Boulder. The ride will take the Eagle/Sage loop near the Boulder Reservoir and an out-and-back to Lefthand Valley Reservoir. Details are at

When you’re ready to strike out on your own and begin honing your skills, there’s no better place to start than Marshall Mesa in South Boulder. The Dirty Bismark loop is 17 miles made up of nine easy trails easily accessible from nearby roads, just in case you need a pick-up or assistance from your support crew (thanks, Mom).

When you’re ready to test those skills on a singletrack trail, the Betasso Preserve has two three-mile-plus loop trails and links to the Boulder Creek Path and Fourmile Canyon. Biking up from Boulder can be a challenge. Thankfully, there’s a parking lot near the loop for easy access. There’s no biking at Betasso Wednesdays and Saturdays and the trail is narrow enough that travel is restricted to one direction each week, so pay careful attention to the signs.

Looking to up the ante? West Magnolia Trailhead in Nederland offers easy access to the intermediate and advanced Dot trails, including the Lollipop Loop and Star Wars trail. Watch out for undesignated trails, as riding illegally can result in big fines and bad crashes.

Just outside of Boulder, Lyons offers access to Hall Ranch and the Nelson Loop, a technically challenging trail system that will make you earn that post-ride Oskar Blues beer. If you want to start slowly, take the Antelope trail in to enjoy the great scenery with a less strenuous challenge.

For more information about places to ride, the Boulder Mountainbike Alliance, found at, has trail ratings from one to 10 for trails in the Boulder area based on technical difficulty, aerobic difficulty and coolness factor.

They also offer organized rides so like-minded riders can find some offroad company.