Mountain Biking for Beginners

Spring is here! Snow is melting, trail surfaces are drying, and it is time to get on your mountain bike to explore trails in the Boulder County Parks & Open Space (BCPOS) system. If you are new to mountain biking, here are some tips for a safe and enjoyable experience on our trails.

Get Ready

Before leaving home, make sure you and your bike are ready for the ride. Check your personal equipment: helmet (look for cracks, make sure the chin strap is adjusted and the buckle works); gloves; bike pack with tools, spare tire or patch kit, extra clothing, water, and snacks; and shoes appropriate for your pedals. Get your bike in shape. If you haven’t ridden since last summer, clean your bike and lubricate the drive train. Check the pressure in your suspensions, and add air if necessary. Inflate your tires to the proper pressure. If your bike has tubeless tires, you may need to add sealant.

BCPOS, like all public-land agencies, has regulations governing trail use. Review and understand the rules, and then follow them on your ride. Be particularly sensitive to other users. Bikes always yield to equestrians and pedestrians. Downhill riders yield to uphill riders. Some trails have directional requirements for mountain bikes.

Trail surface conditions change with weather, and trails may be closed for safety or to prevent damage. A good source of information on closures and other restrictions is the Boulder Area Trails smartphone app. (Update the data before you get out of cell service range.) The BCPOS web site also has information about current closures. Check the weather forecast to choose proper clothing and to make sure you are back at the trailhead before the trail gets muddy or lightning moves in.

Get Set

Pick a trail suitable for your skill and level of conditioning. Beginner trails are wider and have stable surfaces, with few rocks and little loose dirt. Although there may be steeper sections, there are no sustained climbs. Total elevation gain and distance are low. There are usually no sections on steep sidehills. Obstacles, such as larger rocks, logs, or roots, may be present but are usually avoidable. (If you have to bypass an obstacle, don’t ride off the trail, dismount and carry your bike.) Turns are not tight, and step-ups and drops are usually less than two inches.

Several BCPOS trails are suitable for beginners. The Schoolhouse Loop at Heil Valley Ranch contains small technical features that can be ridden or bypassed while staying on-trail. The Overland Loop, also at Heil Valley Ranch, is a little more difficult, containing some intermediate sections. The loops at Mud Lake can be ridden in several combinations. Meyers Homestead Trail has a wide, mostly solid riding surface but is loose and steep in a few places. The nearby Josie Heath Trail is a true singletrack, adding two switchbacks that are good practice for beginners. On the plains, the Coalton Trailhead has access to the Coalton, Mayhoffer Singletree, and Meadowlark trails, which have solid riding surfaces and sections of singletrack.

Some intermediate trails have long sections of beginner terrain. If you pick one of these trails, don’t hesitate to dismount and walk on more technical sections if you feel uncomfortable riding. The Boulder Area Trails app gives information on difficulty, distance, and elevation to help you choose a ride. A number of online sources give more detail. Enjoy your ride!

Note: Some parks mentioned in this article are slated to reopen this spring, but please check the BoulderCountyOpenSpace.org/trails for the latest information.