Checking Off A Bucket List Item – Mountain Biking In Moab
Bill had been dreaming of mountain biking for some time and trying it out while we were in the mountain biking capital of North America seemed like the perfect time to start. I had only returned to biking last summer after taking a twenty-year hiatus from the sport; and to make matters worse, I hadn’t been on my bike at all in the past nine months. To say my biking skills were rusty would be a grave understatement. Bill, on the other hand, has made biking his sport and with our wide gap in skill levels, Bill and I look somewhat like Geraint Thomas and Mr. Bean when we ride together.
Finding An Instructor
Rather than taking it upon ourselves to rent and transport bikes or join a large tour, we opted to hire an instructor for private lessons. After a little research, we narrowed it down to two companies before Bill called to see which would be the best fit for us. He told both instructors that we’re beginners and didn’t want to try anything crazy, and that we’re sixty years old, but in really good shape. After telling the first lady how active we are even though we’re sixty, she replied, “Well, that’s great, you’re not dead yet.” We cracked up and that’s become our little private joke – that’s no longer private…
We liked both instructors, but opted to go with Sylvie from Moab Mountain Bike Instruction (not the one who declared that we weren’t dead yet) after hearing multiple people at the local bike shop say how much they liked her and that she’s a fantastic instructor.
But First A Little Homework
Sylvie instructed us to stop by Poison Spider Bicycles sometime the day or two before our lesson so we could fill out some paperwork and reserve our bikes. She told us she would pick them up the evening before our lesson and meet us at 8 AM at Moab Brands Trails just outside of town.
Meeting The Person Who’d Turn Us Into Mountain Bikers
The morning of our lesson was warm with temperatures expected to rise to 95° later in the day. The desert sun was bright, but with low humidity we were quite comfortable when we arrived around 7:45. Sylvie was already there and waiting for us with three mountain bikes hanging off the back of her van.
Bill and I both immediately liked Sylvie’s easy going nature and listened intently as she gave us a quick rundown of how our mountain bikes were different than regular bikes.
Mountain Bikes Are A Breed Of Their Own
The two rental bikes Sylvie pulled off the back of her van for us were Canadian bikes manufactured by Rocky Mountain Bicycles. They were bigger and bulkier than ours at home, but that was to be expected so they could withstand the rough and tough abuse off-road riding brings. My bike is a girl’s bike without the bar across the top so it took a little practice for me to get used to swinging my leg up over the seat and bar when I got on and off.
Sylvie explained about the suspension over the front and back wheels and had us push down hard on the handlebars to feel the release as it sprang back up. She explained how not only would this make our ride over bumpy surfaces more comfortable, but we could also use the front suspension to help bunny hop across boulders.
She showed us how the magic seat (dropper post) pops up and down easily to enable better positioning depending on the type of riding you’re doing. Popping the seat down allows you to crouch and hover over the seat while taking on technical trails, and raising the seat makes it more comfortable for cruising on smoother trails.
The knobby tires had raised lugs that are great for gripping dirt, gravel, and rocks; and the bike was equipped with disc brakes for slowing down more efficiently on steep downhills.
Practicing Bunny Hopping Across Some Rocks
After riding around the flat desert so we could get used to our bikes, Sylvie placed rocks on the ground for us to practice bunny hopping across. We learned to push down on the front of the bike with some force just before we attempted to cross the rocks. The effect of pushing down on the handle bars causes the front wheel to pop up making it easier to roll right over the rocks.
Considering my cautiousness and lack of off-road riding skills, I was happy to master the first skill Sylvie introduced.
One of us also learned not to brake suddenly while approaching the rock pile, but he won’t let me use the most amazing series of pictures my GoPro (affiliate link) has ever captured! Instead, I’ll share this boring selfie.
Practice Makes Not So Perfect
We rode around Lazy EZ, a long double track trail, with very little to maneuver across other than red desert dust and I felt very comfortable, but what fun is mountain biking on a flat trail? In hindsight, lots!
We moved on to a Bar M Trail, a single track trail where we rode single file – Sylvie, followed by me, with Bill bringing up the rear. Sylvie would stop us, demonstrate a skill, and then have us follow her through that part of the course while practicing the skill.
I found it difficult to get up enough speed while riding directly behind her (her balance at slower speeds was far better than mine). On one particular section, I lost my balance and had no place to set my foot to catch myself so I toppled right over. I was incredibly thankful not to land in a cactus patch!
Of course, the first words out of my mouth were something like, “I’m fine, take my picture for my blog,” followed by, “I can’t get up. Please pull the bike off of me.”
Now That We Both Got A Fall Out Of The Way
After my fall, I allowed a little more space between Sylvie and me so I could pick up some speed before attempting to climb over the rocks. Once we got to the back side of the trail where we had a decent downhill section, I let Bill get in front of me because I knew he’d want to ride faster.
Nearing the end of the Bar M Trail, I heard myself utter, “When are we going to stop riding over so many stupid rocks.” I think Sylvie may have overheard me as well, because soon after, we wrapped up our lesson.
Happy To Be Done
As we reviewed what we’d learned, Bill and I both agreed that always looking ahead for our way out was the most important thing Sylvie had taught us. In other words, don’t look down at your front wheel, but just ahead to see what obstacle you’ll need to maneuver around next.
Before we rode back to our car, Sylvie took this picture of us, because what mountain biking lesson would be complete without a picture of us holding our bikes victoriously over our heads!
Posing With Our Fantastic Instructor
Our instructor Sylvie was patient and adaptable to our varying skill levels and did her best to make our experience fun for us both.
Despite being in a little over my comfort level, I had a fun time mountain biking in Moab and Bill had an absolute blast! I would do it again, but preferably on slightly less technical trails.
- Have you tried mountain biking?
- If not, do you think it would be a sport you’d like?
- Have you visited Southern Utah?
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on the blue product link and then make a purchase, I will receive a commission for referring you. You will pay no more or less for the product; however, Amazon will show their gratitude for my referral by paying me.