by Dani and Brian Harrington, photos courtesy of Brian Harrington
A Beginner’s Guide to Mountain Biking in Wyoming
Simply put, the mountain biking around Laramie, Wyoming, is among the best you can find anywhere.
Not only is it among the best—it is also among the most convenient! Trails depart directly from town, while short journeys from town allow you to reach additional trails (miles and miles of them) that meander through beautiful scenery. Plus, Laramie mountain bike trails do not discriminate: the wide variety of trails in the area means that there is something out there for all skill levels, from the very beginner to the expert.
This post is all about that first group—the beginners. Here, we offer several tips for getting started as a new mountain biker.
Gear Up, But Don’t Click In
Chances are you have not invested in a mountain bike yet if you are a true beginner, making renting your equipment an attractive option. All Terrain Sports and The Pedal House in Laramie are both great options for renting mountain bikes and are also solid sources of information on current trail information.
It is also a good idea to wear a mountain bike-specific helmet (as opposed to a road bike helmet) as these tend to offer more coverage and protection. Bike-specific clothing will also make for a more comfortable experience, such as padded shorts and bike gloves.
One choice that can pose uncertainty for new riders is whether or not to clip into your pedals. If you’re a beginner, we suggest not clipping in. While clipping in can generate more power in pedal strokes, focusing on technique over power is more important in the beginning. In my own experience, riding without clips as a beginner was a relief and confidence-builder, as I didn’t have to worry about feeling trapped or needing to get out. It allowed me to focus more on my form and skill-building.
Stick with Beginner Trails
This tip may seem obvious, but for those of you with an overly ambitious streak, it’s worth mentioning that it’s best to stick to easy trails for your first several trips out. You can always increase the difficulty as you get more experience and improve your skills, and not getting in over your head right away will help you build a more solid, confident foundation.
There are plenty of options for great beginner trails around Laramie, and most trails are marked by skill level (easy, intermediate, advanced, and expert). A few excellent choices for beginner trails include ABC and Promdate at the Schoolyard. The Schoolyard is located at the edge of the City of Laramie, making it both a convenient and reassuring location for beginners to try their luck. The Shoreline and Ferguson trails at Curt Gowdy State Park (located halfway between Laramie and Cheyenne on Highway 210 / Happy Jack Road) are other great options for beginners. These scenic trails make loops around the reservoirs.
Relax and Move Your Body
Though it’s a great time, Mountain biking can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially for beginners. Stay as relaxed and loose as you can so that your bike is able to move like it was built to, through the mountainous terrain. If you observe an experienced mountain biker, you will notice that they constantly adapt their bodies, shifting their weight and position as they ride along.
A practical tip here is to suspend your butt over the seat when riding over trail obstacles — such as boulders and tree roots — when going up and down hills, and when moving through corners. This will give you better control.
When going downhill, shift your weight in the opposite direction, behind the seat, and over the back wheel. When going uphill, lean forward, but keep your center of gravity over the rear wheel to maintain traction.
When you stand up to go downhill or to venture through obstacles or corners on the trail, be sure to do so with “level pedals,” that is, pedals at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions. Pedals that are too low to the trail could collide with the ground or other hazards.
Keep up the Speed
This is not to suggest that you should worry about being super fast at all times. Rather, it’s an acknowledgment that maintaining some momentum, and even increasing it at times, can help you move through obstacles more smoothly.
Of course, if you do feel like you’re approaching a corner or an obstacle too fast, by all means, brake! But afterward, maintain or increase your speed as you move through.
Also, take care not to brake too hard, as this could cause you to crash, and use your rear brake only (right hand) when slowing for a corner as the left front brake could send you over the handlebars.
Relish in the thrill of a new adventure and avoid comparing yourself to others or worrying about your speed or power. Remember that crashes happen. Mountain biking is a fun, healthy outdoor activity that you will improve upon with each outing. Enjoy!
Note: Brian and Dani Harrington are independent writers contracted by Visit Laramie. Views and opinions expressed here are their own and do not reflect those of the Albany County Tourism Board.