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Mountain Biking 101: 5 Tips for Getting Started from Local Pro Rebecca Rusch

The following is a guest post by professional bike racer and top endurance athlete Rebecca Rusch: 

Cycling season is in full swing in the Wood River Valley, and, if you live here, you already know we have world-class two-wheeled terrain just begging to be ridden.

Why not put all of those indoor cycling classes and off-season training to the test and get out to smell the wildflowers? Not a cyclist yet?!? Well, there’s nothing better than cross training and learning some new skills. It will help your running as well as your nordic and alpine skiing. It’s also one of the best ways to explore this beautiful area. You can cover more ground on a bike than on foot, allowing to see what’s around that next corner or over the next hill.

Some of my favorite rides are on dirt. I love getting off the pavement, away from summer traffic and into more remote terrain. Our valley boasts a wide variety of single-track mountain bike trails of all levels and also amazing gravel roads that reward you with great views.

Here are a few tips for getting out onto the dirt either on gravel or single track.

1. Start with decent gear. Cycling is a ton more fun if your bike works. Either rent one from one of our local shops or take yours in for a tune up to make sure the gears, brakes, tires are all in good working order. I recommend getting a bike tune up at the beginning of each season and a couple of additional times during the summer.

2. Find friends. There are various group rides and clinics hosted by most of the bike shops in town. If you need a lesson or just want some company, check out a local shop for their schedule. It’s a great way to get some instruction and meet other riders in the community.

3. Pick up a trail map. All of our local bike shops have fantastic laminated maps that show all of the trails and roads in our valley. This includes the trails on Baldy, the Harriman Trail, Galena Lodge trails, and everything in between. Once you get this valley-wide trail map, you will be able to plan your adventure, big or small. I promise that you’ll never get bored exploring all of our amazing terrain.

4. Set a goal. We all need motivation to get us out the door some days. Having a goal on the horizon is a great way to stay accountable. There are plenty of great local events including the Sawtooth Century and Rebecca’s Private Idaho. Both explore our local terrain and can be ridden as a race or as your own personal goal ride. Both have full support, and it’s super fun to ride with a big group of like-minded people. Both also are fundraising events to support our local trails, so why not push yourself and support riding in our valley at the same time?

5. Hone your skills. I already talked about signing up for a group class, but in addition to that, practice makes perfect. Our mountain bike trails are very forgiving and starting on wide paths like the gravel roads out Trail Creek, Corral Creek, Warm Springs or the Harriman Trail are great ways to take baby steps toward single-track riding. After a bit of gravel, start with some easy single-track riding and don’t worry if you have to walk some sections of the trails. Even experienced cyclists walk sometimes, so don’t let this keep you from exploring our great terrain.

See you on the dirt!

Known as the “Queen of Pain,” professional mountain bike racer Rebecca Rusch is a six-time 24-hour solo world champion and four-time Leadville 100 champ. Her book, Rusch to Glory: Adventure, Risk & Triumph on the Path Less Traveled, chronicles her story from a hum-drum childhood in Chicago to life as one of the greatest endurance athletes of our time. When she isn’t biking, skiing or trail running, Rebecca works as a volunteer firefighter for the Ketchum Fire Department.

On September 5 & 6, advanced cyclists and newbies alike are invited to join Rebecca for the 3rd annual Rebecca’s Private Idaho, a long-distance “gravel grinder” intended to showcase the beautiful scenery and quad-cracking climbs of her home turf.  Choose from two scenic routes-94 or 56 miles. Zenergy members get 20-percent off! Please see the front desk for a discount code. Proceeds from the event go to three of Rebecca's favorite causes: the Wood River Bike Coalition;; and World Bicycle Relief.