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Bikers benefit from being schooled

Shauna Farnell

KEYSTONE – Mountain biking is something that might intimidate moms. But moms are masters of the sport at Keystone Mountain Bike School. And men, women and teen-agers of all skill levels could benefit from a couple hours of bike schooling.

Annie Black and her 14-year-old son, Jake, just finished riding 500 miles in seven days for Ride the Rockies last week, and now mom is ready to teach other women how to get good on dirt.

From novices to experts, there is always some skill every mountain biker wants to work on, and there are improvement opportunities every day of the summer with Keystone Mountain Bike School.

The school kicked off its bike clinics this week and offers everything from $10, hour-long beginner clinics every day, to daily $35, two-hour clinics for all ability levels, to three-hour women-only clinics every Friday.

“Our learning styles are different,” said Black, who started teaching the women’s clinics a few summers ago. “Our goals are different. Maybe women want to go downhill, but we want to go uphill first and get a workout. It’s not competitive, and when we’re learning together, we get stronger faster.

“You know … it’s the bonding thing. A group of girls do things they wouldn’t necessarily do on their own in a safe, nurturing environment. I’ve had people who are total desk jockeys in management positions who aren’t even previous mountain bikers. They’re just great students and pick it up really quickly. I’m seeing some of the women who have taken my dirt (clinics) racing in the beginners circuit. It’s really neat to see.”

As many people discover every summer, riding a mountain bike on singletrack is not easy. Keystone has miles of trail options to choose from, and the benefits of any crash course on how to handle them are far better than the crashes that might otherwise result.

“I don’t think people realize how difficult it is up there, how having a guide or an instructor the first time out could change the whole experience,” said Keystone Mountain Bike School instructor Luke Mason. “People don’t see it like skiing. When they come skiing for the first time, they take a lesson, but they figure since they can ride a bike down the street, they should be able to do this. It doesn’t equate like that.”

Another aspect of skiing and biking that doesn’t equate is the rating of trails. At Keystone, trails are ranked green, blue and black, but the biking ability required of each is far different than that of ski trails of the same rating.

“People assume the green trails are as easy as the bunny slope on skis in the winter time,” said Keystone bike instructor Byrner Brown. “No matter what your riding ability is, I assure you, you’ll get something out of the clinics.”

The clinics elicit everyone from the novice mountain biker wanting to feel more comfortable on singletrack and learn strategies and techniques of climbing and downhill, to the refined athlete wanting to know the best ways to ride what they otherwise might feel are unridable obstacles on a black trail or on a race course.

“The skill levels really run the gamut,” Black said. “If someone’s goal is to learn tricks, we go in that direction. We work on skills for a couple hours, then go on a ride. We’ll work on proper braking and shifting skills. We have a progression of really neat things. By accomplishing fundamental skills, sometimes people start riding logs or beams and are doing things they never imagined they’d do. The best thing is, you don’t need a fancy bike or a whole lot of experience.”

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Keystone Mountain Bike School offers two-hour clinics daily at 10 a.m. and at both 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The cost is $35 and includes instruction, bike rental and a bike haul up the mountain. Hour-long, instruction-only clinics are $10 at 1 p.m. Women-only clinics are Fridays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for $35 including instruction and bike haul. All clinics meet at the Keystone Sports Shack in River Run. To register, or for more information, call (970) 496-3943 or (970) 496-4629.


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