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Bike Guides: An expert mom’s advice.

Wildflowers in Crested Butte

Bike Guides: An expert mom’s advice.

Bike Guides: An expert mom’s advice.

By Heather Mundt

Just this morning, my kids and I were barely maintaining speed and coordination on our rented mountain bikes as we wobbled through an unpaved parking lot at the base of Crested Butte Mountain Resort. 

A mere hour later, we’re riding bikes in the Evolution Bike Park, past open meadows bursting in wildflowers and groves of shady aspen trees, negotiating through rolling hills and tight turns, no longer the timid riders from earlier in the day.

And all it took was a half-day lesson via the Evolution Bike Shop and our guide, Gabriel (Gabe) Iturralde, our family’s first-ever mountain-biking lesson. 

“Somebody that is somewhat familiar with riding a bike, a half-day lesson should be enough to get a hang of the activity,” he says. “Overall, it only takes a small amount of biking experience to have a great day at Crested Butte.”

Boasting 29 on-mountain trails spanning more than 30 miles of terrain, the Evolution Bike Park, which opened in 2009, is designed with a rider’s skill progression in mind, says Woody Lindenmeyr, director of the Crested Butte Mountain Sports Team.

“Our Hotdogger trail was built specifically for learning how to mountain bike,” he says. “A beginner can then move on up through the greens and blues, progressing their skill along the way with our professional guides there to help.” 

Although my kids and I have mountain biked before, it had been a few years. And a lesson was just what we needed to refresh our memories and muscles on technique, as well as the confidence boost to use them on single-track trails.

“A bike guide can accelerate the learning curve exponentially, provide local knowledge about trail choice and local interests, and spare you the family meltdown,” Lindenmeyr says. 

“Additionally, there is an unfair advantage to learn to bike in a lift-served bike park, as much of the physical exertion of riding uphill is omitted and your time working on technique with a guide is increased.”

Even my husband, Michael, an intermediate rider and the most experienced of us four, enjoyed brushing up his skills during the lesson.  

“Gabe carefully assessed each rider's skills and was then able to provide personalized suggestions for attacking the trails, especially with our boys,” he says. “Even though we mostly rode beginner's trails, he gave me numerous helpful hints for improving my speed and balance through tight turns, which came in handy later in the day on the intermediate runs.”

In fact, I was able to keep up on blue runs with both men once the boys got bored and stayed at the base’s Adventure Park (includes mini golf, rock climbing, bungee trampolines, the Coke Zero Gravity BagJump and the newest option, the Tin Cup Mining Co., where kids can prospect for gems.) And, save for a few scrapes and bruises, a.k.a. trophies, from toppling into a thicket of beautiful but thorny wildflowers, the day helped remind me how much I loved mountain biking as a college student and renewed my enthusiasm to try again.

My only complaint? I was spoiled by my rental bike, a dazzling pink-and-purple Scott beauty named Blanche, which means I may be buying my own soon. But the lesson was more than worth the effort, especially because it meant Michael and I didn’t have to be the ones to instruct our own kids. 

“My advice to a family interested in learning to mountain bike, improve their skills, or try a new trail is obvious: ‘Get some expert help!” Lindenmeyr says. “Why struggle on your own and argue with your family as you guess about biking techniques and trail decisions?”

My family and I could not agree more enthusiastically. 

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Heather is a freelance writer, editor and family-travel expert based in Longmont, Colo. You can read about her adventures with her husband and two boys on her site,