How to Ride a Mountain Bike Park
Bike Park Riding Tips: Lift Access MTB 101
Think that riding bike parks is just for the crazy, “Redbull Rampage” types? Think again!
Bike parks are a fun way to experience a different style of mountain biking, and every park is going to have a cornucopia of terrain that suits beginners and advanced riders alike. You get to enjoy a shuttle or lift to the top of the mountain, and then cruise your way to the bottom on the tracks of your choice. Each mountain will vary in its feel and culture, but following these tips will get you started with your best pedal forward.
Make sure you bring the right gear with you to the mountain! It’s ideal to ride a bike with a longer wheelbase and more suspension travel, like Liv’s all-new, all-mountain Intrigue series and the enduro-ready Hail series, especially if you have dreams of riding steeper, more technical tracks. Perform a bike safety check and dial in your suspension to make sure your bike is ready to ride. If you don’t have a bike you feel comfortable riding, the mountain probably has a rental fleet. Personal protective equipment should include a helmet (full-face preferred), pads (knees and elbows), eye protection (goggles or glasses), and gloves. If you don’t have a full-face helmet or pads, chances are the mountain has some equipment available for rent. Finally, it’s a great idea to wear clothing that has more coverage, such as ¾ length or long sleeve jerseys, baggy shorts, and socks with a higher cuff.
Bike Park Check-List:
__ Full-Suspension Mountain Bike
__ Riding Clothing
__ Full-Face Helmet
__ Elbow Pads
__ Knee Pads
__ Goggles/ Eye Protection
__ Long Finger Gloves
__ Water Bottle
If you’re feeling intimidated, you can always book a guide or coaching session to help you become more familiar with the mountain’s terrain. Check out our Mountain Bike Skills Guides to review the basic and more advanced skills that will help you feel more confident in the bike park.
When you arrive at the mountain, sign your waiver, get a lift pass, and snag a trail map. There will be signage at the top and bottom of the lift, but it’s a good idea to carry a small map around with you. Note the location of the trails you want to ride, the easiest way down, the trail signage, and the mountain’s emergency numbers.
Technical Terrain vs. Flow/Freeride Terrain:
Technical terrain mostly utilizes the mountain’s natural rocks, roots, logs, etc. and may have some constructed features. Flow/Freeride terrain mostly consists of constructed features using natural terrain, including jumps, drops, step-ups, ride-on features, gaps, etc. Both technical and flow/freeride terrain will vary in steepness and difficulty.
As you approach the lift, notice the way bikes are loaded onto the chair or gondola. You may be responsible for loading your own bike – you can practice before you give it a go, or you can always ask the lift operators to slow it down and help you.
PRO TIP: Drop your water bottle at the bottom of the lift for easy sips between runs! And don’t forget to take lift selfies and tag #HowWeLiv!
Before you head down the mountain, make a plan with your riding partners and start small: warm up on easier tracks to get a feel for your bike and the mountain’s terrain. You have all day to work up to more challenging runs. Still not sure where to start? Ask the lift operators or the mountain’s bike shop employees for suggestions based on your experience – they won’t lead you astray!
PRO TIP: Ride the same track several times in a row; it will help boost your confidence and get rid of the first-time-bike-park jitters!
When you spot technical features, stop and take a peek to consider whether or not you want to hit it or to find your preferred best line. Always ride within your comfort and readiness levels! The downhill rider gets the right-of-way, so don’t feel pressured to ride faster or harder than you want to.
Know When to Call it a Day!
Riding at bike parks is exhausting. Even if you aren’t pedaling to the top, you’re still using your arms and legs to compress and drive the bike all day long! Rest between runs, stay hydrated, and consume energizing snacks. Don’t ride your hardest track or feature at the end of the day. Instead, use your last couple laps to hit your favorite runs of the day. It’s time to call it quits when you’re feeling tired, hurt, or if you’re just having an “off” day. Congratulations on a day well done and cheers to riding another day on the mountain!
Special thanks to Highland Mountain Bike Park
Select Images by Robin O’Neill Photography