Photo: Author Kerri Salazar at Valmont Bike Park
— by Kerri Salazar, IMBA's Operations and Human Resources Director
My first experience on a mountain bike, 15 years ago, might sound familiar to other female riders. My boyfriend chose the trail because it was fun for him to ride, not for me. His bike was adequate for the task, mine was a beater rig with no suspension. He shouted some advice before firing down the trail, I soon flipped over my handlebars.
So, why in the world would I want to try mountain biking again? Or get Kaiden, my 6-year-old daughter, started at the same time I was getting back into the sport?
About 5 years ago, I made my re-entry. This time I had the advantage of a well-tuned, full-suspension bike. Better yet, I connected with a fun group of women to ride with and learn from—I even took a skills clinics so I could give Kaiden solid tips on her technique. It’s not easy to learn how to mountain bike at first, let alone teach a kid how to mountain bike, so this definitely took a lot of patience and perseverance, but the results have been rewarding.
One major factor in our newfound success has been the ability for Kaiden and I to ride together at Valmont Bike Park. The park's options range from smooth singletrack trails to big-time challenges. We started on the tamest trails and a manageable pumptrack. I knew building bike handling skills would be the key, so we did several more skills clinics together.
As our confidence grew we started riding skinnies and bridges, and even rolled through the small jump lines. Riding our favorite trail, a rollercoaster descent called Corkscrew, we got a little faster almost every time. Beyond the bike park, our trail rides started to become more extended, more challenging and more fun. Though we had to walk some sections, it was great to change the terrain and try something new.
Increasing my mountain bike skills was satisfying, but watching my daughter's self-esteem skyrocket was even more rewarding. I saw this new gleam in her eye that she took to other parts of her life including schoolwork, socializing with her peers—even trying other new sports like skiing which she wasn’t interested in doing before. Kaiden started giving her friends tours of Valmont Bike Park and encouraging them to progress their biking skills and try new things. IMBA's Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day soon became a favorite event, and she even took an interest in volunteer trail work.
My introduction to mountain biking all those years ago may not have been ideal, but something told me to give it another try. This time around, I'm really liking where it's taking us!