Family Fun on Two Wheels

*Guest post by Susan Strayer, from Mountain Mom and Tots

“They lied. This is isn’t the easiest way down!” My eight-year-old rode his mountain bike on a rocky section of trail, his feet splayed out to either side for balance.

“You’re right, this isn’t easy, but it is the easiest way down.” Our mountain bike guide Craig followed behind. “Keep your feet on the pedals for control!”

I pulled to the side to watch my son’s progress. Soon he was past the rough section and back on hard-packed dirt, cruising my way with a smile on his face. “Good job, bud!” I said, pride spreading through my chest like warm syrup on a pancake.

It was Big E’s first time biking on a real mountain, and he was improving with every turn. My husband and I rode right along with him, happy to have a Sundance instructor help teach him the basics in a guided clinic.

As an outdoor family, we’ve skied at Sundance for years, but this is the first summer we’ve really explored the Resort. And my favorite way to take in the aspen, pine and mountain meadows is from the seat of my mountain bike.

I wanted to share this new love with my eight-year-old but didn’t want to spoil the experience by taking him on terrain beyond his ability. I also knew he wouldn’t like me “bossing him around” by telling him how to mountain bike.

The perfect solution was a family bike clinic at Sundance. Our experienced guide knew the perfect trails for our beginner, plus having a non-parent adult as the instructor meant Big E would be more likely to listen.

Guided mountain bike clinics combine instruction with a scenic tour. While on the lift, our guide Craig told us about the history of Sundance and some personal experiences of adventuring on the mountain. He recommended specific trails based on our ability and gave us confidence.

I would recommend a guided clinic for any group of mixed ability. Since the instruction is adaptable, it’s a great option for any small crew. A guide could show a group of experienced riders the best expert terrain. Family or friends could learn skills to help them ride together. Beginners who have never ridden down could learn the basics while staying in control.

Our family mountain bike tour gave Big E the confidence to ride his bike over just about anything.

“This part is creepy! I don’t like the curve.”

“Is it a little scary?” I asked. I could relate. I’m familiar with the tiny spike of fear that forced my concentration and effort.

“If you keep your inside foot on the pedal you can use your outside foot for balance around turns,” said our guide Craig. “It’ll give you more control of the bike, and you can go as slowly as you need.”

With encouragement and practice keeping his feet on the pedals, Big E made it through the creepy part and went on to ride all the way to Ray’s Base. At the end of the day we stood smiling, adrenaline and pride pumping through our veins.

We’d accomplished something difficult. Together.

On the way home Big E said, “That was fun. Let’s go mountain biking again.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Susan Strayer lives full time with her husband and three young kids near Sundance, Utah. When she’s not hiking, biking, skiing and camping, she helps families explore outdoors through her website

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