By Renae Counter Explorebigsky.com Editorial Assistant
BIG SKY – Alongside my long love for skiing, I believe I may be able to find a place for mountain biking.
For my first time ever riding the trails, I went with a group of friends to the lift-accessed trails on Lone Mountain. Pedaling across dirt and rock with fields of green was a much different mountain experience than skiing through fields of snow, but it was a great way to enjoy this hot Montana summer.
Though I lost the training wheels some time ago, my proficiency on a bike isn’t the highest. My personal bike, a little, bright red Gary Fisher, has seen more pavement than dirt. And as for downhill, rocky trails—those are been way out of my bike’s league. So, when I arrived at Different Spokes Bike Shop and was equipped with a 40-pound, full suspension Norco Bomber, I was intimidated. The sheer weight of it, and the fact that the tires were as thick as my arm, reinforced that I was in for an adventure.
Armored in knee, shin and elbow pads, gloves and a full-face helmet that made me feel like Darth Vader, I was prepared to take on the mountain.
Makenzie Brosious, of Different Spokes Bike Shop, accompanied me. Brosious has been an avid mountain biker for almost two years, and also has experience racing triathlon and road bikes, so I was reassured by her knowledge and ability.
We began on the road just right from the top of the Swift Current chairlift. With plenty of room and minimal lose rocks, it was a good starting point to get use to the beast of a bike. I was able to play around with the full suspension, bouncing the bike and plowing over large rocks rather than swerving around them.
With the basics in hand, it was time to take on the trails. Pulling up to a patch of trees, we were greeted by a blue sign marking Cairns Way. Mountain biking trail systems are rated the same way as ski trails, so I knew I was in for an intermediate route.
“Just remember to keep your knees bent and elbows wide,” Brosious said before directing her bike in the trail and disappearing in the trees.
Knees bent, hands forward—that’s a lot like skiing, I thought while slowly inching my front wheel toward the trailhead.
Once I got going, I found it was a game of staying balanced, knowing how to turn and keeping the bike underneath me in control. As the morning progressed, I realized how much it resembled skiing, minus the snow: Your shoulders do the turning while you look at where you want to go; shifting your weight is a must to stay on your center of gravity; and a relaxed upper body is ideal.
Weaving through close-knit trees, I kept my hands close to the brakes. I stayed focused, directing my attention to my balance.
Exiting the first patch of trees, I found Brosious waiting on the road. Below us was Montana wilderness at its finest— colorful wildflowers stippled a green field, back-dropped by the Gallatin Range and our famous blue bird sky.
After a quick recap, Brosious led the way to the next entrance.
Unlike the first trail, which was mostly grass and dirt, this one was covered in loose rocks. Tight switchbacks slowed me to a crawl, as I tired to ride the berms (the walls of dirt surrounding the trail), as Brosious had suggested. The second trail was much more difficult, a black diamond in my opinion, but I left with only one minor incident involving the bike, a tree and me.
Because Big Sky Resort offers lift-served mountain biking trails ranging from beginner to advanced, it’s a great place to learn to ride or test your skills. Both mountain and cross country bikes, as well as full protection gear, can be rented from Different Spokes Bike Shop, which is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
The chairlift runs from 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. daily, weather permitting. There are also cross country trails for those who enjoy the burn of an uphill ride.
It only took a morning of mountain biking for me to get hooked. I’ve already begun planning when the next adventure will be, as well as scoping the internet for bike deals. The forecast for this summer is a stellar one, and I’m excited to get out and enjoy it.