5 Tips for Preparing to Ride a New Trail

Every year mountain bikers travel from all over to come ride the trails in Fruita and Grand Junction.  Some of these riders have been coming for years and are familiar with all of our local trails.  Others are coming here for the first time.  Whether you’re planning a trip to Western Colorado to bike, or you’re like me and planning a trip somewhere else, like Sedona or Sun Valley, here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing to ride a new trail, or a trail you aren’t familiar with.

1.  Always carry a map with you. 

If you can, download one online from Singletracks, or buy a paper map from our store.  Your other option is to get to town and find a local bike shop or recreation store like REI.  They have all kinds of trail maps for the areas you’ll be riding.  When we were in Park City, we stopped at Jan’s, a local recreation store, and donated $5 to the local bike trail organization.  In return we got a great map of several different trail systems in the area.

Often, when we’re riding at Lunch Loop in the spring and fall, we’ll see riders heading towards us with slightly confused looks on their faces.  “Is this Pet-Y-Kes?  Or Eagle’s Tail? How do I get to Gunny Loop?” They’ll often ask.  We’ve started keeping extra Lunch Loop maps in our backpacks to hand out on the trail.

2.  Try to watch some videos or check out trail descriptions and photos on Singletracks before you go. 

If you’re from the East Coast and you’re coming out to Fruita to bike for the first time, you’re going to encounter trails that are vastly different from your own.  You can at least prepare yourself for them a little bit by reading about the area trails first.

When we were researching our trip to Lake Tahoe last year, we made sure to read up on the Flume Trail and the Rim Trail before going so we’d have a little bit of an idea what to expect.

3.  Take extra supplies. 

Sometimes a trail can surprise you.  In Park City when we rode the “Big Dog Loop” out in the Glenwild area, we were definitely surprised by the amount of climbing we had to do.  I was glad to have completely filled my hydration bladder and thrown in an extra snack.  If you’re in our area and riding the Western Rim trail in Rabbit Valley, it can be easy to get turned around or lost.  If that’s the case, you’ll want to make sure to have plenty of water, especially if you aren’t used to our arid environment.

4. Talk to the locals. 

While you’re in that bike shop getting a map, ask the folks there what they like to ride.  We did that in Jackson, Wyoming, and the guy directed us to a great “local” trail (not a super touristy one) and even marked it on our map.  We did this again when we were in Durango for the first time, and that’s how we found out about the entire Telegraph Trail System!

5.  Use your phone! 

I use my iPhone to find new bike shops when we’re headed to a new town, to locate trail heads, and to track mileage, elevation, etc. on bike rides.  This is also good to have if something goes wrong.  Let’s hope it doesn’t, but you never know!

Here’s hoping you find some awesome places to ride during the winter months!

Your Turn: How do YOU prepare to ride a new trail?

Related posts:

  1. Ready to Ride? 3 Trail Selection Tips for Beginners
  2. How to Conquer MTB Trail Obstacles: 5 Tips
  3. Tahoe Rim Trail Ride Report
  4. Trail Tuesday: IMBA Ride Centers
  5. Good chance to ride the Kokopelli trail

10 thoughts on “5 Tips for Preparing to Ride a New Trail

  1. Excellent article. I agree with all of these points listed. I’d like to add a few obvious ones.
    1. Small tire pump and tire patch kit. Riding 12+ miles is nothing compared to walking that far because of a flat tire.
    2. Tool kit. Very similar to #2. Something that came loose on the bike that keeps you from riding, can make for a very long walk too.
    3. Bike light. I have on occasion gotten lost on new trail systems. A light has saved me more than once when it got to the evening and early night hours before finally getting back to the trail head where my car was parked.
    4. Wallet. I once was so far off my planned route that I ended up at a resort on the opposite end of the humungous park. It was getting late and the trail head was almost 20 miles back. Oops! I bought a few snacks, called a cab, and drank a beer while I waited for my ride back to my car.

      • I agree! I take almost the exact same things as far as ID, Money, etc. No point in dragging along my Enstrom’s Coffee Card or anything else pointless in that giant wallet!

  2. Great tips! Especially the last two…I can remember a very ill-planned bike ride that found me riding down the side of a busy highway with an empty water bottle…if only I’d had money with me I could have at least stopped to get a Gatorade or something! I’ll remember the bike light too…

  3. Everything mentioned above is great but the biggest thing missing from everyone’s list is a small first aid kit and First Aid Training. One ride I was with a small group of people, when one person in the group did not read the trail features correctly and ended up with a dislocated shoulder.
    Of the group of 6, I was the only one trained in First Aid (ex paramedic) and was able to help the individual until we could bring the ambulance to him.

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