Freeride mountain biking has exploded over the last 10-15 years. What started out as a few renegade downhillers dodging trees close to becoming (shock!) mainstream today. While in times past dirt jumping and freeriding used to require the construction of illicit trails far from the prying eyes of big brother, there has been a push in recent years to build legitimate places to push the boundaries of what mountain bikes can do. These special places also help young groms coming up in the sport progress from small kickers to massive table tops.
Enter the world of the mountain bike skills park.
Most mountain bike skills parks tend to focus on technical features, especially dirt jumps (as mentioned above), but they also try to provide progressive lines so that a complete newbie can work their way up from very easy jumps to very difficult ones.
As a result, bike parks help protect the future of our sport and nurture the riders that will some day be the big-name pros gracing the podiums. A visit to any popular, well-constructed, and well-planned bike park such as those I’ll highlight in this new series shows this process in action.
Last year I had the chance to visit Valmont Bike Park in Boulder, and was astounded by the number of kids I saw pedaling around. The tots were pushing their striders around the tot track, young kids (and adults alike) were enjoying the cross-country skills loop, the 5-12+ year olds were shredding the pumptrack, and the teenagers and adults were killing it on the dirt jump lines and slopestyle courses. You’ll rarely see a young kid out in the middle of a high-alpine backcountry epic, but pedaling around a short loop at the park down the road? You bet.
I think we can all agree that we need more kids (and adults) on bikes, and public mountain bike skills parks are making that happen. The parks featured in this series are a representative sample from across the continent of the best publicly-owned and operated bike parks that don’t charge admission. There are many great private parks at ski resorts and in warehouses for all-season riding that charge admission, but all of the facilities listed here are true public resources.
A big “thank you” to IMBA and all of the representatives from local advocacy chapters and bike park construction companies that helped provide the information and photos for this series. It couldn’t have happened without you!
Valmont Bike Park, Boulder, Colorado
With 42 acres of land and about four miles of flowy cross country trails littered with practice features ringing the park, Valmont Bike Park is a great place to go for an in-town mountain bike ride or to introduce newbies to the sport. But of course, the main features are the jump lines. Specifically, Valmont has two different pump tracks, a dirt jump area with five different lines (XS, S, M, L, XL), a rhythmic slopestyle area with four different main lines (S, M, L, XL), an untold number of combinations between those lines, as well as a dual slalom racecourse.
Due to the number of lines and the progressive increase in difficulty, Valmont caters to riders of all skill levels. “Valmont Bike Park was specifically designed and built to serve all skill levels from kids on strider bikes to world-class professional athletes and events,” said Michael Eubank, Project Manager for Valmont Bike Park. “All park features also offer a ‘ride around’ option for riders that may want to choose to skip that feature until they progress or increase their comfort level.”
As a result of the high quality of construction and the sheer scope of the project, Valmont has quickly become the poster child for bike parks worldwide. “We have been sharing our story and concept with a number of communities in [the] hope that others will use all or part of our model to build more riding areas like Valmont in their neighborhood. We are pleased to have been first with completing a park this large and inclusive, but don’t want it to be the last,” said Eubank.
Your Turn: Have you ever visited a public bike park before? What were your impressions?
Stay tuned as we put more bike parks in the spotlight over the coming weeks! Want to see your local bike park featured here? Email us at [email protected], and we’ll see what we can do!