Deceptive Greens: Unmasking the Challenges of Mountain Biking’s ‘Easy’ Trails

After taking the first pedal strokes into that green trail, be careful not to hit cruise control. They can be just as fun and challenging as any other.
A shot of the Wolf Branch trail in North Carolina. Photo: Greg Heil

Someone once told me that you can tell a lot about a trail network by how well the green trails are built. At Rock Creek Bike Park just outside of Asheville, North Carolina, I decided to test that theory. After pulling my bike off the trailer of a souped up yellow school bus that had chugged us to the top, I started the descent into my 5th lap of the day. 

With my head in the clouds, I noticed myself clutching the brakes through every corner and bucking over the front of my bars across the rollers. There were multiple alternate features on the sides, but I didn’t even notice. Near the bottom of the trail, I hit a mud spot and almost slid out. The conditions were “rad” as the sign at the ticket office read. I would even call them epic, coming from dusty Utah. The trail was fast, flowy, and beautifully built. So why when I reached the bottom did I feel so deflated? 

I have noticed this pattern on many so-called easy trails. Since adventuring from Arkansas to Tennessee and then into North Carolina, I’ve ridden many bike parks and local trail networks, and almost always ride a green trail at some point in the day. It can be a perfect warm up, a great option to rest the hands after a steep tech run, or a good way to end the day when I’m tired. 

I thought back to the first time I ever skidded out in a corner and crashed, back on my local trails. Decked out in tennis shoes and running shorts and with a fresh demo bike as my trusty steed, I’m sure no one looked shocked when I went down. Must be her first time on a mountain bike. Noooo, at least 10th okay?! The miniature trail network consisted of a black, two blues, and the green. I had eventually conquered the blues and the black at this point with some ease, and had rolled back into the green trail to mix it up. After dropping in, I must’ve forgotten to hit the “on” switch to my bike brain. 

When my new Trek Remedy and I hit the trails in April of 2020 (yes, another pandemic born mountain biker), the goal was the same as everyone else; to escape the imprisoning apartment walls and hit the trails for a taste of freedom. At the time, my boyfriend also conveniently worked in a bike shop and my friends were mountain biking too, so the decision was a no-brainer. Little did I know that the two wheels beneath me would become the gateway to an all-consuming addiction.

My “Covid circle” as they call it, consisted solely of mountain bikers, and the majority of the time, there were bikes involved in our social outings. My best friends learned the ropes along with me, and we conquered many trails with the help of our more experienced friends and their helpful (and not so helpful) advice. Each adventure was a new and rewarding challenge in itself. 

Three years later, I started to wonder if my skills were plateauing on these so-called easy trails, along with trails I’ve ridden over and over. The feeling of getting a rush from just making it to the bottom, had vanished. Luckily, I knew that not all hope was lost. I’ve seen enough pros and local shredders hit the greens with style, to know that any trail can be a rush if you make it one. Not a sketchy rush, but a rush of getting to the bottom and knowing you crushed it. 

So, I got back on that school bus and dropped in again. This time, with some intention. Bike brain, engaged. Since I recently took a mountain bike lesson and discovered my cornering weakness, I decided to hone in on that aspect of the trail and crush the corners. On each berm I aimed high and kept my body centered, soaring out of each one with a breeze of acceleration. Together, my bike and I became an unstoppable force, no longer fighting against the dirt ahead. Ah, sweet flow. I knew I could find it.