POV: You get on a mountain bike for the first time and fall in love with Carson City all over again.
We’ve done a lot together on this page. We’ve ate and drank our way around the city, taken flight in various forms, and walked or offroaded every trail along the way. This sounds like I’m setting up for a goodbye. I’m certainly not. I’m buying myself time before exposing the truth: I, a Carson City local, have never been on a mountain bike.
Until now, that is.
My question for the class is, at what point do I call myself a mountain biker? Because the two whole rides I went on have me hooked. It may even be time to start weaving the topic into everyday conversation as often as possible.
So anyways, as your friendly neighborhood mountain biker…
*vinyl record scratch sound*
As your approachable, VERY novice, local adventure liaison, I’m here to share my notes on how it felt to get on a mountain bike in Carson City for the very first time. You know those tv show disclaimers that are like “the following stunts were performed by professionals. Do not try this at home”? This is the antithesis of that disclaimer. The following trail rides were performed by an average local, and you may absolutely use this as a cheat sheet for safely enjoying Carson City’s trails from behind the handlebars.
Ride 1: Carson River Park
Without looking it up, I’m pretty sure the elevation gain of Carson River Park is about 5 feet over two miles of trail. Give or take, its pretty flat. Carson River Park is known for its beautiful cottonwood trees, and wide gravel paths– the perfect experimentation grounds for my new sport.
Now let me set the scene. The only advantage I had coming into this experience was my husband’s bike and knowledge being available to me. We are not even “in” enough to own a bike rack. So the story really begins in my driveway, awkwardly finagling a mountain bike into the back of our midsize SUV. The handle bars kept spinning the wrong way while I fought the back end of the bike. I finally got the lift gate closed behind it, only to see that the front wheel was sticking out the passenger door I had left open. Do you feel welcomed into the sport yet? This is a full blown “if I can do it, you can do it” scenario.
I made it to the park, reverse wrestled the bike back out of the car, and was feeling confident. The only goal for this ride was to get comfortable on the bike. No need to scale Ash Canyon just yet. I put on my helmet, and was off.
Now my pedals were just regular pedals, not the kind that require you to clip or strap in, and I would recommend the same to you if you choose to try it. The ability to bail gracefully while learning how and when to shift was key for me.
The only other “gear tip” I have for today is that wearing flat bottomed shoes seemed to help me grip the pedals.
Carson River Park is an out and back trail that ends up being just under four miles round trip, and it proved to be the perfect spot for my inaugural ride. No technical turns or difficult terrain required. While I’ve walked and ran the trail countless times, I felt a new thrill of seeing the river views from beneath the cottonwoods while cruising on the bike. It didn’t quite put the “mountain” in mountain biking, but it served its purpose. I got some exercise in, and became comfortable maneuvering this new-to-me bike.
Ride 2: Old Railway Park
On the Northwest side of town, Old Railway Park provides a three miles round trip of slightly chunkier gravel trail. I can joyfully say, this trail begins to add the “mountain” back into mountain biking. I mean, the whole thing is elevated a couple hundred feet above the center of town, so that’s an immediate win for this novice crew, but there are several forks in the trail that offer one hill option and one flat option before reconvening. From the trailhead out, there is a slight elevation gain. If we’re training to graduate from novice to amateur, I deem this the perfect place to grow in skill.
Repeat the scene of wrestling the bike in and out of the car (If I’m going to stick with it, it seems a bike rack is in order). Flat shoes, helmet on, and we’re riding. The larger gravel and occasional tighter turns on this trail provided a great opportunity to safely feel the way the wheels handle a slightly harsher terrain, and how that translates through the handle bars. The forks in the trail provided small chances to experiment with going up and down hill. This is where my severe case of confidence gained at Carson River Park met its match. I have so much to learn about how and when to shift, and how to posture myself on the bike for hills.
The other thing I learned by doing these two rides two days in a row? I fully, 100% understand and champion those padded bike shorts. Enough said. I also learned that Carson City is the kind of place where you really can mountain bike almost every day of the week uninterrupted. Thank you Sierras for catching all the weather and leaving us with the best of it!
It’s not every day you get to experience a new perspective on a place you love. I’ve hiked every trail in Carson City with my dogs, many times. I trained for a half marathon and covered these trails on foot day in and day out. For me, it never gets old. But there is something so unique about gliding over this beautiful land on two wheels. Maybe it’s the thrill of adding a bit more speed to the equation, or the realization that for me, mountain biking is uncharted territory, full of firsts to be had and new growth to strive for, right here in my beloved town. Maybe it’s the promise of going farther, faster.
Whatever it is, I hope it speaks to you too and that I won’t be the only brand new mountain biker on the trails for long.
Amateurs and pros– what trail should I ride next?
Beginners– see you on the trails! We’re in this together!
And to all, tag us in your mountain bike rides around Carson City’s trails!