By Erin Trail
Itching to ride your mountain bike but find that the trails in the foothills are still a bit too muddy to ride? Want to get a quick ride in after work without driving to the trail? Consider hitting one of the many skill parks located around Metro Denver!
My husband and I occasionally hit skills parks to try and gain more confidence on tricky terrain (me) and to have fun doing a bunch of obstacles without having to drive very far (him). We typically ride the skills park in Parker (Bayou Gulch Regional Park) but decided to give the park out at Cherry Creek Reservoir (Village Greens North Park) a try. The bike park is located just to the west of Cherry Creek Dam Road, just outside of park boundaries (parking is free). I laughed, thinking of how many times I’ve ridden my TT bike down the paved bike path, not having any idea that 3 miles of MTB terrain was a few hundred feet away.
The trails are nicely marked and laid out – the trails are one directional and are marked Green (Beginner), Blue (Intermediate), and Black (Advanced). There are two main loops (Prairie and Hill) with a nice variety of all three levels of terrain. The path is dirt single track with a variety of obstacles: logs, rocks, steep downhill with obstacles, and steep uphills with obstacles. There are even some subtle obstacles to really hone your bike handling, like weaving your way through a rock field or riding across a series of small bumpy logs. And if the obstacle in front of you suddenly appears too challenging? No worries – there are established bail outs along the way.
• Warm up on the beginner runs, to get a feel for the obstacles and how your bike responds, especially if you haven’t ridden for a while.
• For the bigger or more challenging obstacles, it’s a good idea to get off your bike to walk the obstacle and inspect it first. You can choose your route before you ride it and know if there are any sudden or blind drops to be aware of.
• Ride with a buddy if you are beginner or intermediate. If you run into issues, they can help you out.
I found that this park was really well organized in terms of skills. There were areas grouped into technical downhills and uphills, there was a nice switchback section, and some flat groupings of “ride over” obstacles. My advice: pick an area that matches where you need to improve (or even what scares you) and session it. Riding that stretch of trail and getting more familiar with those obstacles will help you gain confidence (you know what’s coming up and can really attack it) and really help develop and reinforce skills (practice, practice, practice). I am not great with switchbacks, so I ended up riding that section 2-3 times. I still didn’t get through all of them, but my confidence improved with each attempt. I also picked some rock obstacles in the flatter bike handling area and rode over them several times in a row, progressing from easier lines to harder lines with each time through.
Bike parks are a great place to gain some confidence and improve your skills before the season really starts up.
Denver Area Bike Skills Parks
Parker (Bayou Gulch Regional Park):http://www.douglas.co.us/dcoutdoors/parks/regional-parks/bayou-gulch-reg…
Cherry Creek Reservoir (Village Greens North Park):http://www.greenwoodvillage.com/DocumentCenter/View/12047
Golden Bike Park: http://comba.org/projects/golden-bike-park#.Vto7CPkrKHs
Boulder (Valmont Bike Park): https://bouldercolorado.gov/parks-rec/valmont-bike-park
Castle Rock (Rhyolite Bike Park): http://www.crgov.com/facilities/Facility/Details/33