New riders gain confidence mountain biking at WinSport

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Under my wheels the uneven, winding dirt trail sloped downwards, putting me in an unfamiliar position. Bike riding was one thing; riding a bike downhill? This was completely new to me. But here I was trying mountain biking for the first time at Calgary's WinSport, under the instruction of a mountain bike coach. 

Without instruction I may not have had the confidence but I’d been coached on how to do this. In just two hours, I’d learned basic riding skills, becoming familiar with the different types of biking terrain, riding techniques and most importantly, gaining the courage to try something new. So I lifted my feet to the pedals and dropped in.  

If you are interested in mountain biking, but are too nervous or don’t know where to start, WinSport is the perfect place to experience it for the first time. But let me go back to the beginning. 

First, to properly ride downhill, you need the right equipment. WinSport has you covered here. At the rental center, the staff will ask you to fill out two waiver forms, which are all done electronically for the safety of WinSport visitors and staff. The process is straightforward, while the staff are available to help you if you need it.

Book a guided introduction to mountain biking at WinSport, and get into the adventure!

Next, staff will help you choose helmets and mountain bikes based on your size and experience level. There are two types of helmets available to rent: your regular bike helmets and full face helmets with an opening for your eyes and nose.

Mountain bikes also come in two different types: one that is heavier and fully equipped with suspension, while the other is lighter without suspension. The bikes come in various colours, so you can ride down the hills in style!

Winsport rental shop, Calgary, AB.
Photographer: Shannon Martin
Getting geared up to ride, with the help of WinSport's rental shop techs.


If you want to buy your bicycle equipment, WinSport is also the perfect place as they carry all major outdoor brands of helmets, gloves and protective gear. After you have all the proper equipment, staff double-check that you and your bike are ready to start your mountain biking adventure. 

Once you are outside in the park, you will learn about basic riding through lessons and practice. According to my coach, Connor Legault, learning the basics of mountain bike riding is all about how you feel on your bike.

Gear shifting and speed, among other factors, are all based on how comfortable you feel. Compared with ordinary bicycles, the ultra-wide wheels and cushioning of mountain bikes allow you to ride through various terrain. The height of the seat is adjusted so that it won't interfere or make you uncomfortable with your riding experience and shifting gears is easy, so you will be able to experience the thrill of riding!

Biking a green trail, Winsport, Calgary AB.
Photographer: Shannon Martin
Practicing riding a berm on the green trail.

On the grassy slope next to the training ground, I followed Legault to practice zig-zagging down the hill on the bike. Once I had mastered that, he had me try riding on a gravel road to experience riding on bumpier terrain. Finally, in a small wooded setting, I rode through the narrow dirt road that twisted and turned throughout the hill, causing me a thrill of nerves and excitement. 

Once comfortable enough, I headed towards the advanced practice stage where we finally got to try riding through the WinSport Bike Park! This professionally designed site covers an area of nine acres with a total of 14 runs, covering all levels of terrains from cross-country slopes to a downhill trail network.

The green track is a cross-country loop, including uphill, downhill and flats. The blue track (Flow Loop) includes turns, steep slopes and various jumping tracks which allows cyclists to concentrate on improving their skills. The bike park offers many trails for bikers of all experience levels to enjoy, so each run will be different from the last. Riding the beginner’s slope down the hill was a treat! The jumps along the way added excitement to the ride down! 

New to mountain biking? Learn the basics at WinSport!

Marco, a good mountain biker, highly recommends WinSport’s Bike Park: "I used to go mountain biking mainly on publicly accessed mountain bike trails, then I tried out the Winsport Bike Park and it felt more professional. It is suitable for bikers of all experience levels from beginners to professional bikers; the entire family can try mountain biking together! The location is also convenient and it is very suitable for city living where there is not much time to go out.”

I had to admit, the professional instruction and well-designed trails had given me the confidence to take on some new challenges, and enjoy the thrill of downhill biking.

Coach Legault encourages all who are interested to give mountain biking a try regardless of age. If you enjoy biking, then mountain biking could be an exciting new experience for you! Like any sport, mountain biking takes some practice before you can get the hang of it but nevertheless it’s an awesome way to get active during the summer months!


WHEN YOU GO

  • For the 2021 season, WinSport's mountain biking courses include one-on-one coaching courses and group courses that can accommodate up to eight people per group. 
  • Visitors are required to purchase tickets online in advance. Plan to be there 30 minutes before your appointment time. 
  • Bike and helmet rentals are available but for additional protective gear check ahead of time as currently there is a hold on some rentals like elbow and knee pads for those who need them most.
  • WinSport is part of Canada Olympic Park, a legacy of the 1988 Winter Olympics. Found on the west side of Calgary, Alberta home to a full roster of summer adventures - ever zip lined before
  • For more details and to book your experience, visit the WinSport website.

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