By Beth Holden –
As the days get longer, I can hear my mountain bike calling. I can’t think of anything more empowering than hopping on my bike and peddling for hours. It feels so good to conquer a challenging climb, shred a technical steep descent, or hit a jump for the first time. As exciting as it is, I still get scared and I still remember what it was like to be a beginner. When I first heard of mountain biking I was intrigued and intimidated. I’ve always been drawn to the mountains and the forest for adventures and to find a sense of calming balance but always on two feet not two wheels. Zooming down twisting turning trails, over roots, around rocks, and over logs seemed insane. That was six years ago and admittedly I have had a few scary moments, scrapes, and bruises not to mention an extremely bruised ego, but now I cannot imagine life without my bike.
For a few years, I inspected these full suspension mountain bikes that, compared to my street cruiser, looked more like motorbikes than pedal bikes. My impression was that I needed to be more hardcore, more extreme to engage in the sport, but eventually my curiosity over took my fear and full of nervous anxiety I decided to try it out. Bravely I followed Shreddie and Tom on the Pedal by the Puddle loop on South Lakeside and was amazed that, first of all, I could do it, and that second of all these experienced riders had such patience and understanding for the hesitant pace of a beginner. It is funny to look back on that ride. I thought the Twizzler gully was insane and it kind of made me nauseated to swoop back and forth and up and down. Now it is my favourite section of the trail.
Over the years I have met many women interested in mountain biking but when it comes down to hopping on a bike and hitting the trail, their lack of confidence and fear stops them dead in their tracks. Little do they know they can do it and Williams Lake is an awesome place to start mountain biking.
Figuring out who to ride with can be one of the biggest challenges and trail riding can be intimidating. Will people take me down something dangerous? Do I have the skills to make it to the bottom in one piece? What if I get lost? Will they leave me in the dust? Will they be annoyed at my hesitance and having to wait? It takes time on your bike to build skills and confidence, but the truth is if you want to ride, you can do it. I meet more and more women riding bikes all the time. Young, old, fast, slow, strong climbers, and fast shredders and in my experience they are always happy to see another person on a bike.
It is not hard to find someone to ride with. So how do you find them? First try visiting one of the two bike shops, Red Shreds Bike and Board Shed or Barking Spider. Both staffed with friendly, helpful people who will help you pick out a sweet ride (bike) and connect you with people excited to share the sport. There are a bunch of group rides that meet regularly throughout the riding season, some mixed and some women-specific. I used to be so intimidated to join these rides, but soon learned that it is just a bunch of people excited to ride bikes. People don’t really mind waiting. Some are faster and some are slower. The fast ones get ahead and take breaks while the slower ones putter along. If people don’t want to wait and are out there for speed or for training, they will go alone. We have all been the slowest at some point. We have all struggled and had good and bad days on our bikes.
Local trails are easy to access, the terrain is user friendly, and signs and apps make them easy to navigate. With three connected riding areas, all accessed right in town, getting to single track is really easy. Within each of these areas – South Lakeside, Westsyde, and Fox Mountain – one can find diverse terrain with the majority of trails fun for all skill levels. Stunts and drops enticing advanced riders have smooth ride around for those less experienced. As new trails are constructed, a progressive style of building is favoured, meaning the trail, jumps and all, are built for everyone to ride. Beginners can roll them, intermediates can push their limits with endless transitions with little to no consequence, and advanced riders can soar making riding with varied levels enjoyable. Most the terrain in Williams Lake is smooth, which is easy for controlling speed, but has technical sections, like looser earth, small steeps, and sharper turns, to help build skills in a progressive manner. There are tons of intersecting trails but luckily the City of Williams Lake, Cariboo Regional District, Cariboo Mountain Bike Consortium, and Williams Lake Cycling Club invested time and money to install comprehensive signage throughout the networks, with large maps at trail heads. You can get a paper copy of these maps at local bike shops and the Tourism Discovery Centre and there are two awesome easy to use apps that make navigation a synch for even the directionally challenged like myself. These not only show the maps and distances, but also elevation gain and difficulty level.
Take the plunge. Try it out. You will become part of the cycling community, which is huge in Williams Lake. Once you are hooked you will quickly realize there are so many of us that love our bikes and love to ride. Join the Williams Lake Cycling Club, also known as the Puddle Bike Club, for the low, low price of $15 a year and learn about events, races, community rides, and trail maintenance days. Love your bike, love your biking friends and don’t forget to love your local bike shops.
Now drop the fear and get out there and bike.
After graduating from Concordia University Beth moved from Montreal to the Cariboo and has never looked back. She is at her happiest when riding bikes with her friends, family, and dog.