Saddle Up and Ride

Crosscut offers a full range of mountain-biking clinics.

Nestled in the forest right next to Bridger Bowl, Crosscut Mountain Sports Center has a thorough lineup of mountain-biking clinics tailored to novice and experienced riders alike. Their extensive trail network, which is open to the public, provides excellent training grounds to practice new skills, and their instructors are the best in the business. Four of the O/B staff signed up, each for a different clinic—here's the full rundown.

Introduction to Mountain Biking
Diving into a new outdoor sport can be intimidating. Between getting to know the equipment, the terminology, and your own abilities, there’s a lot to learn. Crosscut’s Introduction to Mountain Biking clinic was just what I needed to ease my nerves and educate myself on mountain biking, so I can ride more comfortably and know what I need to focus on in my future biking endeavors.

Our all-women class began with our instructor, Heidi, reminding us that if we ride these bikes to get out and enjoy the trails, we ARE mountain bikers, even if we’re just starting out. Anticipation quickly changed to excitement.

We went over bike anatomy—the ABCDs, Heidi likes to call it (Air, Brakes, Chain, Drivetrain)—a helpful, hands-on experience. After a bike check, we all hopped on our bikes and made our way to a grassy field. We felt the slight changes of inclines and practiced changing gears—and how to do so without grinding those gears together, a frequent mistake for us newbies. Then we ventured onto the double-track trail, learning how to minimize the impact we put on our bikes and bodies. We dove into braking and body position, with exercises to put these assets to use in different situations.

Heidi showed us examples of each technique we’d be practicing, and gave lots of individual feedback. The class ended with everyone biking up and back down a singletrack trail. It felt like each step was building into the next—a constant progression of skills and biking knowledge. Some of us had begun the class having never touched a trail with anything but our feet, and we all left with singletrack riding under our belts, along with that sense of accomplishment and eagerness from trying something new. If you want to get into mountain biking, I couldn’t think of a better place to start. —Jamie Rankin

Mountain-Biking Fundamentals
Like many mountain bikers, I've ridden consistently for years without doing any real work on improving my skills and confidence on the trail. As matter of fact, the last time I was feeling (over-) confident, I wound up going over my handlebars on a switchback. So, to avoid picking up any more bad habits, and to correct the ones I’ve already developed, I signed up for Crosscut's Mountain Biking Fundamentals clinic.

Instructed by “Hot Laps” Heidi and “Just” Jamie, we had a group with 16 folks in it, ranging in age from early-20s on up. The experience levels ranged as much as the ages did, from total beginners to folks who’d spent more time on their bikes than I had. Heidi and Jamie were able to keep the attention of this diverse group with engaging instructions that helped everyone advanced at their own pace.

After a brief rundown on bike components and how to safely check over our equipment, we focused most of the next hour on body position, including how to use one's body and the bike’s shocks to ride over roots and rocks. I’ve spent enough time on my bike to know the basics of positioning, but now I know the reasoning behind the positions. Then we moved into cornering, which was what I really needed. Although we just covered the basics, it’s dramatic how much more in-control I felt with just a few simple adjustments. We wrapped up the evening with a short ride down some singletrack, using the skills we had just worked on.

I’m far from bombing down a double-black-diamond trail, or even being able to get to the top of one, but now I do have a good biking foundation to build on. Hopefully I can keep myself in the saddle and not over the bars in the future. —Chris McCarthy

Cornering Series
My mountain-biking career has consisted of hopping on a bike, trying hard not to wipe out, and hoping to somehow progress my singletrack skills. Am I the best biker you’ve ever seen? No. Can I hold my own a bike? Definitely. But I’d never received any professional instruction.

I’d heard good things about Crosscut’s programs and wanted to get some pro tips on cornering, so I signed up for their two-day Cornering Series. Instructed by Reid, this clinic focused on skills, movements, and positioning when turning corners. The first day started on a grassy field with instructor demos and practice. Slowly we worked on mindful body positioning and techniques to build muscle-memory on our bikes. Then, we moved into the Crosscut trail system, where we applied our lessons on trails and in the skills park.

Going into the second session, I had ridden a few times on my own during the week-long interim and applied the lessons to my riding, but I still needed more instruction. After brief re-introductions, we quickly revisited the techniques from the first clinic, then made our way from the grass back up into the trail system. The remainder of the clinic was dedicated to braking, line choice, and bike/body positioning on real trails with challenging turns. We rode the corners, Reid gave us specific feedback, then we hiked back up and rode down again.

All in all, the clinic was tremendously helpful. I knew I needed coaching, but I didn’t realize how noticeable the difference would be. The skills I learned are applicable at any stage of riding and can be practiced regardless of experience level. Leaving the clinic, I felt more in control, more confident, and more aware than I ever have on a bike. I look forward to practicing these skills and—hopefully—continuing to progress my riding. —Annika Schaecher

Pump, Jump & Drop Series
As an experienced mountain biker, I signed up for the Pump, Jump & Drop Series. We got right into the instruction, starting on the grass with some baseline skills. Turns out, being able to maneuver the bike securely and confidentiality is important when you’re planning to go airborne. Once we could demonstrate the fundamentals, it was onto the skills park.

Crosscut has done a great job designing a thorough progression area for all kinds of challenges. There’s a pump track, a few wooden drops of different sizes, skinnies for balancing practice, some jumps, and much more. Not to mention, a whole trail network for all styles of riding, including a flow trail to put all your new skills to the test.

Huge credit to Crosscut’s instructor for the class, Reid. Riding a bike is hard; teaching someone to bike is harder. It’s easy to tell Reid knows what he’s talking about. He was able to give individual feedback to everyone in the course, catered to their specific needs and abilities. Even when the gap between skill levels was quite large, Reid could keep everyone engaged and challenged throughout the entire course.

There’s a reason Crosscut’s parking lot stays busy all year long—they’ve built and fostered a great biking resource. Their facilities are some of the best around and the clinics are well worth it. Whether you’re new to biking or have decades under your belt, you’ll surely roll away as a better biker. —Adam Brown

Video by
Jamie Rankin