Spend a summer day in Whistler, and you’ll witness hundreds of mountain bikers walking their bikes along the Village Stroll, grinning ear to ear.
If you’re wondering what’s making them so happy, look up. See those mountains? They’re a mountain biking Mecca.
Non-mountain bikers might be tempted to experience the joys of mountain biking firsthand—the exploration, the exhilaration, the excitement—but they might also be a little reluctant to strap on a helmet and hit the trails. With powerful tires, full-face helmets, and hard armor hiding underneath riding gear, mountain biking can look downright intimidating to a beginner.
Here’s the good news: just about anybody who can ride a regular bike can ride a mountain bike. Yes, even you. Here’s how to get in on the action:
XC versus Downhill
You don’t need to learn all the lingo right away, but at the very least, you should know the difference between cross country mountain biking and downhill mountain biking.
Cross country, or XC, takes place on unpaved trails through the woods. Trails go uphill and downhill, and can involve obstacles both man-made and natural (like rocks and tree roots).
Downhill mountain biking, as the name implies, involves heading downhill on your bike. Let’s be honest: it’s more downmountain than downhill. The Whistler Mountain Bike Park is where you’ll want to do your downhill mountain biking.
You’ll want to decide which type of mountain biking to try before getting started. They’re both very different, and they’re both a lot of fun. On second thought, why not try both?
XC: Meet WORCA & Learn the Ropes
Here’s an acronym you’ll want to learn if you’re trying cross country mountain biking in Whistler: WORCA.
WORCA stands for the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association. This non-profit organization is your go-to resource for all things cross country biking. Not only do they build and maintain trails, but they also host a ton of local biking races and events and teach cyclists bike-related skills.
If you want to try cross country mountain biking, check out a half-day tour offered through Whistler Reservations, geared specifically towards beginners. This tour will teach you the ropes and introduce you the some of Whistler’s finest entry-level trails.
Once you’ve gained a bit of confidence on two wheels, join in on one of WORCA’s classic Monday Night Rides. These weekly social rides group riders based on ability, so you’ll be riding with other newbies. Your leader will teach you the ropes and show you some of the best trails suited for your ability.
Speaking of trails, Whistler’s got a ton of them, from the northernmost neighbourhood in Emerald Estates to the southernmost community of Cheakamus Crossing. There are plenty of gnarly, expert-level trails, but don’t be intimidated: there are also lots of beginner-friendly trails.
Downhill: Hit the Park
Downhill mountain biking is an experience like no other—one that definitely requires a lesson or two to get started. You might think that biking down a hill is, well, pretty intuitive. You’d be surprised at how technical it really is. A qualified instructor can coach you through proper technique and help you navigate the many trails in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. Whistler Blackcomb offers different types of lessons for beginners, including a Bike Park 101 course and Women’s Nights and Men’s nights, where attendees are split into lesson groups based on their downhill biking ability (or lack thereof!).
The park can be an daunting place for beginners, especially if you’ve watched advanced riders careening down the mountain at full speed and soaring over massive jumps. While the advanced trails get the most press, there are also many trails geared towards beginners. Know where they are, and get comfortable on them before heading to the blue and black runs.