Sometimes there’s a sense that a slight lull exists between winter seasons. But we know the truth – the stoke lives on. With a little more light and warmer, longer days, summer always offers more to explore. For this reason, summer has long secured its place as the signpost for early morning rips and late afternoon sessions at your favorite bike park.

Because, if you were born to ride, it doesn’t matter if you’re cutting it up on snow or laying it down on dirt. And if you’re fresh to the game of gravity and gravel, there’s a new life-long love affair waiting to be had. To get started, here’s a quick overview of what you need to know before you go.

CLAIM YOUR TICKETS

At bike parks across North America, summer adventure is waiting. All you need is a ticket to ride. With options for both season passes and day tickets available, there’s an option for every type of mountain biker.

For Ikon Pass holders, there are several potential discounts available when riding at Ikon Pass destinations: From add-on discounted bike park season passes – with the purchase of a 21/22 Ikon Pass – to single day and rental discounts for Ikon Pass holders. It’s best to call your bike park directly to confirm what is available.

Additionally, some parks require reservations made at least 48 hours in advance, so be sure to check with your local bike park before you visit.

THE RIGHT BIKE & THE RIGHT GEAR

As with most active pursuits, the right gear can go a long way. With a day spent at the bike park, you’re going to have a better experience if you are outfitted properly. Take advantage of bike park package deals that typically include a downhill (DH) bike and all the protective padding that will shield your body in case of a fall. If you already have some gear, there’s usually an option to rent the items you still need, a la carte.

Here’s the quick breakdown.

BIKE

A proper downhill bike is spec’d slightly differently than your standard mountain bike. This includes a suspension with additional travel that can better handle rocks, tree roots, and jumps. The frames are also designed for the increased forces of the trail, mainly when features are involved. While not super-efficient to pedal, you won’t have to do much of it, as the geometry on downhill bikes is perfect for a quick trip up the chairlift before pointing them south (down trail).

FULL FACE HELMET

A full-face helmet will help protect your face and mouth if you take a tumble.

GOGGLES

When traveling downhill on maintained trails, sometimes you or your friends will kick up a little dirt or rocks. Protective goggles shield your eyes from debris and branches that grow just off of the trail.

SPORT JACKET / BODY ARMOR

While it sounds extreme, body armor is just a supported vest or jacket that helps to protect the torso (back, chest and abdomen).

ELBOW PADS / KNEE PADS / SHIN PADS

This collection of pads will help protect the areas of the body that are often hit first if you fall. And, like goggles, they can also help protect you from loose debris.

GLOVES

Full finger gloves will help protect your hands but also give you better control of the bike.

LEARN & PRACTICE

Anytime you’re in the mountains, you never jump into a new sport by simply hucking yourself off a cliff. The bike park is no different. Here, making turns on dirt is just like making turns on the slopes – it’s all about building into progression so that you feel comfortable and confident in your skills.

KNOW THE TERRAIN

Similar to how ski slopes are graded – through the use of greens, blues, and blacks – bike park trails also feature signs at their entry points, highlighting the trail’s difficulty. Green will be the easiest way down, blue is somewhere in the middle, and black will be the most challenging. Often, depending on the park, there are different levels of both blue and black trails. This allows riders to build a gradual progression of skill sets while gaining confidence. No matter where you ride, always familiarize yourself with the various terrain ratings before tucking into a run.

PRE-RIDE

You’re kitted out, full of stoke with an impressive bike in hand, and you feel slightly invincible as you pedal into your first lap. This is the perfect moment to slow things down. Warm-up your mind and body and explore the trail at low speed while getting familiar with the features and the equipment you’re on.

RE-RIDE

Now, lap the trail a few times and get to know the flow. Figure out what turns to lean into, what feels comfortable, and what doesn’t, and identify what features you want to ride.

FREE-RIDE

When you’re ready, start small and work your way up to faster speeds and larger features.

SAFETY

Whenever you’re out in the park, safety is king. Be sure that you follow these basic protocols, whether it’s your first ride of the day or your last lap before heading home.

  • Ride within your abilities and take your time.
  • The right-hand brake is the RIGHT brake to use most of the time.
  • Constant pressure when braking is better than on/off or slamming the brakes.
  • Altitude is a factor. Drink water and take rests.
  • Your eyes guide your bike. The faster you go, the farther you should be looking down the trail.
LESSONS & CAMPS

Sometimes it helps get up to speed quickly when you have a knowledgeable, skilled instructor to show you the ropes bike chains. Most bike park destinations offer additional lesson packages and full-blown bike camps where you can learn from the best while progressing your skills.

EXPLORE

Now that you know the scene, it’s time to get out there and get a little dirty. As you start to plan your summer adventure, keep in mind that there are many events and package deals available throughout the warmer months. For example, hit the trifecta over Memorial Day Weekend with a package that includes Bikes, Golf, and Spring Skiing at Mammoth Mountain.

After Memorial Day, summer swings into full effect. Starting at most destinations by mid-June, adventure lives large at some of the best Bike Parks in North America. Across top-tier Trestle Bike Park at Winter Park, the world-class XC and downhill park at Mammoth Mountain, and across Steamboat’s 50+ miles of terrain, and Big Bear’s high-caliber SoCal park, the dirt trail is a long and fun one, and it’s filled with endless gravity fed adventure. This is the trail you were born to ride.