In 2018, I started riding a mountain bike named “Grasshopper.” In my stories with What’s Up Yukon, we discovered how to maintain a bike, how to ride a bike (and not die) and, generally, how challenging taking up a new sport in your thirties can be.
It’s been four years, and each year I bike more and more, and now I bike in the winter! So, in this next series, I wanted to highlight how special mountain biking is for making lifelong friends, for keeping your dogs active and for surviving and building your relationship with your spouse, while discovering the Yukon in the process.
So let’s dive into “Biking with Friends.”
When I moved to Whitehorse, I knew absolutely nobody. But mountain biking changed that and here’s how:
CMBC & Dirt Girls
When I first attempted to bike, I literally couldn’t imagine ever changing gears or staying upright and watching where I was going as I went down a hill I could barely walk down.
But over the years, my confidence grew and that was mostly thanks to other people. I joined Contagious Mountain Bike Club (CMBC) and participated in their Dirt Girls sessions. This was a great way to get trail updates and events and, as well, to link up with people to ride with.
I first posted on their Facebook page that I was looking for someone with the patience of a monk, to ride with me, and I inadvertently made a best friend, Michelle Friesen, who ended up being my wedding officiant four years later!
Those that bike together are friends together.
Dirt Girls is also a great opportunity for organized rides, with little stress of being laughed at or mocked in any way. It’s completely a supportive and inclusive environment to go ride bikes at your level, in a safe way, together.
Michelle led a Dirt Girls group one evening. It was an easy-level group, and the overall, badass women that came meant that we were all ripping it as hard as we were comfortable with.
You can also volunteer at any of these groups or with their board.
Skills, clinics & events
There are a lot of events out there. For me, I can barely survive 20 kilometres of mountain biking, let alone biking Royalty of the Canyon (formerly King of the Canyon), which is 50 kilometres all over Grey Mountain. Or biking with the even-crazier people who do the unofficial Triple Crown, which involves riding up and down three big mountains in town: Haeckel Hill, Grey Mountain and Mount Mac.
There have been a few events that have appealed to me with my abilities. These include Shredhers Mountain Bike Retreat, and Fatbiking at Christmas.
In 2021, Michelle Friesen organized the first-ever ShredHERs retreat. It was a two-day retreat for newbie women who were partnered with a mentor. It was fantastic. Kate White gave us all positive improvements for our biking and we all had a laugh and enjoyed our mountain biking at Montana Mountain in Carcross.
What was great for me is that my mentee and I totally hit it up. I explained to her how difficult biking has been for me, how much everything scares me and how much I wish I could do stuff. We decided to go off on our own and went down a trail called Upper Wolverine. I told her, “I usually walk everything, so let’s see.” White had just shown us new techniques for walking the “line” we would take, to see it before we would rode it.
We started on the trail and immediately hit something I had never done. We walked it together. Then I thought to myself, Bugger it. Go for it.
I rode it! Then my mentee rode it! Then we kept doing it! There were a few sections we didn’t want to do (and probably never will).
“Oh my goodness,” I said, “this is the most I’ve ever done on this trail. Seriously, this is crazy!”
“Thank you!” My mentee said. “I think knowing you hadn’t done this before and seeing you do it made me really think I could do it too!”
That’s what mountain biking can do for you—take you out of your comfort zone, and even if it takes you three years to do something (or if you never do something), you always have someone there to support you.
Another great way to make friends and get better at biking is to participate in one of the highly in-demand skills clinics.
Mount Sima & Carcross
Still not sure about reaching out directly to the world in the above methods? Fear not. The old-school way is to show up and join a pack.
Mount Sima is on wednesday nights and provides a bike-lift, to shuttle you up the mountain, so you can ride down. What better way to make a new biking friend than to jump on the lift and start chatting? And don’t worry if you can’t ride down the whole thing just yet. It took me two years and many children passing me before I could make it down their easiest trail.
Carcross is also a great option to meet and to join in on rides. Any given weekend, once the snow is gone, there are shuttle vehicles making their way up and down the mountain. Bring your camping chair, lunch and a beer, because you are certainly going to meet some fellow bikers and, hopefully, new friends.
Check out the Facebook group: Yukon Mountain Biking, or visit www.cmbcyukon.ca for more information.