There are a few tell-tale ways to identify a serious mountain biker at a glance.
For starters, they are often mud-smeared and typically have bark tattoos (scabs, scuffs, and scrapes from hitting tree-like objects) on various limbs. They use words such as “shred,” “bail” and “gnar,” with plenty of passion and fluidity in their speech. And, in Alberta — thanks to many awesome places to “shred gnar” — you will have frequent sightings at popular trailheads.
“Mountain biking is definitely in a significant growth stage in Alberta and throughout North America,” says Mark Jung, a seasoned Alberta rider, racer and president of the redbike club in Edmonton. “COVID definitely fueled the fire, but the surge in the sport can also be attributed to the phenomenal progress that has been made in the equipment, trail-building initiatives, bike clubs and there are many more factors.
“Here in Alberta, we have an amazing variety of terrain and hundreds of trails. There is something for every type of rider, including awesome bike parks, beautiful riverside trails, rooty and rocky terrain in the mountains and everything in between.”
Interestingly, some of the best mountain biking in Alberta — certainly when it comes to beginner and intermediate trails — isn’t actually in the mountains. For example, places such as Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Redcliffe and Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park offer awesome “prairie” riding with bluffs and badlands the dominant themes.
“If you’re new to mountain biking, you definitely want to use caution in terms of where you go,” says Jung. “Visit your local bike shop and get advice from experts. You can also join a bike club and find a mentor. Download the Trailforks app and look for those green trails. Both Calgary and Edmonton have awesome beginner trails right in the city limits. That’s where you want to start.”
For Calgary riders who have honed their skills and want to experience challenging single-track that incorporates bigger climbs, faster descents and more technical terrain, fear not, it’s right on your doorstep! The West Bragg Creek area in Kananaskis Country, for example, is definitely a place you’ll want to get familiar with. It’s home to 166-kilometres of multi-use trails and some of the best intermediate riding in Alberta. This is cross-country trail riding at its best.
If you’re a mountain biker with a need for speed (and potentially some air time), the trails on Moose Mountain, west of Bragg Creek, will melt your butter. And maybe your rubber. There are many fast, flowy descents on the Moose Mountain network and numerous trails with jump lines, technical trail features and the likes. Experienced riders only.
But, as good as these popular networks are, they definitely don’t hold the patent on gnarly mountain riding. The Canmore Nordic Centre, Crowsnest Pass, Nordegg, Banff, Hinton, Rocky Mountain House and Jasper all boast exceptional mountain trails.
While mountain bikers who live in the Edmonton area may have a little more driving to do to get to the big burly rides and significant elevation changes of the mountains, the city is home to some of the best riverside riding in Alberta. Areas such as Gold Bar, Terwilleger and Keillor are great starting points for short, sporty rides that are ideal before and after work. But, as you’ll soon find out, you can easily do multiple laps or connect with other networks to get the full-meal deal.
And, just outside the town of Devon, you’ll find the popular Riverview Bike Park. Professionally designed with a large wooden skills area, pumptrack, flow trails and various jump lines, this is easily one of the best bike parks in the region.
Regardless of where you “shred your gnar,” rest assured, numerous mountain biking clubs and associations are building new trails and churning out cyclopaths like it’s going out of style. Except, of course, it isn’t. Frequent mountain biker sightings are a testament to that.
Looking for an epic ride that will have you grinnin’ for a week? Here is an intermediate ride that should be on your bucket list.
Buck 50 at Pass Powderkeg: Built in 2016 to commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday, this 4.2-kilometre descent in Crowsnest Pass (reach it by climbing Double Dirt-Spresso and Chainsaw Massacre) is a berm-filled blast that’s worth bombing down, like, multiple times a day.
Merlin View at West Bragg Creek: True, the climb to the top of Merlin View is a bit of a gut buster, but the fast-and-flowy descent is a dream. Reach it by climbing Braggin’ Rights. Together, these two trails are a 10-km Kananaskis classic!
Flow Master at Hinton Bike Park: So, you like to feel the flow, huh? Put the Hinton Bike Park on your list. And go for a rip down the syrupy-smooth, machine-built Flow Master for one of the smoothest joy rides in all the land.
This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division.