Life on the Single Track: Learning to Mountain Bike in Edmonton


pre-rideEdmonton boasts the largest urban green space in North America, and one of the best ways to experience it is by bike. You can escape the noisy city—even for a little while—on the expansive single and double track trail system that makes you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere.

Mountain biking is sure popular here, but watching fearless riders bomb down hills and fly over jumps may leave you wondering if this sport is for you. Trust me when I say that anyone who has a big love of nature and a little spirit of adventure can be a mountain biker. It may be the hardest sport I’ve ever tried, but it’s easily the most fun.

Besides the trail system, another great thing about mountain biking Edmonton is the community. If you’re new to the sport, there’s no shortage of community groups and learn-to-ride events. Many experienced cyclists are enthusiastic about growing the sport and helping beginners master the skills they need on the trails.

Mountain biking was traditionally a male-dominated sport, and so women’s riding groups like Edmonton’s DirtGirls were started to bring the smaller (but always growing) community together and encourage more women to join the sport. Now, we have a seemingly endless pick of women’s clinics, bike camps, and getaways. Recently, Bell Helmets initiated the Bell Joy Ride program.


Bell Joy Ride events have been popping up in cities across North America, and the first one was held in Edmonton this spring. The program was established to build a fun and safe environment for women to learn the sport, and for women of all levels to meet, have fun, and challenge each other.

Every month this summer will see a free event at a different location, hosted by local cycling enthusiast and Bell Joy Ride ambassador Nina Karpoff. The second Edmonton ride was held on May 15th at Louise McKinney Park.

It was a beautiful morning, and everyone was smiling, mingling, and sampling the snacks as we waited for things to get rolling, so to speak. The event started off with a presentation on basic bike maintenance by Mountain Equipment Co-op. We were then instructed to get in a big circle, where we received instruction in properly adjusting our helmets (many of us underestimate how snug our helmets should fit. If you can easily roll your helmet around your head or lift it so that only the chin strap is keeping it on, then you better tighten that sucker, because it’s not adjusted correctly).

Our lesson was followed by a warm-up and stretching session. Persistently stiff and sore since I’ve started biking, I happily joined in, until I looked down and noticed the ratchet on my cycling shoe was busted. I wandered over to the MEC tent to ask for help.

Mountain bikers are some of the friendliest, most helpful people I’ve met. Here’s one example: the event photographer was also a mountain biker and, as it turns out, an eager handyman. When he heard about my problem, he promptly laid down his camera, dug around in the MEC toolbox like he owned it, and had me all fixed up in no time!

After the stretching session, we split into our groups. You sign up for your skill level, from new rider to advanced, when you register for the event. I went with the intermediate group this time, which was divided into two smaller groups so we could cover more ground.

Our leader Tracy made everyone feel comfortable. She asked about our skill levels prior to taking off, gave us tips before we attempted difficult sections, and continually checked in to make sure we weren’t tired, dehydrated, or too freaked out by a technical descent. All in all, it was a terrific environment to build skills and gain confidence.

Two hours is not enough time to explore all the trails that Edmonton has to offer, so I’m looking forward to the next event, and of course all the times in between.


Whether you’re interested in learning to mountain bike, or already ride and want to gain confidence on the trails and new bike skills, you should register for the next ride, which will be held on Saturday, June 11th at Emily Murphy Park. Sign up soon, because there’s a lot of interest in these free events. See you on the trails!


  1. I think i missed the last ride, is there another one planned fairly soon ?

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