Ken Long and his business partner Tom Clark are avid mountain bikers. It was their love of Tahoe and passion for biking that inspired them to create Tahoe Mountain Guides.
Gina Larkin of Truckee hones her mountain biking skills on the Emigrant Trail. | Nina Porcelli-Fenn
“The philosophy of the company is, if it isn’t fun, don’t do it,” says Long.
Tahoe Mountain Guides operates out of the Tahoe Sports Hub and collaborates with Cyclepaths bike shop. The outfit partners with Tahoe National Forest Truckee District and, most recently, teamed up with Dylan Renn, owner of A Single Track Mind.
“Our guides are continually educating themselves, they train with other instructors to further their mountain biking skills. They are all medically trained and knowledgeable about the different trails they are riding,” he said.
“Mountain biking can be challenging and complex;
nothing replaces time on the bike.
Tahoe Mountain Guides offers women-specific mountain bike clinics. The skills progression clinic includes nine core sessions culminating with a day ride in Downieville. Each clinic is independent so women can take all sessions, a few sessions or sign up for just one. The clinic is geared for women looking to improve their skills and learn techniques of the sport.
Gina Larkin, an executive leadership coach in Truckee, and Wrenn Johns, co-owner of Sports Hub, were some of the women on hand for the course. Larkin and I had talked for weeks about learning how to improve our techniques. Long loaded the bikes onto the van and we drove to the Sawtooth Trail in Sierra Meadows where our learning adventure began.
Nina Porcelli-Fenn, a downhill mountain bike racer, was our instructor for the first clinic. She, along with Kiki Flowers, who was training to guide, were a well of information. Porcelli-Fenn went over basic fundamentals of biking, such as the three points of control on the bike (grips, seat and pedals), basic body position and addressed gear and equipment. She also covered bike maintenance, how to clean, maintain and prepare our bikes, which she was emphatic about. “I clean my bike before and after each ride,” she said. She passed around the lube and rags and taught us how to clean off the old grunge and lube our chain. “Tahoe is very dusty; best to use a dry chain lube,” she explained.
Our first exercise was getting us comfortable on the bike and learning how to brake and shift properly. We rode shifting gears and braking. The next exercise was about foot position and hovering on the bike. Flowers explained that while riding it’s best to have our feet positioned at nine and three on the pedals.
Porcelli-Fenn led the charge, followed by a gaggle of women, she called out, “Pedal pedal, pedal and hover,” her feet level on pedals she glided over her seat.
We practiced exercises like lowering our seat and moving from front to back over the seat and side-to-side to help encourage balance, counterbalance and familiarity with the bike.
“These exercises help us understand what is possible on the bike and create a safe environment to find and test limits,” said Porcelli-Fenn.
It was finally time to hit the trail. I hadn’t even gotten a few feet when I had a wardrobe malfunction and my helmet broke. Flowers patiently adjusted the helmet “MacGyver” style so in the event of a crash I didn’t crack my skull open. The key, Porcelli-Fenn explained, is to anticipate, keep your eyes forward and look ahead. We looped back on the trail and Porcelli-Fenn said to try and ride over as many rocks as possible.
The clinic was fun and informative. I am jazzed about getting back out for more lessons. The sessions will continue over the summer and will include climbing and descending, cornering and obstacles, braking techniques and how to change a tire. The rides will also increase in duration and offer more challenging terrain as the group moves along.
“Mountain biking can be challenging and complex; nothing replaces time on the bike,” says Porcelli-Fenn.
Tahoe Mountain Guides offers private and group lessons for men, women and families and excursions. The company assesses clients for physical condition and offers clinics based on skill level. They make each session fun and informative not only offering biking techniques but knowledge of the terrain and history of the area.
For more information, visit tahoemountainguides.com.