Monday, November 10, 2014

Bow Valley Mountain Bike Trail Guide (2nd edition) - Book Review and Giveaway

I've checked out a lot of mountain bike trail guides and most of them are geared towards adult riders on big bikes with gears and a fair amount of experience.  The freshly updated Bow Valley Mountain Bike Trail Guide (2nd edition) however, is family-friendly and offers plenty of suggestions for parents riding with children ages 3-6 years old.  I actually did the math, and almost 50% of the trails in this book are doable by a six year old child on a 20" bike with gears.  Take away the gears and substitute in a 12-14" bike, and there's still a good 9 or 10 trails in this book your child could tackle with the occasional push or bit of walking on the hills.

Trail #1 - Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail (recommended ages 3 and up)

I counted how many trails in the book my five year old son has already ridden over the last two summers and so far he's conquered 8 of the trails on his pedal bike and 3 additional trails on his balance bike.  Next summer I fully expect him to ride another 7 of the trails in the Bow Valley Trail Guide.

Trail #2 - the Bankhead Trail (recommended ages 3 and up)

I honestly feel like Peter Oprsal, the author of the book, has written his newest guide book with families in mind and made special effort to make sure he included trails we would be able to ride.  In fact, there's even a page dedicated to family and introductory rides where Pete lists off the trails that beginners should start on - with recommended ages.

Trail #3 - The Fenland Loop (recommended ages 3 and up)

In Pete's book, he lists off 15 trails that he considers to be especially "family-friendly" and assigns each trail a recommended starting age (example, age 3 and up.)  And for the most part his recommendations are pretty accurate.  I would disagree on a few, Goat Creek being the biggest one, because I don't know a single 3 year old that could bike 20km.  However, for the most part, Pete has nailed it for trail choices us families can be out there riding.

Trail #7 - The Sundance Trail (recommended ages 3 and up)

How to Use the Bow Valley Mountain Bike Trail Guide with your Family

First, check out the family trail suggestions on page 12 and read the trail description for each ride carefully.  Some of the recommended ages will not apply to your individual child.

Trail #8 - The Tunnel Mountain Campground Loop (recommended ages 3 and up)

Distance:  For the most part, if you are riding with a novice rider under the age of six, you should be looking for a trail that has a maximum distance of 12 km (on pavement) or 8 km (on dirt.)  Your child may be able to ride further than that but this would be an average distance for a young rider.  If your child is brand new to biking, cut those numbers down even further.  Good first rides would be the Fenland Trail, Canmore Bike Paths, Bankhead Trail, and the Tunnel Campground Loop.  The Legacy Trail is also a good beginner choice if you ride from the Valleyview Day use area to Banff or Canmore one way and send an adult back for the vehicle. 

Trail #14 - The Tunnel Mountain Loop (recommended ages 6 and up)

Technical and Physical Ratings:  The second thing you will want to pay attention to is the technical and physical ratings for each trail. The Tunnel Mountain Loop for example has a technical rating of "intermediate."  This is therefore not an ideal beginner trail and your child should be experienced at braking on steep hills, riding over bumps and roots, and handling tight turns on a single track trail.  There may even be some exposure on an intermediate trail.  The Tunnel Mountain Loop is also rated as "moderate" for physical rating.  For me, a novice rider myself, this means I will be walking up a lot of the hills and so will my son who has been riding without gears so far this summer.  If you can ride these trails in the downhill direction, such as the Tramline trail at Lake Louise, the physical rating would downgrade to "easy."

Trail #28 - The Canmore Bike Paths (recommended ages 3 and up)

Elevation Gain:  Finally, look at the elevation gain for each ride before you head out.  Some rides can be done in the downhill direction with a shuttle, making them super easy for young children without gears.  Meanwhile, try to ride them in the opposite direction and you are looking at a frustrating experience.  And I can say from experience, if there is more than 50 m of elevation gain on a trail, your child is going to want to have gears.  Otherwise, expect to be pushing or walking.  Personally, we don't mind walking the odd hill so this doesn't bother us.  But sometimes, if the hill goes on for a couple kilometres (as in the case with the Sundance Canyon Trail,) it would be a looooong walk!  I'm still grateful to my husband who rode alongside my son on that trail and pushed him up the final kilometre to the canyon.

Trail #12 - The Red Earth Creek Trail (balance bike friendly for young kids)

Balance Bikes:  Many of the harder trails in this guide book are doable on a balance bike if your child is still too young to ride a larger bike with gears.  The Red Earth Creek Trail and the Brewster Creek Trail are both examples of this.  With 300+ metres of elevation gain on the Red Earth Creek Trail, no child is going to make it up without a lot of pushing or walking (though it would be a glorious ride down!)  Bring a balance bike however, and even a 5 year old can enjoy the ride while you run alongside.  (my son actually beat me to the parking lot this summer on that trail.)

Trail #21 - The Canmore Nordic Centre (awesome on balance bikes)

My personal goal for next summer is to ride all of the trail in this book that a 6 year old should be able to ride.  Wish me luck on Star Wars and hope I don't end up in the hospital.  As a novice rider myself, I fully expect my son to be out-biking me by the end of next summer. 

Trail #9 - Brewster Creek (great on a balance bike)

This awesome guide book is only $21.95 and is the perfect size to fit into a stocking.  And guess what holiday is coming??!!   It's the perfect companion guide to the trail reports I publish on my website here because I'll admit any day that I'd rather post photos than write up a detailed trail description.  I'm leaving that part to Pete, and he's done a fabulous job.  Thanks Pete!!

The guide books is available for sale on the Bike Pirate website and should be available at Mountain Equipment COOP soon.  As of the moment, the MEC website only has edition 1 for sale, but I expect the store to be carrying edition 2 in time for Christmas.

Biking in the Bow Valley, the Most Beautiful Backyard in the World!

WIN A COPY of the Bow Valley Mountain Bike Trail Guide

I have one copy of this guide book to give away to a Canadian resident.   If you would like to enter to win, leave a comment below telling me what your favourite bike trail is in the Bow Valley, or why you want to check out this guide book.  

The contest will be open until Monday the 17th.  Contest closes at midnight on the Monday, MST. I will draw a name Tuesday morning through an automatic number generator and will notify the winner immediately.

Please make sure you sign in through an account I can reach you at, or provide your email address.  If I can't contact the winner, I will choose a new person.

Disclaimer:  A copy of this book was given to me for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own and I wasn't paid to write the review. 


  1. I never knew there would be bike trails there for kids to be able to do! Thought only fit adults could do mtn trails. Need this book now!

  2. I would love to win a copy of this book, we haven't done a lot of biking, but I think this book would be a great place to start for ideas to get us out there.

  3. I'd love to check out this as I'm admittedly a beginner rider and would probably appreciate the easier trails!

  4. We should definitely plan to take Noah & Taylor out on some of these trails next year :)

  5. I neeeeeeed this book as my son just got his 20" big boy bike and we need to get out and hit some mountain trails!

  6. My son just learned to ride without training wheels last summer, but is already bored with riding in the city. What a great place to start! Would love to win a copy :)

  7. Unfortunately, I haven't done any biking in this area, but its on our to do list for next year!

  8. I would LOVE this book. I would even use it to post events for the younger crowd. Thanks Tanya. Lorraine

  9. I'd love a copy of this book as well! Bring on another great season of biking :) Suzanne

  10. Are there many trail in the book that are chariot friendly?? I think biking as a family is on the horizon next spring/summer as our oldest loves his Strider bike. I'd prefer to tow the chariot with #2 instead of running.

  11. I admittedly haven't done much biking in the Bow Valley so would love this book to get some ideas.

  12. Hi Jill, Yes, several of the trails are Chariot friendly. I can think of 6 off the top of my head and 2 are even paved (the Legacy Trail and Sundance Canyon.) And all of the chariot friendly trails are Strider friendly too.

  13. Canmore bike path is one of my favourites. Giulliana Arevalo

  14. We love the Legacy Trail but would like to discover a few hidden gems ;)

  15. This is Shelley Cyre. We love the legacy trail but would love to learn about the secret gems the Bow Valley has to offer :)

  16. Biking season just ended and I'm already ready for it to begin again. After a lot of practice, Matthew's ready to hit the big trails next year. I think I may put it in his stocking :) Great motivation to keep at those hills!

  17. Would love to win this book to get ideas for family friendly trails in the mountains - love it! Shannon MacMillan

  18. I would love to win this so I can start exploring again!

  19. Thanks again for this post. I'm giving a copy of this book to my brother for Christmas and have flagged the trails your recommended suitable for kids. :-)

    1. Glad to hear Jill. Have fun on the trails in the new year!