Perhaps the best part about Valmont Bike Park's 42-acre, dual-slalom racecourse, with a series of jump lines, two pump tracks, and four miles of trails in the heart of Boulder, Colorado, is that it's free. Yes, the world's largest urban bike park – set against the backdrop of the iconic Flatiron Mountains – is also a city-run venture open to all. How's that for public works?
We went straight for the slopestyle jump lines. Similar to a ski resort, the routes are rated according to feature difficulty – XS, S, M, L, XL. Even expert riders are advised to start small to warm up. Committing to dropping in is scary at first; even the S and M lines have a pretty steep entry. But once you're in, it's pure flow – cruising over ramps, hugging berms, and launching as far as 25 feet off expertly engineered dirt jumps.
Never caught air on a bike? No problem. There are miles of trails (green=easy, blue=more technical) interlaced throughout the park, and a skills course you can lap to hone singletrack technique. But, let's be honest, even newcomers can't resist trying a jump. Stoke your courage on the Creekside Pumptrack, the smaller of the two pumptracks both in length and in size of the features (rollers and berms). Then progress to the dirt jump section, where there's an XS jump line on the far side. It starts like the pumptrack with a knee-high roller, followed by a relatively unintimidating two-foot-tall tabletop-style jump. Don't forget to drop your seat post. Scott Winget, a member of the park's trail maintenance staff, says the most common rookie mistake isn't crashing, it's forgetting to lower the seat. [Open daily, dawn to dusk; ValmontBikePark.org]