Always wanted to mountain bike? Ever considered lessons? Brooke went all in at Thredbo Mountain Bike Park to tackle a sport she’d always found intimidating.


‘Can you do up your kidney belt a little tighter?’ Trent asks calmly, like he’s just said something completely normal.

Internally, my response is ‘what the hell is a kidney belt’? And why do I need one for a bike ride? Of all the potential scary scenarios I’d imagined when I decided to try mountain biking for the first time, internal bleeding from my kidneys wasn’t one of them. But it was now.

I’m standing nervously in the hire shop in Thredbo, which a few short months ago was fitting people for their ski boots and snowboards. But in summer (November to April), Thredbo turns into a mountain biking mecca with enough trails to keep even the hardcore riders happy.

I’m here to try mountain biking for the second time in my life, something that I’m 80% terrified of and 20% petrified of.

The Year of Facing Fears

I love adventure and have done some pretty cool stuff in my life; I’ve cross-country skied across an Arctic Plateau, I’ve summited 4,000m mountains, and I’ve hiked for miles and camped solo in the wilderness. But the one thing all those adventures have in common is that they’re sloooooowwww and controlled.

I’ve recently started canyoning in my home in the Blue Mountains, and don’t get so much as a flutter of nerves on a 40m abseil, as long as I’m controlling the speed to my liking.

Yet I’ve always been scared of speed and feeling out of control. Jump off a rock into a pool of water below? No thanks. Skydiving? Hells no, but I’ll take the nice, calm paragliding part after the free fall.

Mountain biking downhill? Definitely not. In fact, the last time I tried it I had a panic attack.



I haven’t even tried downhill skiing or snowboarding before due to my fear of ‘going fast down steep things’. Ironic really, given where I’m standing right now.

But, with the realisation that me and my knees aren’t getting any younger, I’ve decided to say ‘F-you’ to fears and make 2023 the year I face them.

And that’s how I’ve ended up here, on a sweltering hot summer’s day, dressed in Stormtrooper-esque body armour, a full-face helmet, and clutching a bike for the first time in who-knows-how-long.

Thredbo’s Beginner Trails

Looking like we’ve just wandered off the set of Sons of Anarchy, my friend Kirilly and I head out to the practice area with our instructor Adrian. Who – side note – looks like Trent’s twin. Maybe it’s a Thredbo thing.

It’s here that I discover we’re not actually trying ‘mountain biking’ per se, we’re trying a type of mountain biking called ‘gravity biking’, where we’ll be using the converted ski lifts to transport our bikes to the top of the mountain and then hurtle back down (hopefully) in one piece.



Thredbo happens to be the only place in Australia where you can do this, pretty neat!

Turns out the word ‘gravity’ strikes as much fear in me as the word ‘kidney belt’ though. In fact, even the word ‘commitment’ is less daunting at this stage, and that’s saying something.

The plan is to master the basics down here in the Skills Park, and then head up the lift to the newly-opened Easy Rider Trail, the first in a series of new gravity biking trails Thredbo is opening to make the sport more accessible to beginners (and scaredy cats) like me.



As its name suggests, Easy Rider is an ‘easy’ trail accessible from the Cruiser Chairlift. Like most of the Thredbo trails, which have been man-made, it’s a ‘flow trail’ meaning it offers a roller-coaster style ride, with constant twists and turns, berms (banked turns), rolling terrain, and plenty of vert drop. Hence the name ‘gravity’ riding – not much pedalling is needed here.

Read more: Mountain Biking Slang 101

Easy Rider starts at 1,800m elevation and drops 215m before linking up with other trails in the network to take you back to the village. We’d be linking up with Grasshopper, a 2.1km intermediate trail, due to the full Easy Rider trail not yet being available (but opening soon).

With plenty to learn before hitting the lifts, we take our turns wobbling our way around the beginner’s circuit in the Skills Park, listening to all of Adrian’s pointers and watching in awe as a fearless 5-year-old throttles around the turns without a care in the world.

Kirilly is quickly upgraded to the next level. Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure Adrian is rethinking his career choice as he politely and encouragingly instructs me to ‘give it another go’.

I’m not sure why it’s so scary, but the idea of falling off is all I can think about as I stutter my way around.

The Magic Words

‘Remember,’ Adrian says to me again, ‘Level pedals, high on the banks, and consistent speed.’

Truthfully, up until this moment, I haven’t really been listening as I’ve been too busy internally yelling at myself to stop being such a wimp. But this time, his words click into place. My new-found mountain biking guru didn’t say ‘FAST’ speed. He said ‘CONSISTENT’ speed.

Which means I can go any speed I like.

It’s like a lightbulb has gone off in my head as I realise you can make mountain biking as scary as you want it to be. Do you want to go slow?

Go slow. In fact, as Adrian explained, in gravity biking, it’s expected that you use the brakes the whole way down. Hallelujah.

With my newfound tactic, I tackle the beginner turn again with cheers of encouragement (and maybe relief) from those watching.



I’m slow, but consistent, and – dare I say it – confident. I’m soon onto the steeper turns, tackling the corner from left, going high on the bank, and for the first time thinking to myself ‘this is actually fun’.

Before we know it, we’re hauling our bikes onto the lifts and heading up the chairlifts to Easy Rider. The views are incredible; towering peaks in every direction and even a few left-over patches of snow from winter.

Adrian and Kirilly, who have both skied or boarded these mountains a million times, look down and marvel at how different the terrain looks, seeking out the runs they’d made just a few months before.



With a new-found confidence I didn’t know I could possess, we start making our way down Easy Rider, putting into practice all the skills we’ve just learned in the Skills Park.

This may be a beginner’s track but it has enough to keep us challenged, with turns, twists, rocky sections, and ending with a fun descent where we pick up speed and feel the rush of fresh alpine air on our faces.

Yells of ‘Whoop, yeah!’ ring in my ears. I’m not actually sure where the shouts of joy and encouragement are coming from, and then I realise they’re coming from me. Once I let go (figuratively, not literally obviously), the sense of freedom was palpable.

With every turn I take, the nerves lessen. And although I am still nervous, the mind numbing fear is gone. In its place is cautious optimism, and a new-found love for the freedom and adrenaline I now understand is what gets people hooked on this sport in the first place.



After some congratulations and words of encouragement from Adrian and our equally-as-skilled and encouraging photographer Ryan, we hit the intermediate trail Grasshopper.

The sharper, steeper turns see a bit more nerves creep back in (and one ‘I have NOT got this’ moment on a particularly tight, steep turn), but nothing I couldn’t conquer in the moment.

With the lesson over, Kirilly and I feel confident to hit the trails again on our own, and although I stick to the easy options, Kirilly tackles some of the harder intermediates.

I’d say Adrian can be confident in a job well done.

Read more: A Beginner’s Guide to Mountain Biking

Top Tips for Beginner Gravity Biking

Adrian Borcherds has been mountain riding for 30 years, before becoming an instructor around 10 years ago. His original love is snowboarding (which, thanks to the tight corners and gravity element, has more crossover with biking than you might initially think).

Here are his pro tips for beginner mountain biking. And trust me, if I can do it, anyone can.

  1. Master the attack position: The attack position will help you tackle obstacles like a pro, steer with confidence, and maintain balance on the bike. To get in the attack position, make sure your pedals are level. Then, drop your heels below the pedal axle, making sure to keep your head up and eyes on the trail. Keep your weight centred over the bike, with bent arms, elbows wide, and at least one finger on the brakes at all times. Basically, channel your inner rugby player.
  2. Look through the corner: As you approach a corner, have a clear plan for the entry line well in advance. A good tip is to let your gaze lead the way. Your bike will follow. Oh, and don’t look down (something I found tricky).
  3. Consistent speed: The golden ticket, the magic words, the conqueror of all fears. In gravity biking, brakes are your best friend and you can expect to use them almost all the time. Consistent speed equals controlled descent. Ahhhhh, a sigh of relief. As Adrian says, ‘You don’t want to get bucked around by the bike’.
  4. Level pedals: Stand up, keep the pedals level to allow more clearance underneath, and keep your strongest leg forward. This results in a wider stance, providing greater stability and reducing the chance of imbalance. Gives you killer thighs too!
  5. Choose the appropriate track: the big banked, machine-built berms/corners at Thredbo unfortunately don’t exist everywhere, and are different to the steep, technical terrain with rock gardens often seen in Sydney or elsewhere in Australia. Even if you’re experienced, start on the mellower trails and work your way up. As a total newbie, a lesson proved invaluable and really helped me to understand the safe way to ride and get a technique that worked for me


With an itch to get back out on a bike soon, I can firmly say I faced my fear and won. The only question left, is what fear will I face next? I gotta say, those snow-covered slopes are calling, and they’re not nearly as daunting as they were before.

Read more: How to Learn to Mountain Bike Without Breaking Yourself


Photos thanks to Thredbo Mountain Bike Park