AVID MOUNTAIN BIKER JUSTIN SMALL had been leading tours as part of his work at a hotel in Santa Fe and showing his friends and family around trail systems near town for years. Three years ago, he decided to bring the two together by launching Santa Fe Mountain Bike Tours.
OTHER PLACES I’VE BEEN, it’s so much more cluttered, more crowded. Here, we’re in the wide open, vast array of mountains and open skies—nothing but views. We have so many mountain ranges around us—how could you not like showing people around? I mostly guide at La Tierra Trails. It’s the lowest elevation that we’ve got for riding and the closest to town. You get the mountain views there—you can see the Sandías, the Jemez, the Ortiz, the Sangre de Cristos, not to mention Sun Mountain, Moon Mountain, Atalaya, and Picacho.
We also head up into the foothills of our mountains here, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The trails up there are great. New Mexico is definitely higher than most places, so you will get a good lung burn, but it’s going to make you have some gains anywhere else you go. A lot of the people who choose to ride with us are tourists, which is great, but we do get our locals for group rides on Sundays.
I’ve always kind of been a coach. I’m getting certifications for coaching mountain biking. But I tell people: As you’re riding, your skills will be building naturally. If you haven’t done it in a while, there’s that quote: “It’s just like riding a bike.” I like that spark, that good feeling you get from teaching somebody and seeing the results.
I LEARNED THE HARD WAY
Check Your Gear
“I’d seen another bike crew take their group to Santa Fe Community College to see Ethyl the Whale [the life-size blue whale sculpture made of plastic], but I didn’t know how they did it,” says Justin Small, owner of Santa Fe Mountain Bike Tours. “So I took it upon myself to go find the trail—and I did. But I got all kinds of goat heads in my tires and got a flat. Of course, I had my tire sealant to fix it, but that time it was dried up.”