Are you getting out and riding your bike as much as you can before the winter season comes!? Well if you are like me and live in the beautiful state of Minnesota then it is already too late. Fortunately, there is still plenty of riding to do in the winter if you can bear the cold, but that's not what I want to talk about with you today.
Rather, what did you learn this season on your journey to becoming the best mountain biker you can be? There is always a take away anytime you hop in the saddle and I want to share some of what I learned from getting back into mountain biking.
For a couple of years now I have not had my own mountain bike. On trips, I will usually rent bikes from a local shop because it is less of a hassle and I get the opportunity to ride something that I cannot afford…….yet! During college and after graduation I was getting serious about road biking and hungry to keep improving in this area but my love for mountain biking never left me.
A lot of the trips I have planned revolved around how we could we spend one or two days getting lost on bikes and discovering new terrain. This mindset has taken me to places like Missoula, Montana for excellent riding in the mountains. Also to Moab, Utah home of Arches National Park and mountain biking capital of the U.S. After putting it off for years I finally built a mountain bike and I learned a lot in this short season of riding.
The Crossover From Road to Mountain
One of the biggest challenges for me personally crossing over from road cycling to mountain biking has been the amount of time it takes to travel a certain distance. If I am really efficient I know mentally that I could cover 20 miles on a road bike in under an hour. Right now with my fitness level, I am lucky if I can make it through 10 miles of gnarly single track.
There is a lot of reasons for this, One is that mountain biking utilizes more muscles than just your legs. When you are in the saddle climbing it is all legs but on your descents, the technique is to be out of the saddle crouched, arms bent to absorb any terrain and maintain control.
To do this well you need not just the strength of your legs but will also tap into the core, arms, and shoulders to keep balance and speed. The stronger you are in these areas, the more efficient you will be on the bike.
Heart Rate to the Max!
Two, depending on how hard you are hitting the trails mountain biking requires more of a maximum heart rate. This is simply due to the nature of the landscape, one minute you'll be coasting on a flat section having to instantly mash the gears the next minute to get up a steep incline.
In order to conquer some trails, your body will be forced to go from zero to one hundred and your heart will have to work harder, faster to get blood to the most demanding areas thus ramping up that heart rate! Or if you ride like me, fast and out of control your heart rate will always be high, until you crash then all that adrenaline takes over.
That brings me to my next point, crashing. Let's get over that fact that if you take part in this sport you run the risk of having to brace yourself but the beauty of mountain biking is that you can choose your own path based on your own assessment of skill, riding type, enjoyment or comfort.
If you are smart and don’t ride with your ego you will be able to find a trail with the right amount of technicality and enjoyment! More than once this season a trail has put my ego in check whether it was my fitness or the amount of skill I thought I had.
Ride to ride! Don’t ride with the thought of trying not to crash. Loosen up and take it slow, get comfortable and you will get faster with every ride!
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Lastly, I want to share how bad I am at preparing for a couple of hours of riding. I don’t live in the most ideal area for mountain biking, the closest “mountain” is about half an hour away. My transportation is even less than ideal where I have to break down my bike and stuff it into the trunk of my car. Knowing how much time that takes, what do I do?
Definitely get everything ready the day before…. Nah, I save it for the morning of which puts me in a rush and I forget crucial things like tools and snacks. You gotta have snacks on a ride! More than once this method of preparation has bitten me in the butt and ruined what could have been a nice and easy day of riding.
Don’t do this! Especially if you are like me and don’t have much time in your day to squeeze in a ride. Prepare the day before, get everything ready and I assure you will set for a great day on the trails.
Have Fun! Meet New People Mountain Biking and Becoming a part of the Community
I have found that a big problem with my first steps back into mountain biking is that I treated it as training like I would for road cycling and that caused me to push hard right away and make mistakes.
What I want to encourage anyone who is reading this and thinking about getting into this discipline is to just have fun! This Bicycling Magazine video is a really good example of how a couple girls from a collegiate soccer team got into the sport of mountain biking.
It is a riot and an excellent example of having fun on a bike. Just go out and ride with confidence, do dumb stuff, have fun, meet new people and start with what you are comfortable with and grow from there! Pedal on!