Acquired Tastes - Opinion

Nov 19, 2015
by Mike Kazimer  
Spinning Circles column Mike Kazimer

When I was a kid I absolutely detested peanut butter. I'm not sure where this repulsion came from, but I refused to eat it in any form – PB&J, ants on a log, peanut butter crackers – it didn't matter, I wouldn't let even a smidgen of those smashed up legumes into my mouth.

I was reminded of this childhood memory the other day during a group ride. We were discussing possible route options, and I suggested incorporating one of my favorite trails into the mix, a mile long, sinewy stretch of singletrack full of tricky root sections. It's not very steep, and the sudden sharp turns keep the speeds down, but getting through it without dabbing, especially when it's wet out, can feel harder than juggling four flaming chainsaws. I think that's what draws me back to it – it's still challenging, and requires being fully engaged in order to stay upright even after years of riding it in everything from snow to sun.


Rocky Mountain 2016
Flow isn't always easy to find, but it's worth searching for. Photo: Margus Riga


“I hate that trail. It's the worst.” Wait, what? I'd expected a completely different response from this particular rider, and the level of disgust for what I consider to be a near-perfect example of a mountain bike trail caught me off guard. But then I thought back to my first few months in the Pacific Northwest, before I'd grown accustomed to the deep puddles and slippery roots, and remembered just how awkward and frustrating it had all felt. Those initial rides were humbling, and made me realize I had a lot to learn in order to be comfortable in my new home. I had to reset my perception of my skills as a rider, and work on acquiring a taste for riding technical trails in nasty weather.

When someone says something is 'an acquired taste' it's easy to dismiss them; there's a tendency to think that our palate (or riding style) is as evolved as it will get. I certainly didn't believe my parents when they told me that I'd like peanut butter someday, and I clearly remember thinking that downhillers were crazy at one point in my riding career, confident that I'd be a cross-country rider forever. I don't recall exactly when it happened, but I eventually came to accept peanut butter as something worth consuming, and by the time college rolled around it was a staple in my diet - there were multiple climbing and biking road trips where it was nearly my sole form of sustenance (other than Ramen noodles and oatmeal cream pies). And somewhere along the way I ended up with a downhill bike and a season's pass to the bike park - go figure.

The concept of 'acquired taste' also works for trails that are initially frustrating, whether that's because they're full of awkward turns, punchy climbs, or slick off-camber sections. Over time, the secrets begin to reveal themselves, and flow becomes easier to achieve - the bitterness they once caused turns sweet. So the next time you find yourself ready to toss your bike into the woods in anger, take a few deep breaths, and know that one day that section of trail may end up being as satisfying as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich after a five hour ride.


Posted In:
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82 Comments

  • 95 3
 And if a flow trail sucks to begin with, it will probably always suck...

(Sorry, mid afternoon at work and I'm grumpy)
  • 8 0
 That made me laugh; it's very true!
  • 39 0
 I would choose a crappy flow trail over sitting at my desk any day of the week.
  • 10 2
 I would choose malt liquor over no beer at all over a kick in the nuts.
  • 3 0
 NickBit ride the epic at Buller
You wont be dissapointed Smile
  • 2 0
 @mountainbiker-finn I did just that last week. It was awesome! Smile

www.pinkbike.com/u/bumblebeezack/album/Mt-Buller-Australia
  • 1 0
 hey @mountainbiker-fin
Mount Buller is on my bucket list. And yes, the new flow trail looks like the shiz.
  • 39 1
 Sounds like Hush Hush trail on Chuckanut...
  • 37 0
 Bingo. Good guess.
  • 4 0
 With a month of rain to make it better!
  • 3 2
 Wow. I guess I can see how some people would despise that trail (especially after rain), but it didn't seem that difficult (except in the rain). What this article really reminded me of was the 2nd Divide in Downieville. One day I will clear it. Even if that means riding an electric assist full sized mountain. I will clear that f*cker.
  • 3 0
 I spent a couple of weeks in Bellingham this past August. I thought all of the trails were scary but absolutely amazing. They are much different and way more gnarly than what we have here in Wisconsin! I loved every minute of it, but it would take me a while to get used to them wet. Well said, Mike.
  • 11 4
 Sorry to burst your bubble but with electric assist...it's not you clearing anything.
  • 7 0
 @PhattyMatt

Why do you have to take it there? Do hyperbole and sarcasm mean nothing these days....
  • 2 0
 Yes. I have that relationship with Salal, brutal, but many people tell me they've learned to love it.
  • 1 0
 Funny I was just thinking of this trail while reading this...I've definitely not cleared every section.
  • 31 0
 I rode a trail for the first time dropping in after a 35 minute climb. I've got no idea how I got down other than being on the verge of killing myself every third corner. I hated it. Rode it recently with a rest for ten minutes to clear my head, loved it. Go figure.
  • 7 0
 Kinda proves the point of this article. The best trails I've ever ridden give me that feeling. I love the feeling of sketchiness, actually having to try just to stay on the bike. If all trails were like that I'd be a happy man!
  • 2 0
 We have a trail in Denver, Dakota Ridge, that reminds me of this article. When I first moved here I rode it and couldn't believe that anyone could clear every section of it. The trail sits on a high ridge visible from my neighborhood, staring down it me. While it pissed me off to no end, I found myself day-dreaming about the right lines and speed to enter each section. Eventually I equipped my lungs, practiced on it and cheated by buying a trail bike. While I now ride it regularly, I have scratches on my fork that remind me of the journey that only mountain bikers can understand.
  • 1 2
 So true. The rocks of Southern Illinois can be like that. Once you get used to how to ride hard trails, there's nothing quite like them!
  • 1 0
 Where is the trail? I might like to ride it next summer if I can.
  • 1 0
 @khock2 it can be accessed from either across the street from Mathew Winters (the steep hogback fireroad) or from the across the street from western lot of green mountain (zorro trail). You can ride it year round as long as there isn't snow on the ground.
  • 21 0
 Hey Mike, I want your job.
  • 71 1
 Then I'd recommend staying in school, working at bike shops, reading books, and riding every chance you get.
  • 22 3
 I get it Mike. The trees are the bread. So many kinds of bread. The trail is the peanut butter. Either chunky or smooth. I prefer chunky. A little strawberry jelly leaking out of my shin. Very clever.
  • 10 0
 If you ride a lot of XC trails, add a rigid singlespeed to your quiver and those techy trails become like bouldering problems you will have to study and learn move by move. And then the conditions change and suddenly the moves change. Everybody loves to go fast, but once in a while forget about KOMing and just focus on the movements; a rigid bicycle will help to create this zen-like connection to the trail. Talk about reward, go clear your local techincal test-piece trails like that and you'll be grinning for weeks. Granted, a rigid bike only goes so far when it comes to "all-mountain," but I think it'll be surprising how capable you and the bike can become when you strip the "tech" from your bicycle and re-learn how to ride tech, the way our brave ancestors did in the 80s and 90s. And on top if that, it absolutely will make you a stronger downhiller when you get on the big bike. But it will take some getting used to to develop those skills.
  • 4 0
 Agree 100%
I've been on 160mm bikes for 6 years and recently finished building a rigid SS 29er, it's like being 6 years old and discovering the woods for the first time again on a BMX, absolute blast.
  • 2 0
 @phdotd glad to hear you say so, sometimes I feel like I'm the only one on here!
  • 7 0
 Some trails that have always scared me to death with unridably steep slippiness have become my faves.. Just need to work out how to ride them, and stop feeling like you need to be fast or smooth or stylish.. Just get out the other side and grin!
  • 9 1
 The crappy part is when people who have not acquired the taste for these trails decide to run a machine down them to give them the flow that was there but they could not find.
  • 1 0
 A-frackin-men!!!!! Part of a local section was like that. Rooty, twisty, up and down, small drops and accentuated with small climbs and numerous narrow passes. Then that little yellow toy tractor showed up and rewarded the mediocre. The people that liked it are clearly the ones that got trophies for showing up as kids.
  • 12 5
 And then one day, it will just hit you like a wet fish, and from that day on, you will like 27.5 inch mountain bikes.
  • 16 1
 I don't want to be hit by a wet fish
  • 5 4
 I actually thought the idea was kind of cool at first (I knew about 650b stuff when 29ers were gaining popularity). Now all I can think about them is that with the trails I ride, I'd rather have the slightly increased nimbleness and stiffness (not to mention durability) of a 26", or just straight up go 29" (if I'm going to the dark side, I'm not going to just be a storm trooper- I'll go full on Sith Lord).

Of course, I also do probably about 50% dirt jumping so a bigger wheel would screw up my bike's geometry pretty bad, but hey. Every bike has its purpose, some serve certain purposes better than others.
  • 1 0
 And then another day will hit, like an angry empty wallet, and you'll say, "I no longer give a phuck"!
  • 4 0
 I've only just acquired my taste for SoCal trails.

When I first moved here from the north east (where every day is a "hero dirt" day and trail access conflicts are nonexistent) I was SUPER bummed by the trails here. The loose trail surface and general lack of all mountain style trails around LA had me in quite a funk.

Fast forward a year later and I'm well on my way to mastering a proper "California Drift" (for your native Californians, turning everywhere else in the world just kind of happens, here it's a dance who's steps require a bit of courage and a lot of practice to execute properly at speed) and I've learned to love the long sustained climbs to get to the goods.

In other words, I couldn't agree more Mike!
  • 3 0
 True words, never say never. Actually, most things I've said I'd never do actually happened during the last few years - even career choices. It's worth keeping an open mind and consider where different options take you. Sticking to what you know may feel safe and comfortable, but stepping outside of that zone and reaching for new experiences is what teaches you things.

My first experience with 29ers is also an example. The ones I took for a ride I hated, felt too long, stuck to the ground, unresponsive. I'm also pretty short, so usually end up with bars too high on big wheelers. Until I tried the right one and it was like I had been riding it for years. I'm still on 26", but now I know that if wanted to add a 29er on the stable I wouldn't have trouble fnding one that clicked.
  • 4 0
 give me sunshine and dusty trails any day, not that I hate slimy roots and mud but I could never acquire a taste for them, the bad bit is the clean up.... Frown

stiff light rims on the other hand...
  • 2 0
 coming from someone who has lived most of his life in spain (in the dusty hot side) I am the complete opposite, i love muddy trails, slippery roots and all the rest. Dusty dry trails are a lot of fun, but i love sliding around on my bike more.
  • 3 0
 Man this article really hit home. My local trail nearest my work is where I started riding, and it's an old endurance course the Marines put in years ago and then abandoned (and mountain bikers took it over). I remember thinking on my first ride 'why would anyone build a course like this'. I was terrified going down, and walked most of the ups (and some of the downs), getting jarred along by the roots, root balls and stopped by all the logs.

I've come a long way since then and somewhere along the way I've 'found' the flow that was hidden in all the mess. It's not the fastest trail I've ever ridden, but it's taught me more than any other and now one of the most fun.
  • 4 0
 This article brings to mind a nasty bit of trail near my house. I've never cleaned it, and lately, I've been skipping it entirely. Maybe it's time to give it another chance. Thanks for the inspiration!
  • 1 0
 record it! if you clear it congrata and success abd if you fail you might get a new evoc bag. looks like a win win situation to me
  • 1 0
 *congrats
*and
(small phone keyboard on public transportation)
  • 5 0
 And that right there is why there is unconditional rage when some muppet cuts out roots or smooths out a section of track because they "can't do it"....
  • 3 0
 I like trails like this (but need to be in the right frame of mind). Sometimes it's a close thing between being scared, loving or not feeling a trail. But the feeling of nailing a tricky bit of trail is the reason I ride
  • 2 0
 I get my biggest buzz from finding flow in places i initially struggle to find it. If i initially ride something and it feels awkward, i normally blame myself and insist i ride it until it feels good. I'm a firm believer that if it feels hard or not very good, you're doing it wrong.
  • 15 14
 Acquired taste is nothing more but being taught to like something, against own initial reflex. Once and individual gets taught to enjoy, in order to function, he must repress the memories of repulsive reactions, hence he replaces them by exaggerating positive experience coming out of consuming the "new taste". Best example of it is most alcoholic drinks. Let's take beer - first time you drink it, it seems disgusting - probably the most bitter thing you drunk in your life. But you know adults drink it and love it! Older friends tell you about partying. So you drunk some of it, felt awful but you go on tell your puberty friends how fantastic it was and how drunk you got. Then one day you learn to enjoy the taste and get a bit drunk and you love it. But another day you drink too much and there is no way you like that feeling but you still pretend it was awesome. That's the nature of acquired taste - there is a thin threshold giving you actual enjoyment, because in general, deep down inside, you still do not like those things. Try stuff but trust your instincts, the biggest fool is the one who replaces the smart parts of his nature and replaces it by dumb shit from peer group! There is a small trail network around my town known for how muddy and rocky it is. The most flow deprived trails in the world. It is literally hard to start rolling if you put your leg down. I was told to like it, seduced many times to try it again and again, every time ending up frustrated. I hate it and I hate anyone who likes it. Just like with carbon rims.
  • 6 1
 I don't think beer made up for a good analogy...
  • 7 4
 Waki, not every article needs your input or analysis...
  • 2 1
 I mostly clean H-H and I still dislike it. So just to add to your piece Mike that "acquiring a taste" isn't just about learning the moves required to flow a trail. Never refuse to ride it when the group leader drops in and I'm still hoping to acquire the taste any ride now.
  • 1 0
 When you reach the point where your having a blast riding steep, loose, off camber, dh trails. The flowy trail sections start to be simple, like there's no more challenges."It's Not the trails fault". So, make it a challenge. Just go insainly faster there or, maybe throw in a gap jump!! you make the challanges and thats how you Naturaly Progess!!
  • 1 0
 Reminds me of a local trail chock full of decreasing radius, tight, gravelly corners, half of them coming straight off the fall line. I hated it for years, but now it's my favorite close to town ride because it's so rare to get the whole thing right in one go. Never gets boring.
  • 1 0
 Perfect timing on this article! I am planning an afternoon ride this Monday on a trail that is built alongside a hill, with very technical roots and rocks that all face downhill. After my first descent down this trail, it automatically became my favorite one in the area. But I returned after some rainfall and this trail all of a sudden seemed impossible. Those wet roots and rocks all want to send you and your beloved bike sideways down the mountain. I was hoping for sunshine between now and my Monday ride, but after reading this article, part of me wants a touch of rain so I can get those tech skills up!
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer hit up project529legion if you are ever near Seattle. We have a place here called "paradise" that is super rooty tech xc trails. It's not a lot of elevation gain/loss but some crazy roots that make for fun challenging trails where you have to stay focused.
  • 4 0
 I love techy trails but I hate peanut butter
  • 5 1
 Good article. But pedantic me kicked in , it's palate not palette ...
  • 4 0
 Good catch - it's fixed. Those homonyms are trickier than greasy roots.
  • 2 0
 You mean homophones? Sounds the same, but different spelling and meaning.
  • 2 0
 I would love to have the opportunity to hate a local trail for not being flowy enough. Same story here about potatoes and pumptracks though.
  • 1 0
 I have been riding my local trails for a few years and I seem to get worse and less confident every ride on them. Oh well I guess I will keep riding out of town or in the back country where they are easier.
  • 4 0
 I enjoyed the article.
  • 3 0
 What if your deathly allergic to peanut butter?
  • 2 0
 I used to feel the same way about shrimp... until I came home from partying one night really stoned...
  • 2 0
 Mountain biking - It's not supposed to be easy.
  • 2 0
 @mikekazimer Um... I feel like I recall this very conversation with you!
  • 2 0
 Ants on a log?
  • 3 0
 An american kids snack its celery, with peanut butter, and raisins. The log is the celery and the ants are raisins.
  • 3 0
 Celery with peanut butter in the channel and raisins on top.
  • 3 2
 That has to be the most disgusting thing I've heard all day. I never aquire taste for raisins
  • 12 4
 American kids snack with vegetables? Tell me another.
  • 3 1
 For me it's not the peanut butter or raisins, it's the celery. I'm mean, come on, what's the point of eating celery?

@santiagomo87 - you can make it worse; substitute cheez whiz for peanut butter. Not sure if it's a NA-thing or worldwide, but for the uninitiated Cheez Whiz is to actual cheese, what Cool Whip is to actual whip cream, aka, a disgusting oil-based vaguely cheese-coloured sludge.
  • 4 3
 @kawato...and all Brits have bad teeth. Not all Americans are fat...Generalizations suck.
  • 2 1
 True, I can't even look at cheez whiz. Peanut butter on the other hand is a super healthy delicatessen.
  • 2 0
 Sugar on everything!
  • 1 0
 I am happy riding anything.
  • 1 0
 Ah cheers!
  • 2 2
 I didn't realise peanuts were classed as vegetables ?
  • 3 1
 Yeah, that legume mention confused me too
  • 1 2
 Palette? You mean palate? Pinkbike strikes again with terrible editing.
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