I guess I should preface this spiel by saying that just the fact that you're a mountain biker means you're doing a hell of a lot right already. After all, it takes a certain kind of person to think that pedalling a bicycle around in the forest is a good use of time, and you reading this likely means that you get out for a pedal fairly often. Let's not forget that cycling isn't exactly the easiest sport to get into, either, with most schools encouraging kids to play soccer, baseball, or football, and many even providing the gear required. Just imagine if you walked into your grade ten gym class to find thirty mountain bikes, helmets, gloves, and a stack of Clif Bars - there'd be a hell of a lot more mountain bikers out there, that's for sure. Regardless, here you are, in the minority of people who like to ride bikes in the bush, so you've already got life on lockdown. However, there are a few things that we could all do differently that might see you have even more fun, and I'm not talking about our eating habits, stretching, or any of the other ''GET FASTER IN FOUR WEEKS!
'' filler stories that you see in fitness magazines. Forgetting about all the new gear
- Given that a big part of my job is to ride and write about the latest (and possibly the greatest, but not always
) mountain bike gear out there, this is one that I often bomb at. I love anything that allows us to go further or faster, don't get me wrong, but the truth is that I'm always a bit jealous of the guys out there who pull a seven year-old bike out of the back of their car and then proceed to not only push my shit in both up and down the hill, but also be completely oblivious to whatever bike I'm on that hasn't even been released yet. This guy has no idea that I've got the latest super-wide carbon rims, or that 27.5'' is even a thing. He does know that the dropper post that he spent $500 on failed after only a few rides so he gave up on that junk, but not that single-ring drivetrains work anywhere besides on a downhill bike. Despite the fact that I may feel something move in my pants when I see a new carbon wonder-bike for the first time, I am truly jealous of this guy. To simply not care, and therefore to never need a gear-related excuse or have that consumer-driven desire to have the newest kit, is a thing of beauty, and he's a dude that is truly in it for the love of the game. He's also way ahead of me on the trail, which makes me feel a bit stupid as I'm breathing through my eyeballs trying to keep up with him on my 25lb, carbon fiber bike with six inches of travel and 27.5'' wheels. Racing
- Nothing is more humbling than trying to flex at a race and getting stepped on by a lot more riders than you thought would be ahead of you. No matter how mean you think you are on a downhill bike, or how quick you are on a cross-country whippet, there's always going to be someone faster than you (unless you're Nico, Anne-Caroline, Julien, or Nino, that is
). But as important as the odd reality check can be, racing is really all about pushing yourself harder than you ever would when not between the tape. Barfing in your own mouth at the top of a climb as others ride away from you is clearly not a good feeling, and while it might feel like your body is in the late stages of shutting down on you, you will survive and be stronger for it. Plus, your next weekend epic won't hurt so much, that's for sure. Going slower
- You show up for a ride with the usual crew of buddies that you can make hurt, but you know that not every ride should be like that. Okay, maybe most should, but not all. The climbs turn into wheelie competitions, or better yet, to see who can get to the top the slowest without dabbing or going backwards - it's harder than it sounds. People fall over and look stupid. A strict no-pedalling rule is enforced on the way back down, and rather than scaring the shit out of yourself, you're finding new lines that are way more fun than bombing down the same old blue groove. No one breaks a sweat, but everyone cracks a lot of smiles. Relaxing and slowing down during a ride doesn't come naturally to every rider, though, as some of us have to really concentrate on not being a*sholes every time we're on the bike, but I think it's worth the effort. After all, easing up will allow you to recover, which means going faster later on, but it can also lead to you riding with some great people that you might otherwise never spend time with. Or maybe you'll catch a glimpse of that great view, wild animal, or a trail that you'd never spot had you not dialed it back from 10 to something like 4 or 5. And then the next day's ride turns into an all-out race up and down the hill, because that's what friends are for. Not sharing every ride
- If you go for a ride but don't share it, is it still a ride? Everyone has that one buddy who thinks they need to upload a photo of every single one of their rides to whatever annoying social media platform they use, or maybe to a bunch of different ones so as to make sure that everyone from their mom to their neighbour's dog groomer knows that they were out on the bike. I get it, the view was really amazing, you worked your balls off getting there, and you want to share your feat with people who will appreciate it. The thing is, though, that you don't need to do it every goddamn time you go for a ride. Seriously. Share the rides that count, of course, especially if you're lording it over your friends who were stuck at work or with their family, but don't cross that line that puts you in the same category as people who take photos of every single meal they eat. That's what you look like to people that don't ride, just so you know. And there comes a point when even your mom is going to want to ''unfriend
'' you. You should climb up to that same amazing viewpoint and just sit there by yourself for fifteen minutes without taking a photo, and then shred the downhill so hard that the mountain is scared of you for years to come. Send that massive jump that you've been working up to because you want to, not because you need to upload the photos to Facebook to prove you did it. GPS the shit out of that 80km epic you linked together, but then select 'private
' when you upload it to Strava because you wanted to bang it out like a boss, not because you wanted the kudos. Riding by yourself
- There are plenty of great reasons to not ride by yourself, with getting injured, dying in the bush, and having birds pick at your bones likely being near the top of the list, but I have to admit that I find it strange that some riders only go out with others. Sure, there's nothing wrong with only getting out on the trail for social reasons, but it's an odd thing in my mind to only ride in order to be a social butterfly. It's going too far to say that you're doing something wrong if you can't just enjoy it for yourself, by yourself, but I also feel like you should be able to have a great day on the bike without needing the company of others. I'm not talking about every ride, or even every tenth or twentieth ride, but there's something that simply feels great about packing up and heading out for some ''you time
'', be it solo laps in the bike park with your headphones on, or an all-day back-country epic that, depending on the number of mechanicals you have, may or may not require a headlamp. You'll end up riding at the pace that you want to go at, taking the route you want to take, and stopping to eat, session or section of trail, or just take in the view, as often as you want. We may be a social bunch, but mountain biking isn't a team sport, which, for a lot of us, is the very reason that we picked up a bike in the first place.