It occured to me as I was talking to a few friends of mine that over the last few years of riding bikes and also getting into racing, I’ve learned quite a lot about bikes, riding them properly, exercise, racing and otherwise having a blast on 2 wheels. There are quite a few things that I would have been better off if I had known about them when I got started, or at least before I stared getting “more serious” about biking. They would have saved some rides, prevented injuries, and saved me some money, so I figured I should share them (in no particular order) and hopefully provide some advice to others. As always, I’m open to comments or additions, or arguments, so if you have any please feel free to share below.
1) If you are ANY sort of mechanically inclined, learn how to work on your own bicycle. You don’t have to do the things that require very special tools, but spend $250 on basic bike specific tools, a cheap repair stand, open youtube and get cracking. If you have to get your headset pressed in, destroyed one of your shifters, or need a wheel dished, absolutely take your bike into the LBS, support them, and get some work done, but for things such as cleaning/lubing, derailleur adjustments, simple wheel/rotor truing, re-cabling, part swapping/upgrading and basic fork/shock maintenance, you’ll be able to get by a youtube video. Not only will you save money in the long term, but almost more importantly, you’ll know what to do when you are 20 miles away from the car and you can’t get your bike to stop ghost shifting.
You don’t have to be a full mechanic, but learning the simple stuff will go a long way
2) When you go on “epic” rides, carry spares and a basic first aid kit. I know that inside we are all weight weenies and we want the lightest setup possible, but if you are going out for a big day on the bike, especially if you are riding with a group, it’s going to pay off to have some very simple spares. Things you wouldn’t normally think about carrying, but they can absolutely save you or your buddies day. I’m not talking about the basics like a tube and pump, but here some of the items I now take with me and boy have they helped:
- Extra derailleur hanger
- Derailleur cable (it weighs almost nothing and can save you or a friend’s day)
- 2 SRAM quick links (carry one extra, they weigh nothing)
- One extra bolt of each kind (3,4,5mm, cleat bolt, stem bolt, seat post bolt, etc)
- Electrical tape, Duct tape, White Athletic Tape (2-3 ft of each wrapped around my pump)
- Along with your regular tire pump, carry a shock pump, especially if you ride a full suspension bike
If it’s an epic ride, carry your spares, it will be worth it!
3) Get a basic bike fit and cross train. Especially when you up your mileage and start riding more than a couple of times a week, make sure that you aren’t going to cause yourself any injuries. If you have the money and desire, a Professional Fit like 55 Nine Performance is absolutely awesome, but if you don’t, at least spend a few minutes measuring yourself and make sure your seat and bars are close to being in the correct spot. Competitive Cyclist has a great free fit calculator that is easy to use. Also, don’t just bike. Make sure you prepare your body for mountain biking, especially for longer rides. There are great exercises you can do to make sure that you are using all of your leg muscles (I’ve detailed them in the past here) and also, core work is very important. Again, you can spend some money and do structured programs that are intended for people that at more serious, but you can just hit some squats, lunges, push ups, planks, and pull ups on a regular basis and you’ll be much better off than not doing anything.
4) Ride TO the trail. I know that this will really depend on how far away you live from the trail and how much riding you want to get in, but this has been a big eye opener for me in the last few months. I’ve been struggling to get enough ride time in for training purposes and was crying the blues about spending time in the car to go mountain biking. Then I realized that I’ve got trails 15 miles from my door. Add into that 10-12 miles or riding on the trail itself, and I just rocked out a great 40-45 mile 3-4 hour day and I was able to leave from my front door. No wasted time! Just grab a blinkie to throw on the back of your bike, and enjoy not only getting more exercise, but also doing some “rambling” while you are out and about. Hit a few pieces of dirt, go down that stair case, jump off some of those curbs on the way. It’s way more awesome than sitting on traffic on the way to the trail.
5) I really struggle with this one, as I have a BAD case of “shiny new thing” syndrome, but be happy with the bike that you have and ride the hell out of it. When stuff breaks, upgrade. The bike companies are in the business of making you want that new part. But don’t waste your time and money upgrading that 1×10 setup to 1×11. Sure it’s going to be nice and shiny, but as much as you think you will, you won’t get that much money out of your used part on the open market. And that 1×10 works awesome, and it’s going to continue being awesome. Just wait until it’s time to replace those worn out parts and then, yup, then go blow your hard earned money on that shiny new smelling 1×11, oh I want it!!!!
This Turner is now 4 years old, but still a BLAST to ride!
For the last year or so I’ve been interested in bikepacking and ever since I watched “Ride the Divide” it immediately went on my bucket list. Not that I love gravel grinders, but I have a big sense of adventure and that seems to be the most adventurous thing that I could actually accomplish in my life. Last year I researched, purchased all the gear, and attempted to ride the TNGA (Trans North Georgia) route. It’s a brutal 350 mile route with over 50,000 feet of climbing across the N GA mountains. It started out well and good, but a seatpost that slid down without me really noticing, led to some knee pain and put me out after only 120 miles. I’ll be back to try it again later this year, but for now I figured a flat(ish) adventure across warm and sunny Florida during the winter was the way to go. It was also perfect timing for a mid-winter mountain bike “training camp”.
Fast and flowy Florida singletrack
I heard about the Huracan 300 route from a friend, read some great write ups around the web, and after talking through Facebook to Karlos (who created the route and runs the race in March) I downloaded the GPX file on my Garmin 800 and started to get excited. The Revelate Designs bags (Pika seat bag, Jerry Can, and Sling) went onto the bike, I got all my gear together (http://goo.gl/LsLgo for a gear spreadsheet) and I took a couple of days off work (the best part!)
I spent some time in Google Maps checking out the route itself, as well as lining up plenty of places to stop along the way (http://goo.gl/maps/VBqcU). I planned on doing 3 100 mile days and staying in hotels overnight. It was a beautiful 70 degrees during the day, but with 40 degree overnight temperatures, I didn’t feel like camping this time around. Technology is very cool, as I was not only able to look up places to stop, I was able to check out Street View and verify that they even existed.
Good morning Florida!
I took off on the route on a beautiful Friday morning and got a cold start as it was in the high 30s. It warmed up fast as the sun started to come up all the way. I got treated to some very cool swampy paths and some fun twisty single track through the palm trees as I headed for Ocala National Forest. The forest itself is a network of sandy gravel roads and has a Naval bombing range right in the middle. I got my timing right, as I rolled up just as some fighters were performing a bombing run. Too cool!
Naval Bombing Range
After 50 miles, I stopped by a very lonely convenience store to refuel, and kept on riding. I heard/read about the crazy deep sand and wanted to hit it while I had plenty of energy. It ended up being pretty brutal, but not as bad as I was fearing. Between keeping a very smooth pedaling stroke (Thanks Eddie!) and spending some time riding on the side of the road, I was able to get through the deep sand pretty quickly and headed to some fun single track in Wekiwa Springs.
I made it across the “creek” crossing!
There is a small “river crossing” in Wekiwa Springs, and considering it’s Florida and that the water was “chest high in some spots”, I was pretty worried about getting eaten by a gator. The nice “yup, there’s gators in those waters” from the Park Ranger didn’t make me feel any better. I got to the crossing, did some yelling to scare the gators away (ha!), picked up the bike, and waded through quickly. No big deal! I made my first 100 miles, was back to civilization, was feeling great, but decided to go ahead and call it a night vs continuing on. I wanted to save any energy that I had for the next couple of days.
After some good Italian food and some easy sleep I headed out for Day 2. I didn’t realize that the route today has a good bit of pavement so the first 50 miles flew right by. I saw an unexpected grocery store (Public) right off the route and treated myself to an awesome deli sandwich (and a ton of peanut M&Ms, I was craving those the whole time) The next 40 was a mixture of forest service roads, more sand, even more sand, some more sand, and finally some pavement (never thought I’d be GLAD to ride pavement on my mountain bike). There is a super long “rails to trail” section and I got to ride quite a few miles through it. When I got to where I planned on spending the night, Ridge Manor, it was 4:30, I still had 1.5 hours of daylight left, and I knew I’d hate myself if I stopped now. The longest mountain bike ride I’ve done in my life was the day before at 100 miles, so why not try for 140 to get to the next town. After all, I had lights, and it was still nice outside.
Did I mention there was some sand?
I hit a gas station for some dinner, pushed through and hit the Croom singletrack north of town. There is about 10 miles of pretty technically challenging singletrack, especially with a 40lb loaded bike, and I had to walk a few sections but it was still really fun. It shot me out on some country back roads, and I just spun along and enjoyed the stars. Spent some time with my lights off riding to the moonlight. I was a bit worried about some back country rednecks, but didn’t encounter anyone at all. I was feeling really good considering the mileage, and I knew I hit what I read about earlier: Diesel Mode. It’s basically when your legs and heart are too tired to go hard, but they feel just fine going a certain speed, and for some reason you feel like you can just go forever at that pace. At around 10pm I rolled into Inverness after 142 miles and 13 hours on the bike. Long day and I was ready for a burger! I ate, turned on the TV in the hotel room and instantly fell asleep.
Dieseling along some forest service roads
With such a long Day 2, Day 3 turned into a super fun “short jaunt” through the Santos Mountain Biking trail. Combined with the Ross Praire forest, it’s nearly 40 miles of great dirt and singletrack. Santos is very fast, flowy, and a blast to ride. It was awesome to finish with this trail as it gave me a “singletrack high” and I finished up the route feeling really good and in great spirits.
Riding this route renewed my appetite for bikepacking, and I’m really looking forward to attempting TNGA again this summer. I also got to see some great sights, as Florida is full of nature. (My full gallery of pics here: http://smu.gs/15tRFHA) From the National Forests, to the Wildlife Management Areas, to the all the back country roads, it was all awesome! And let’s not forget about the unlimited “all the peanut M&Ms you can eat” diet you can have during one of these adventures. Heading into a gas station and needing 1000 calories of junk food is so great. I can go through my full gear setup if there is any interest and I’ll also post my ride report from the TNGA in July. Also, here are the Strava links for each of the days: Day 1 - http://app.strava.com/activities/39705204 Day 2 - http://app.strava.com/activities/39705219 and Day 3 - http://app.strava.com/activities/39705186
A little while ago I wrote about Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel and our initial impressions. I was very impressed with the product as soon as I tried it, and I’ve been using it for the last 2 months as my sole energy source for longer rides. I’ve experimented with different mix ratios and am in love with the product today, maybe even more so, than I was at first. I haven’t had to worry about gels, Clif bars, shot blocks, etc during any of my rides. I’ve watched a couple of friends even fall behind in their nutrition and have to scarf down Clif bars while their heart rate was in the 170s. No thanks!
What’s great about Tailwind is that you have constant sustained energy, since it’s in your drink, and you are drinking all the time. In the past, I’d run out of ooomph after 45 mins or an hour and rock out a gel or Clif bar and get your mojo back. Here, since you are getting your energy constantly you never have that dip, you just feel great the whole time. I like that.
Initially I tried 2 scoops (200 calories) per 24oz bottle (I’m 170lbs) and I think that ratio works well for harder or longer training rides. Something in the 4-5 hour range where I’ll be putting in some harder efforts. For 3 hour rides or doing an epic group ride, where the pace won’t be as fast, 1.5 scoops (150 calories) seems to be enough. You can always err on the side of caution and always drop in 2 scoops, but I’d like to save some calories if I don’t need them.
I also did a 3.5 hour endurance time trial a few weeks ago. For that race, I put in 2.5 scoops (250 calories) per bottle and drank every last bit. I was a little worried that I didn’t put in enough, as in the past I consumed 300 calories per hour of gel/clif bars/gatorade/etc but the 250 calorie portion of Tailwind gave me energy all race. I finished with a big personal best and finished in the Top 10 out of 100+ racers. Sweeet!
I plan on continuing to use Tailwind with my training and I’ve got my first 6 hour race coming up February 16th. I plan on doing that race solely using Tailwind. I think I will err on the side of caution and put in 3 scoops (300 calories) per bottle, as I’ll be racing super hard the entire time.
Hey, I’m new here. Wanted to introduce myself, as I’ll be doing some write ups and reviews on Bike198.com during the coming up race season. In 2009, I was 250lbs, and racing cars with the SCCA. I bought a bike for myself for my birthday as I was always interested in mountain biking. I had a few friends that were “recovering car racers” that raced mountain bikes and I thought I’d give it a try. I picked it up pretty damn fast, fell in love, and created my next obsession.
3 years later, I’m 170lbs, been riding better and better and got into racing. I’ve done a handful of 6 hour races, a couple of 50-60 mile races here in the SE, and was ready to take it to the next level last year. I ended up hurting myself with a muscle imbalance in my quads/legs (write up about that and how I fixed it to come) and took a while off racing to get fit and recovered. Just riding for fun has been awesome, but I’m in the best shape of my life, ready to really kill it in 2013 and be more of a serious wanna be racer. I’ve got 4, 100 mile NUE races planned, along with a number of 6/9 hours.
I’ve done a bunch of research on training methodology, programs, and coaches and settled on a series of 12-week training programs structured around my 2013 racing season. Look forward to articles about cross training, racing preparation, how my training is working (or not), and nutrition. Along with racing, I also do plenty of riding for fun, and am a technical nerd and mechanical guy, so I’ll also be do some writing about my equipment: The race bike (Trek SuperFly 100) and also the fun bike (Trek Remedy 9.9). Have fun out there and enjoy the awesome fall riding weather (at least it is that way here in the SE)!
Over the weekend, we came across an image on Facebook that was simply amazing. Of course…we had to post it to the Facebook fanpage to see if you guys would actually ride this trail or not. The responses were great.
Would I ride this trail?
Hell yes. I would update my life insurance policy first, but I would be all over this. The trail looks wide enough to be safe and I would just take it slow – stopping to take pictures along the way.
This image (we don’t know who took it and wish we did so we could give credit where it is due) really starts to show where bicycling has come over the years. Who would have imagined that we would be riding landscapes that look like this on two wheels? Hell, most people still wouldn’t ride this terrain. This is a whole new kind of pucker factor outside of big drops and gaps. It is a true mind over matter ride…especially for those with height issues.
For those of us in the southeast US, this week is a pivotal point in our year. Daylight savings time hit and that sparks the beginning of our true riding season. After work rides without lights are now a reality and the weather is about to get warmer. For every rider, it is the beginning of the best riding part of the year.
About this time, I always look back on the previous years riding and what I want to do differently in the coming season. Obviously for me, it is going to be to keep the back healthy. Core workouts and adjusting my riding style are going to play a big part of that if I want to ride pain free and the reality is that big drops to flat and hard tail/rigid bikes are probably out of the equation now. The really sad part about that is now the Wolfhound is going to be a wall decoration in the house…sad day indeed…
Other than trying to keep healthy, there are a few other things I have been thinking about a lot lately that I want to change in my 2012 riding season. Most of this thinking was sparked from a Facebook post I started a couple of weeks ago asking what one word describing mountain biking for our Facebook followers. The responses that came back were great so I made the image above and starting thinking about what riding was to me and how I was going to let that effect my riding season this year.
So here are my 3 goals for the 2012 riding season…
More solo rides – While part of the best aspects of riding is the social atmosphere, I really want to get in some more solo rides this year. Solo riding – for me – is more about my personal journey and it gives me a chance to clear my head, work on my own riding skills and enjoy the outdoors. While you can do all of this on group rides, when you are out by yourself with your bike…you can do it in a stress free environment where you do not feel like you are holding anyone up if you want to stop, session or enjoy the surroundings.
Take More Pictures and Video – As I alluded to in a previous post this week, there are not enough AM styled mountain biking videos and pictures. When we get out on the trail, we are so concerned with getting from point A to point B that we often forget to capture the experience. Videos and photos are not just for DH and FR mountain bikers. We just have to make a conscious effort to capture our experiences and share our own riding with people around the world.
Focus More on the Riding I Truly Love – My favorite rides are big climbs to big descents. Whether I am riding 10 miles that day or 30, I want those big descents and I don’t care how long the ride is. There was a time in my life where I enjoyed the pain. I would do XC races and ride past my limits physically to challenge myself and what I considered to be a long ride. These days things have changed for me mentally. I want to extract as much enjoyment out of every ride that I can and that kind of pain is not what I am looking for anymore. I’ll use the road bike to increase endurance so I can use the mountain bike as my release. There is nothing wrong with wanting to extend miles and race XC courses. There are riders that prefer that end of the riding spectrum and love every second of it. It just isn’t what I am into anymore and I need to stop stressing my riding and my mind trying to do those activities on the bike.
It is going to be a great year of riding and I am really looking forward to getting focused on making it a successful year. The 5.Spot is ready to roll and we will be reviewing some other great bikes and components as the year gets going. Hopefully you guys see a great 2012 riding season that is filled with dirt and road time while staying healthy.
Long story short…it’s on.
Are you ready for 2012? What are you going to do differently?
This morning, I awoke to carry out my usual routine. My alarm went off (baby crying) about 7am and I promptly hit the snooze button with a bottle. Once he was taken care of, the dogs and I took him downstairs so they could get in their morning sniff of the yard and I hit the brew button on the Keurig coffee maker.
After I got the little man settled in his chair on my desk, got in a couple of sips of hot coffee and clicked the mouse, I started my usual Monday morning catchup getting ready for the day. As part of my social routine, I clicked on the Bike198 Facebook page and found this. A post by Kevin Rightmeyer.
Maybe it was a release of endorphins today when I went riding, or maybe it was “nirvana” which is described as “freedom”
The dictionary describes nirvana as “In general terms nirvana is a state of transcendence involving the subjective experience of release from a prior state of bondage. This is the result of a natural re-ordering of the mind and body,”
I felt a euphoria that is both exciting and inspiring, all I did was let go of everything, and tried to “flow” with the trail and not hold back, giving everything as the trail demanded. I think I will try and ride tomorrow, even if my schedule does not agree.
What Keven is describing in this post on the wall is Flow in its purist sense. It isn’t about the bike, the trail or even the rider as each of these elements independently can not create this essence of flow. Flow comes when all reservations are let go in the pursuit of the perfect ride. All the elements and variables seem to effortlessly work together.
The mind is known to run into a state of peace as everything just seems to fall together. The trail is smoother, the tires have more grip, the rider seems to be unable to make a mistake and the legs do not want to stop churning out the power that propels the bike forward. In the world of mountain biking, this flow is where everything goes right.
It is the hole in one of golf. The perfect game in baseball. The half court shot made at the buzzer in basketball.
This flow is our pursuit. It is the feeling that creates and nurtures the addiction. Once it all comes together, even for a split second, you get the feeling of truly being free on the bike. All inhibitions, fears and negativity is gone. You and your bike can take on anything.
For us mountain bikers…true flow equals euphoria…and it is more addictive than crack. And that is what makes us want to sign up for more abuse even if our schedule doesn’t agree…
A couple of weeks back, I wrote an article based upon an experience I had with a local competitive ride outlining why I am not willing to do what it takes to be competitive anymore. Well…I guess a friend of mine took that as a challenge as he convinced me it would be a good idea to do a local 6 hour race with him this past weekend.
I said “sure why not”. He needed a partner for the event and I needed a put up or shut up one last time…
The “Race to the Sunset” 6 hour event at Blankets Creek was at one of our local trails. Seeing as this was the first time the event was actually run, it was cool to be apart of the start of a new race in the area. We were entering under the sport/expert class as a two man team to run the full 6. I loaded up the long term review Niner MCR 9 and got ready for 3 hours of race pace.
The start of the Blankets 6 hours was going to be a Le Mans start. The racers have to run a horseshoe loop to meet up with their bikes at the end and get to racing. We decided Dave was going to take the run and first lap since he is a better runner than I am and I need more of a warmup in high humidity. The formula for success for us was going to be having him take-off for the start and I would end in the dark where I am stronger. It played off of both of our strengths so that was the obvious way to head it up.
Straight out of the gate, Dave was up towards the front. As they came to the line to get their bikes…he was no where to be found. Did I miss him go by? Did he get hurt? Wait…there he is! What the hell happened? “Someone stepped on my shoe and it came completely off!” What a start…time to start playing catch up.
Dave did a great job on his first lap and made up a lot of ground. It couldn’t have been easy on his heart rate and endurance to pass as many riders as he did that first lap to make up for the shoe incident.
The laps were a 9.35 mile combination of 3 different trails. The first had the steepest climbing, the second was the fastest of the 3 as it was the least technical and the 3 was the most technical. Fast laps were coming in at around 53 – 57 minutes (except for two friends of mine that set one at 47 minutes and 50 minutes lighting up all of the seasoned racers…but that is another story for another day).
Dave’s first lap time: 55:53
My First Lap Out
Dave came in setting a fast pace. We made the handoff and I got to riding. The week and a half leading up to this race, I rode the Niner MCR exclusively. It had been a long time since I had ridden a hard tail full time and this first lap made me feel like a 3 legged dog. I was bouncing all over the place and unable to keep lines going through corners. Everything just felt off.
Given that…I tried to keep my mind on the task at hand and continued the catch up routine that Dave started on the first lap. At the time, it seemed like a terrible idea. All I could keep thinking in my head was “you are blowing yourself up and there are still 2 more laps to complete today”. I ignored the voice in my head and continued to try to pick off as many riders as I could.
With my heart rate through the roof and legs screaming…I finished up the first lap feeling like death (highest temps and humidity of the day). I made my handoff to Dave and he went on his way.
My first lap time: 55:25
As soon as I got back into the pits…I had a plan set out from the beginning that I was hoping would carry me through the race.
Eat a ton of grapes
Wait for Dave
With the heat…it sounded like the best plan as I can not take in a lot of solid food during these events without feeling sick. It actually ended up being the perfect setup for me all the way through to the end.
For this stop, I also needed to figure on what the hell was actually going on with the bike. As it turned out, the saddle was at the wrong angle and there was only 16 pounds of pressure in the front tire. No wonder I was all over the place. That was a rookie mistake for not checking the essentials before I headed out.
After everything was set…I went back to the handoff area and waited for Dave hoping the second lap would feel better than the first.
As I had hoped…my second lap out felt much better than the first. The bike was dialed, the steps I took in between laps was working and I felt like I was just railing the course. A slight drop in the temperature and humidity seemed to help out my lungs as well and I finally found a rhythm that was fast and not completely wasting my energy for the last lap of the day.
I managed to pick off a couple more riders while I was out and I came back to the hand off area somewhat confident that the last lap of the day would go pretty well. Even though I felt faster on the second lap, it did end up being a little bit slower but right on track.
The best way I can describe my second lap was that I found my race pace. It has been awhile since I have jumped into competition and really dialed myself in, but about 5 minutes into that second lap…I was a horse with blinders on. The pedal strokes seemed to have a beat, my breathing was high but under control, the entire trail seemed to get quiet and I was focused on making up time. I was in the zone.
My second lap time: 56:28
During my wait for Dave’s 3rd lap, I did the exact same process as before minus the bike adjustments. Based on the feedback from lap 2, the bike was dialed and ready for lap 3. I hooked up my light and got ready to head out for my final lap with the extra weight. If I was going to pick up a lot of time during the race, the 3rd lap was going to be it as riders get tired and have to navigate the most technical part of the trail in the dark.
Dave’s third lap time: 58:57
My Third and Final Lap Out
The first 2/3′s of my final lap went much like the second. I found my rhythm and got to work. Ironically enough, my legs actually felt half way descent so I just started knocking off the trail in chunks preparing for the next section.
By the time I hit the 3rd trail in the series, I was feeling pretty good and on track for a similar lap time as before. However, I did know that this last section would be a little bit slower in the dark as I would have to pass riders and my legs were going to start to show the miles.
I was right.
I made up a lot of time on that last section of trail as riders got tired and had to navigate the rocks in the dark. This allowed me to make up positions but it also slowed down the lap time. I did what I could and tried to finish out the lap as strong as I could. Once I hit the flat section towards the finish, I dropped the hammer and tried to squeeze every last bit my legs had out hoping I could bring my tank to zero at the finish line leaving everything out on the trail.
I hit the finish and about cramped up…exactly how I needed to leave it.
My third lap time: 1:00:49
The Results and My Thoughts
Coming into this event, I wasn’t expecting us to place all that well. There were some really fast riders showing up to this event that race all year long. Adding to that, I haven’t really raced in forever and Dave just had a baby girl two weeks ago. We just pushed as hard as we possibly could leaving it all out on the trail. Surprisingly, that was good enough for a 4th place finish in sport/expert. I was stoked and not expecting that at all.
At the end of the day, we had a great time and I even had a couple of friends that made the podium in the 3 man team, SS and solo expert class (congrats to Chad/Wyatt, Matt and Mark). The event was also very well organized and seasoned despite it being the inaugural running. The organizers at SORBA Woodstock and Mountain Goat Adventures did an incredible job. Also, a thank you goes out to Reality Bikes for their support of Bike198 and Niner Bikes for the review bike that made this possible.
Will I be out there racing again?
Nope! While I had a great time and I was really happy with the finish, with a baby on the way in October…my weekends will not be filled with training and racing. You’ll find me out in the mountains on a 5.5″ travel bike looking for technical terrain. That is really where I feel at home. I am glad I got the chance to get back out there and leave the competitive scene on a high note. It was a great day and I am glad Dave talked me into getting back out there.
Here are my stats from the ride thanks to Strava (sign up for your free account here…it’s much better than GarminConnect.com). Don’t mind the wicked high heart rate…that is just how I roll.
Matt Hunter takes us on his several day ride through the south Chilcotin Mountains on his Specialized Enduro. This is the true definition of backwoods riding and adventure mountain biking. Just you…your bike and the wilderness over several days of ripping trail and living off the land.
At Bike198, we are HUGE fans of Strava. If you carry a GPS on your bike like the Garmin 705, you should take a serious look at signing up for an account and inviting your friends. With features like segments, you can actually see how you did on the most popular climbs and descents on your ride in comparison with the riders in your area. That feature alone sets Strava apart from the competition.
But…there has always been a limitation with Strava…until now!
Before this week, you used to have to purchase one of their premium accounts to enjoy unlimited ride uploads. Not anymore. All free accounts now have the ability to upload as many rides as they want with no restrictions!
Strava.com does still have a premium membership that includes a set of features that are incredibly useful and fun to mess with. With things like your “Suffer Score” and other add-ons, the small cost of the premium is worth it for my riding. However, if you are looking for a great alternative to GarminConnect.com that actually uses Google Maps over the Bing Maps that Garmin switched to, you can now have a limitless ride account at Strava.com.
This past weekend, I got a glaring glimpse into a life I have left behind in mountain biking.
First, let me preface this article by saying the following…this is purely my opinion based off of how I chose to live my life and ride my bike. It does not and will not apply to everyone. It also does not mean that I believe this is the only right way to do things…it just happens to be right for me at this point in my life.
The ride last weekend was a simple one. A local bike shop in one of our favorite riding areas on north Georgia (Cartecay Bikes) puts on a ride they call the Drama Queen. With two routes available (34 and 57 I believe), it pulls out all of the endurance guys in the area that do not have a race that particular weekend. This ride is not a race…but it does bring in competitive personalities that creates a painful, fast ride in the mountains.
In the past, I have stayed away from this ride…but for some reason this year…I went. From the start, I was already at a disadvantage on a 30 pound 5.5″ bike amongst all of the hard tail 29ers in the group. This was ok…it was not the first time I have been in this situation nor will it be the last and I like riding the 5.Spot in the mountains. The series of events that started as I rode brought me to a place that I would rather not go anymore. The competitive edge started to kick in…and things went downhill.
I am not willing to do what it takes to be competitive anymore.
In my riding…for me to be competitive…I have to ride angry. There is a certain point for every rider as they look to be competitive at a race level that mind has to overcome matter. Your body wants to quit, but your mind pushes forward and you are able to go past limits that before you thought were never possible. For my body, I have to take my mind to an angry competitive state to push those limits.
Here inlies my major problem…
Today, I mountain bike as a release of stress instead of an added stressor. I do not want to get on the bike and have to pedal rides that I don’t want to just for training. I do not want to ride angry just to be at the top of my endurance level. For me to take it to that extreme, I have to take my mind to a place that I am supposed to be relieving through the sport that I choose to call home.
I enjoy the group rides with friends…solo rides to clear the head…and the challenge of making myself a better rider in technical terrain. I do not enjoy finishing second or adding stress in my life to be the best. Some riders can enjoy racing for the spirit in which it is intended. My brain will not let me be happy with second which creates a situation that is always stressful and negative as there will always be someone faster.
During the ride, I found myself starting to ride angry to get my level up to where I thought other people thought I should be riding. About 10 miles in, I was completely cooking myself and more worried about my place in line than being out in the mountains on the first sub 90 degree day we have had in a long time. I was getting more pissed off with each pedal stroke. When my mind finally saw the light, I headed back in and racked up the bike. This is not why I ride anymore and it was being destructive.
I have been there. Looking back on that section of my life where I thought racing was really what I wanted to do, I was not happy riding the bike. I was always stressing my mind and body to achieve higher levels only to find that there was still another level to go. It was a loop that was very hard for me to break. Now…I find different outlets for needing that challenge through riding technical trail. It fulfills that need within my mind to constantly improve without having to go to a place that is ultimately bad for my riding…and my head.
What I Love About Mountain Biking
The #1 thing I love about mountain biking is that there is no wrong way to ride a bike. Whether you are sitting on the podium on the weekend or just starting out trying to get a handle on your local trail, you are doing the kind of riding that is right for you as long as it makes you happy. It doesn’t matter what other riders consider “the right style”. It is up to you and your interpretation to find out what right style is for you.
Like my circumstances, there are times when that is going to change over time. That is ok too. Ex-racers have found there new way of riding in recreational and causal riders have found their home in racing.
I see a lot of encouragement throughout the mountain biking culture to get people to try a specific style of mountain biking that the person calls home. While I am all about trying new things in riding, sometimes we need to realize that the specific mountain biker already has the way they like to ride, so they do not need to try (or they already have) out your way of doing things. It is ok that they do not want to enjoy mountain biking the way you do.
Variety is key to the sport and that variety is why mountain biking is growing like it is today. With more options than we could have imagined back in the 80′s and 90′s, mountain biking has come a long way in making a lot of people enjoy the outdoors and trails in their way.
The important part…make sure your riding style feeds your soul as much as it feeds your need to challenge yourself.