Does Mountain Biking Require The Mountain?

Laurel Mountain - Pilot Rock - Pisgah Forest, NC

This past weekend, a friend of mine and I hit up Pisgah Forest, NC to ride on some of epic eastern United States singletrack. Known for the long climbs to long, technical descents, this area of the world was just built for mountain bikers. During a long climb up Laurel Mountain on our way to one of the best downhill mountain biking runs in the area…Pilot Rock…the thought hit me…

Does mountain biking require the mountain?

For me to answer that question right now…I am kind of biased. After a weekend of big mountain riding where my elevation profiles from 4 rides all look close to this…

Laurel Mountain - Pilot Rock - Pisgah Forest, NC

…I would have to argue that “yes…mountain biking really does require the mountain.”

For this mountain biker, the experience of long climbs to long descents in the wilderness away from all things urban is what defines mountain biking away from the rest of the cycling disciplines. Practiced in its purest form, when you hit the trails in mountainous areas, it is you, the bike and the challenge of tackling technical, steep trails. With longer descents and climbs, I feel like I can finally get into a rhythm and stretch my legs outside of the tight confines of short pitches and smaller descents that the lack of significant elevation change brings to a trail.

Mountain biking first got started with riders like Joe Breeze and Gary Fisher bombing down forest service roads and walking trails on beefed up, custom made bikes letting gravity do the work. Without mountains…that wouldn’t have been possible.

However, just like with any sport…times change and the sport evolves. With fantastic trails in areas like Florida and epic adventures in Moab that are not considered “mountains”, is mountain biking really about the mountain? If mountain biking is about the mountain, what do we call everything else? Off-road cycling?

My opinion…while I define mountain biking as an off-road biking discipline that requires the mountain it its purest form…that doesn’t really matter. The beauty of the sport of mountain biking is that you alone get to define how you interpret the definition and at the end of the day…it is just you and the bike. It is not about how I define mountain biking but rather the enjoyment you get out of throwing a leg over that knobby tired, pedal powered machine and rip up whatever trails you call home.

Mountain biking is as much about personal expression as it is about the rig or the trail you ride. Your definition of what you consider real mountain biking is all that matters and that can change with time.

Elevation profile mapped with a Garmin Edge 705

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