Does Mountain Biking Require The Mountain? | Bike198

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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

This topic contains 9 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  Jeff 7 years, 1 month ago.

  • Author
  • #15077 Reply

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    It’s not that I disagree but it’s semantics. If it does require mountains then there are whole states that by definition CAN NOT have mountain bike trails (home state of Mississippi for example, tops out at a whopping 806 feet).

    And since it’s semantics I won’t further argue the point.

  • #15078 Reply

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    Having purchased my first real mountain bike while stationed in Mayport, FL, I’m inclined to say that no mountain is necessary. There were plenty of technical challanges (like dodging bananna spiders!) to keep you happy.

    I won’t deny that Pisgah is fun but I’m sure folks from other parts of the world will look at that 4,600 ft peak and not consider it a mountain but mearly a foothill.

    No mountains in Moab? Have you checked the profile for the Whole Enchalada ride (Burro Pass, Hazard, Kokopelli, Porcupine Singletrack, and Porcupine Rim)? (this description of the ride from the intraweb)This ride is 26.5 miles long, with 7000 vertical feet of downhill. It peaks at 11,200 feet in the La Sal Mountains and drops to the Colorado River. Climbing will total about 2000 feet.

    I will provide a personal account after the 1st week of Oct. 🙂

  • #15079 Reply

    Robb Sutton
    • Total Posts 0

    Mainly referring to the slick rock area. Enchalada descends for days…

  • #15080 Reply

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    A lot of the riding in the Midwest has steep, hundred-foot climbs, and lots of them. Thirty mile rides with 2500 feet of climbing are not uncommon if you know where to go.

  • #15081 Reply

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    I disagree.. Go ride Oleta or Markham in South Florida.. those trails are waaay more technical than a lot of the trails in Georgia. Got my ass handed to me big time at Oleta.

  • #15082 Reply

    Gregory Heil
    • Total Posts 0

    Did you read the whole article, specifically this sentence: “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. ”

    I agree with that statement. To achieve its purest form, mountain biking needs the mountain, but you can still get your offroad mtb fix in flatter areas.


  • #15083 Reply

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    I missed that part.. sorry bout that.

  • #15084 Reply

    • Total Posts 0

    I mostly do trail riding and XC. I call it off-road riding, because I rarely ride on an actual mountain. I kind of agree with the author, but honestly Who cares? Just get out and ride.

  • #15085 Reply

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    I live in Nevada which is the most mountainous state in the country next to Alaska. I’m located at the base of the Sierras near the Lake Tahoe area, and it’s hard to find a ride that doesn’t have big climbs associated with it. We sometimes ride as high as 9,000 ft. elevation.

    However…I see the wonderful photos of all the riding people are doing around the country. It’s so diverse! Sometimes I even get a little jealous at the flat rolling trails that some people have without the big mountains. To me, it’s all mountain biking. All you really need to mountain bike are some fat tires and some dirt!

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