Results 1 to 12 of 12
  1. #1
    mtbr member
    Reputation: KevinGT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Posts
    852

    (Long Editorial) I always come back to mountain biking

    I've started, stopped, and restarted mountain biking several times in the last 25+ years. I never have a good reason to quit. But I always have a great reason to come back to the sport. At age 47, I'm on my fourth rekindling of my love of riding bikes on trails, and I've put some thoughts into why I keep coming back. Why does the passion remain even though the legs get smaller and the belly gets bigger?

    I determined that it's mainly due to three things that mountain biking has that few other sports -- maybe NO other sports -- combine:

    - Endurance
    - Thrill
    - Skill

    Before I explain why those three things are so unique to mountain biking, I need to describe how I first got interested in the sport. Maybe those three aspects are unique to me?

    My first true passion in life began in 1975 at the age of 10 with skiing. I grew up an Army brat and spent 6 years living at West Point where we had a tiny, tiny little ski slope on post. As tiny as that slope was (or is...if it's still there), it got me hooked on skiing and being able to ski 60+ days a year made me a pretty good skier. That passion stuck with me through high school (in Europe) and college.

    As an ROTC cadet, I was fortunate to do well enough to have my choice of duty stations. When all of my peers were begging to go to Germany to defend Western Europe from the Soviets, I chose the worst, lowest priority, poorest equipped combat division in the Army: The 4th Infantry Division. Why? Solely because they were based, at the time, in Ft. Carson, Colorado. Forget living in the turret of a tank guarding the Fulda Gap in the Cold War. I lived at the base of Pikes Peak and skied 8 months of the year.

    What's this have to do with mountain biking? I'm getting there...

    So living in Colorado was a dream come true. I skied all winter and ran trails with my future wife all summer. I hate running but my wife is a crazed marathoner and she convinced me that running trails was great dryland training for skiing the bumps on Mach 1 at Breckenridge. She was right.

    So on a trail run high above Manitou Springs, CO, in 1988, my life changed. As my wife and I plodded up a steep trail carved into the side of a nameless peak, I heard a sound that caused me to stop dead in my tracks. Something was around the next bend and coming at us at a high rate of speed. We both stepped off the trail as two guys on mountain bikes came flying past with grins on their faces that I haven't seen off a ski slope.

    When they passed, my wife looked at me and asked, semi-shocked, "What the hell was that??" I had heard of these crazy people who rode bikes on mountain trails before. "That's mountain biking!" I told her. "How cool does that look?!?"

    The next weekend, we rented two mountain bikes: steel frames, rigid forks, and thumbshifters. We managed to take them apart and fit them both inside my Mazda RX-7 (yes, I'm serious) and rode the fireroads above Colorado Springs.

    I was hooked. My wife enjoyed it -- she never got hooked like I did but she has ridden on and off over the last 25 years as well.

    So that introduction to mountain biking explains why I feel that it's the best sport on the planet. It combines all the things that get me excited to go out and play:

    Endurance:

    As I age, I'm no longer able to eat what I want and do what I want without gaining weight. I need to work a fitness regime into my lifestyle regardless of what else I'm doing. If I can combine fitness with something fun, epic win!

    Additionally, and this is a bit arrogant, I like that some level of fitness is needed to filter out the posers. The guy with the best gear isn't necessarily the best mountain biker. Part of me truly enjoys passing a guy on a climb whose bike is worth 4x my bike. Now, that being said, as my fitness drops and my income climbs, I'm more likely to be the slow guy on the expensive bike than the fit guy on the cheap bike like I was in the 90s!

    But being an endurance sport sets mountain biking apart from other sports like skiing, sailing, surfing, etc. There is a price to entry. There is a commitment. There's also a brotherhood of people who know what it's like to suffer.

    Mountain biking has it.

    Outdoor Thrill:

    Being an endurance sport isn't the only thing that makes mountain biking great. If it were, we'd all be runners or road bikers or swimmers. What mountain biking has that those endurance sports don’t have is thrill. You can just as easily group mountain biking with skiing, whitewater kayaking, rock climbing, and other thrill sports as you can with running or road cycling and other endurance sports. The thing running and road riding don’t have is that “Oooh, I love this part coming up!” feeling. There is no anticipation in a pure endurance sport. Runner's high? Pfft...that's a defense mechanism not a thrill!

    On every ride, regardless of the trail, there are several sections that I look forward to. Some are technical climbs, some are fast descents, some are rock drops or bridges or whatever. But there is SOMETHING that makes me love a portion of every ride. I don't get that on a run or a road ride.

    It's the adrenaline junky, X-games, GoPro-on-your helmet moments that makes mountain biking different from pure endurance sports. The fact that it happens outside, in the woods, and usually in some of the most beautiful locations on earth doesn't hurt. The thrill is what brings new, youthful energy to the sport.

    Mountain Biking has it.

    Skill

    There are endurance sports that require no skill. There are skill sports that require no endurance. There are many that aren't very thrilling. Mountain biking is one of the few that requires all three to be successful and maximize your enjoyment.

    "Can you do THIS?" is rarely uttered in the middle of a half marathon. You also don't see many people posting questions on the Triathlon message board about how to jump this or negotiate that.

    A skill sport gives us something to strive for. It gives us goals. Can I clean that log on Ringbreaker? I'm going to run this ladder until I get it right! There is NO WAY I am going to try that jump...today.

    Skill sports like skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, kiteboarding (my goal for the summer), surfing, even golf, give us something to strive for. They are physical puzzles that challenge the mind and body. Spatial awareness, center of gravity, momentum, friction, torque, and ten-thousands-of-an-inch accuracy can mean the difference between "I nailed it!" and "Uh oh..."

    Mountain biking has it.

    Endurance, Thrill, and Skill. That's what keeps me coming back. Sure, there are other things. Mountain biking is a gear sport and some people, myself included, love to tweak equipment and gear, constantly upgrading. In fact, there's a thread in this forum specifically addressing how addicting upgrading can be. But it's those three things that keep me coming back.

    I'll be thinking about this while I'm jogging on the treadmill in the hotel I'm staying at tonight!

  2. #2
    I kill hills.
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Posts
    18
    Good read, I agree with what you are saying. Until I read this post I guess I hadn't really thought about how well rounded mountain biking really is. Which also got me thinking about how I have moved along and forgotten about other activities I was once so passionate about. I used to live for long distance running but looking back at it, there really wasn't much thrill. There is obviously a huge mental and physical challenge present but as far as skill and thrill, I don't see it.

    Anything that requires skill as well as mental and physical strength and is thrilling is right up my alley I guess.. I'm sure that is what has attracted all of us to mountain biking and all the other stuff we are all interested in.

  3. #3
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Howley's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    625
    People I know and respect have said, and I agree - "If I did not discover mountain biking I would be in jail or dead."

    Made me think - I too have an addictive personality - MTB keeps me sane, alive and out of jail, the morgue or the mental ward...

  4. #4
    mtbr member
    Reputation: JoePAz's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Posts
    2,133
    I enjoy mtn biking for many of the same reasons. 1) I keeps me fit and to do it well you have to work hard. Climbing a big hill for me is hardwork and fun. 2) It gets me outside in nature something I really like especially when I stuck in a an office all day long. 3) Skill. I really enjoy the realization that it takes still to ride well.

    I have done a triathlon and it was nice, but really all endurance. Not much "nature" it is it all the city, not a ton of skill either. This came to me in the middle of my run in my last tri. I was running along hating it mostly because i still wanted to be on the bike. Then I realized that I could not slow or stop. The reason I was doing a tri in the first place was to finish and finish well. (not win, but give it my best effort). Mtn bike racing by contrast if I got tired... Well it was still going to be a nice day on nice trail and would be fun just riding even if I was forced to back off my race pace since I was tired. The combination of pushing yourself, being isolated in nature and knowing it takes still clean the trail just makes it special.

    I have always gravitated torwards sports that not just anyone can do. I don't want to do what every one does, but something that takes a little more than what most people can.
    Joe
    2003 KHS Alite 4000 26" Hardtail - XC, All mountain, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  5. #5
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Posts
    156
    I never really considered the mental/thinking aspect of MTB'ing until I got my 2nd "real" mountain bike. Started out last Spring on a cheap 26-inch Walgoose, got completely hooked and started plotting to buy my 1st true MTB. Ended up with a 29er hardtail and loved it. Not high end, but nice enough to really notice the difference a good bike makes. Once I got my 2nd bike in November (full-suspension 29er) I realized how much thought I was actually putting into my lines on the hardtail, seeing as I felt the FS bike let me get by with less thinking in that department.

    All of which just totally cemented, in my mind, what a complete package the sport of mountain biking is.

  6. #6
    Afric Pepperbird
    Reputation: dirt farmer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Posts
    4,536
    So why do you keep quitting? I kind of skimmed your post, but did not seem to see the reasons.

  7. #7
    govt kontrakt projkt mgr
    Reputation: ArmySlowRdr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    6,177
    haha I'm only a third through but yeah I know too well what you mean about being the slower guy on the more expensive bike.

  8. #8
    govt kontrakt projkt mgr
    Reputation: ArmySlowRdr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    6,177
    Well after reading all that I have three more observations:

    1) Was an entertaining read; thx for posting.

    2) On road routes that I know, on the rare times I break out the roadie, there are sections that I love. Long steep downs that let a heavy weight flu up the other side past the feather weights is what comes to mind here--haha

    3) I still after 20 years suck at mountain biking when it involves getting the tires off the ground. I dont much care for ledges, logs or drops either but mostly will ride over a small log or take a small 1 to 2 foot drop. But fact remains I suck at every other sport worse--I should say athletic sport---billiards, bowling --and dare I say it (GOLF) really doesnt count. Oh just kidding about the golf--I know it takes stamina to swing the club and walk the fairways/greens. And running absolutely hurts. How I nearly always got 90 to 100% available points on army PT test for 20 years is beyond me.

  9. #9
    banned
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Posts
    1,632
    Great read!

    I was skier/surfer before mountain biking. Mountain biking started as a way supplement my gym work. All i ever intended was to cross train. It now holds a passion for me almost stronger than skiing and surfing for all the reasons you mentioned.

  10. #10
    mtbr member
    Reputation: KevinGT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Posts
    852
    Quote Originally Posted by dirt farmer View Post
    So why do you keep quitting? I kind of skimmed your post, but did not seem to see the reasons.
    Different reasons each time.

    The first time I "quit" was because I moved from SoCal, where I had delicious singletrack outside my door, to Missouri. In SoCal, I lived about 200 yards from Dirt Mullholland, which is a fire road leading to Sullivan Canyon and Topanga State Park. The mountain biking was ridiculously convenient.

    When I moved to Missouri, I met up with a group of folks who were hardcore triathletes so I shifted my focus from MTB to Tri's. Additionally, I was really getting tired of constantly having to work on my bike, particularly the brakes. Road bikes were wonderfully durable and required little to no maintenance.

    The next time I quit was due to a skiing injury. The last time was due to changing jobs and having my day change from 8 hours and a 30 minute commute to 12 hours and a 3 hour commute.

    Poor excuses, all of them!

  11. #11
    mtbr member
    Reputation: dompedro3's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    930
    Quote Originally Posted by KevinGT View Post
    Different reasons each time.

    The first time I "quit" was because I moved from SoCal, where I had delicious singletrack outside my door, to Missouri. In SoCal, I lived about 200 yards from Dirt Mullholland, which is a fire road leading to Sullivan Canyon and Topanga State Park. The mountain biking was ridiculously convenient.

    When I moved to Missouri, I met up with a group of folks who were hardcore triathletes so I shifted my focus from MTB to Tri's. Additionally, I was really getting tired of constantly having to work on my bike, particularly the brakes. Road bikes were wonderfully durable and required little to no maintenance.

    The next time I quit was due to a skiing injury. The last time was due to changing jobs and having my day change from 8 hours and a 30 minute commute to 12 hours and a 3 hour commute.

    Poor excuses, all of them!
    Poor excuses, but ones we all use. You didn't quit, you just let the rest of life get in the way temporarily...liek when I lived in NYC and couldn't get to the trails, I didn't quit, I just pined.

  12. #12
    tao
    tao is offline
    succinct
    Reputation: tao's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    208
    For me it's the Zen. Full rigid and pushing my skill level there is no room for anything but the moment in my mind.
    plunging like stones from a slingshot on mars.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •