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  1. #1
    Trail Cubist
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    Is the Spirit of Exploration still alive?

    So I've noticed that—like with many outdoor sports—mountain biking seems to be dominated by existing/developed and well-ridden trail systems that are all most people ride. Not that there's anything wrong with that—many of those existing, well-ridden trail systems are really great and fun!

    But I'm wondering to what extent is the Spirit of Exploration still alive in mountain biking? How often does anyone here say to themselves, "I'm gonna go ride someplace this weekend that nobody else has ever ridden?"

    Exploration has always been a huge part of every sport for me. Though I enjoy the popular trail systems...I'm happiest going out and finding some trail or doubletrack (or even fire road or gravel/dirt road) that likely hasn't been ridden by a mountain biker (or at least very rarely ridden).

    Yeah, I know—many people will probably say "My time is limited, I don't have time to invest in riding trails I don't know are good, etc." That's fair. But I'm talking about exploration...which by it's very nature means "unknown and/or unpredictable."

    If you're talking about places like national forests (or BLM land out west)...I'm sure there must be thousands of miles of trails that have yet to be ridden by anyone (even in the densely-populated east). And even closer to cities and towns...I'm sure there are plenty of places where you can find trails (or at least pseudo-trails) that nobody has ridden. You might have to get creative (along power lines, in small patches of woods between developments, abandoned construction sites, whatever).

    I hope nobody says "Forget it—every possible place that can be ridden on a mountain bike has been ridden."

    If that's true, I'm quitting the sport!

    Scott

    PS - I'd quote Robert Frost about a road less traveled, but everyone prolly knows that one...
    29er wheels are dangerous. They may cause you to go faster which can result in serious bodily injury. —Jim311

  2. #2
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    I'm down. Where you wanna go?

  3. #3
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    All the time...

    I ride in a BLM administered recreation area in N. Cal which has about 18,000 acres but only about 30 miles of trails so I do a lot of exploring.

    Here is my weapon of choice when I go trail bustin'

    It is a homebrew 29er with 16" of BB clearance which easily rolls over all of those nasty lava rocks lurking in the tall late summer grass.

  4. #4
    Nouveau Retrogrouch SuperModerator
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    Quote Originally Posted by SWriverstone
    So I've noticed that—like with many outdoor sports—mountain biking seems to be dominated by existing/developed and well-ridden trail systems that are all most people ride. Not that there's anything wrong with that—many of those existing, well-ridden trail systems are really great and fun!

    But I'm wondering to what extent is the Spirit of Exploration still alive in mountain biking? How often does anyone here say to themselves, "I'm gonna go ride someplace this weekend that nobody else has ever ridden?"

    Exploration has always been a huge part of every sport for me. Though I enjoy the popular trail systems...I'm happiest going out and finding some trail or doubletrack (or even fire road or gravel/dirt road) that likely hasn't been ridden by a mountain biker (or at least very rarely ridden).

    Yeah, I know—many people will probably say "My time is limited, I don't have time to invest in riding trails I don't know are good, etc." That's fair. But I'm talking about exploration...which by it's very nature means "unknown and/or unpredictable."

    If you're talking about places like national forests (or BLM land out west)...I'm sure there must be thousands of miles of trails that have yet to be ridden by anyone (even in the densely-populated east). And even closer to cities and towns...I'm sure there are plenty of places where you can find trails (or at least pseudo-trails) that nobody has ridden. You might have to get creative (along power lines, in small patches of woods between developments, abandoned construction sites, whatever).

    I hope nobody says "Forget it—every possible place that can be ridden on a mountain bike has been ridden."

    If that's true, I'm quitting the sport!

    Scott

    PS - I'd quote Robert Frost about a road less traveled, but everyone prolly knows that one...
    I am always looking for new routes. I do prefer to explore closer to home where I generally understand the terrain and can benefit from the new knowledge.

    Does not have to be areas nobody has ridden, just places I have not been. I may go out with an endpoint in mind or just pick a start point and investigate anything that looks interesting. Have found many areas that have become those developed trail systems over the years.
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  5. #5
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    New trail is always better than old trail....even if you only ride it the once.

    No trail is even better.

  6. #6
    Terrain Sculptor
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    It's important to have a bike you can easily carry but, yeah, all the time.

  7. #7
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    I'd love to explore new areas. However, whenever I do I get yelled at. There's so many ridiculous restrictions and rules can be so different from one area to another. It really puts a damper on trying to do things like this, which is why I tend to stick to trails I know are public and legal.

  8. #8
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    Exploring new terrain is one of my favorite things about mountain biking. It took several years, but I finally got everything within 45 minutes of me completely dialed in. Unfortunately, the schedule doesn't often allow drive time of more than 45 minutes so gone are a lot of my exploratory missions. Now I'm working on more creative ways to loop it all together
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  9. #9
    CrgCrkRyder
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    Exploration
    Backcountry
    National Forests
    That's what its all about. It's hard to find those gems if you don't go looking for them.

    I like to mix it up, established trail systems and riding off into the wild, maybe not knowing exactly where I'll end up.

  10. #10
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    Sure, exploration is still alive. I'm a cave diver and just last month I found a virgin cave that nobody in the history of man has ever laid eyes on

    There isn't a ton of trail around here, so I end up on hiking trails often... dunno if anyone else has taken mountain bikes on them, but even if not... I'm not sure if I'd call it "exploration" just because my mode of transportation may have been different than the last thousand people who've been in the same place.

  11. #11
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    Before a wife, kid, and busy job, I did much more exploring. I think the building of mtn bike specific trails has lured me to those areas much more than spending time exploring. It's definately a different kind of riding and its not for everyone.

  12. #12
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    I call it mountain adventure riding, and I love to do it. Often on the way back from trips I will drive off into the national forrest making lots of turns, then park the truck and ride. Somtimes the trails are great and somtimes its hike a bike, but its always fun.

  13. #13
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    There are still plenty of interesting people free places in my neck of the bush. There are unformed roads on the old travelling stock routes. Here in Australia, a cyclist can get onto the Travelling Stock Route network and 80,000 kilometres later get off it ... just in New South Wales and Queensland.








    The old tracks are hard to navigate, but that is what makes it interesting.






    Some of the rock pavement that winds around the Great Escarpment can be well over 30 to 70 and even to 160 kilometres of unbroken rock and not much wider than a footpath. I study satellite images to find the good spots near home.

    In all the years that I've been exploring on the bike, I finally saw another person (two people actually) just after Christmas this year. Here in Australia, where I like to go it is delightfully lonely. There is no one. No one at all.

    Rock pavement, all sandstone.














    The old logging tracks through the rainforests on the Great Dividing Range and the Great Escarpment are very good. They are very pretty ... pretty infested with Black Snakes. There are heaps of deadly snakes sunning on the tracks. At this time of year, during Spring Downunder, the snakes are sluggish and their venom glands are swollen. I hate snakes.






    Warren.
    Last edited by Wild Wassa; 09-20-2010 at 01:18 AM.

  14. #14
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    I love exploring new places, theres a place here (UAE) called fujeirah and its full of mountains which have no trails on them. Me and my friend once went out for 2 days on our bikes riding around, best part is that you don't need to carry much food since there are little villages at the top of 80% these mountians where you can buy food and if you're really lucky some ice scream

  15. #15
    Give it a crank
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    Of course it's alive, it's so alive you can go still go explore and find new rideable paths that are unknown or just unused to others. Most mountain biking is done on routes that allow a predictable ride that is mostly continuous from start to finish. If a ride has known unridable sections, it's likely to get ignored by most riders.

    Such routes are all available for your exploration, both close to home and far from the city. I find exploring such trails a great satisfaction, even if I end up having to hike my bike for half the distance. There's always new views, different rock formations, hidden spots prefered by wildlife, and often lot's of rewarding surprises.

    Then there's exploring by riding familiar trails in the opposite direction, connecting them into different loops, riding them at night, and other variations waiting to be explored. It's definitely alive. It's time for a trip if you don't think so.

  16. #16
    bringer of doom
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    Look to the north.

    ...& bring a trials bike.
    Ride on, Anthony.

  17. #17
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    It depends on where you live. Some of us are so limited due to restrictions, private property or governement owned land.

    Sometimes when I'm driving around I see spots that I'm, like, "ooohhh!!!" but come to find out that it's off limits.

  18. #18
    Terrain Sculptor
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dion
    It depends on where you live. Some of us are so limited due to restrictions, private property or governement owned land.

    Sometimes when I'm driving around I see spots that I'm, like, "ooohhh!!!" but come to find out that it's off limits.
    OK, that's got to really suck. Where I am, almost all the land (millions of acres of "wilderness") is either government owned or owned by 3 or 4 logging companies. All the landowners allow public access with a few restrictions :

    - no trail building or maintenance
    - no wood cutting
    - no unlicensed motorized vehicles on the logging company land

    All of these rules are happily ignored by everybody.

    As long as I have a helmet on I can legally take my bicycle anywhere that isn't a residential property.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trail Ninja
    OK, that's got to really suck. Where I am, almost all the land (millions of acres of "wilderness") is either government owned or owned by 3 or 4 logging companies. All the landowners allow public access with a few restrictions :

    - no trail building or maintenance
    - no wood cutting
    - no unlicensed motorized vehicles on the logging company land

    All of these rules are happily ignored by everybody.

    As long as I have a helmet on I can legally take my bicycle anywhere that isn't a residential property.
    It used to be that way in California - but there's our problem - it's CALIFORNIA! There are a lot of places to ride, still. But even now, we proposed a trail in Santa Cruz that is being occupied by drug users (heroin) and other criminals, and the city is open to it, but not quite there yet. It seems like a no-brainer, especially in SANTA CRUZ, but nope... red tape all over it. Santa Cruz Bikes, Ibis, and many other local companies, police officers, rangers, local riders, etc. are in support of it.

  20. #20
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    Used to be able to ride in the woods here too, now too many weirdos living where we used to play. No wonder kids don't ride their bikes anymore.... I guess Heroin users get prioriety over children in the golden state....

  21. #21
    Terrain Sculptor
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dion
    It used to be that way in California - but there's our problem - it's CALIFORNIA! There are a lot of places to ride, still. But even now, we proposed a trail in Santa Cruz that is being occupied by drug users (heroin) and other criminals, and the city is open to it, but not quite there yet. It seems like a no-brainer, especially in SANTA CRUZ, but nope... red tape all over it. Santa Cruz Bikes, Ibis, and many other local companies, police officers, rangers, local riders, etc. are in support of it.
    I assume you know about the I-5 Colonnade. Almost exactly the same scenario and it worked great for them. I don't know if you still need to convince anyone but I've used that story to sway a few people.

  22. #22
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    Our wilderness won't last forever. In the last 10 years I've watched it go from true wilderness (untouched by humans) to industrial land where the industries are unregulated clearcut logging and open pit mining.

    I'm an old man and I'll be dead before it's a complete wasteland but it's a shame anyway.

  23. #23
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    Mountain biking is getting too popular for the government to ignore. It was fun 15-20 years ago where we can ride into woods without much worries. Now the governments on various level are involve and we can only ride in certain areas.

    Also, lots of people fancy well built trail systems. They only see their mountain bikes as toys. they don't want to go too far away from their shuttles. I long for the day that wooden structures are gone from the trails and that we just ride on the dirt.

  24. #24
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    Kinda sad. Judging from the short life of this thread, I'd say the Spirit of Exploration is currently on life support, LOL.

    FACT: Most of our nation's population lives in/around major cities
    FACT: Most people are so strapped for recreational time all they can do is ride locally
    FACT: MTBers in/around major cities are developing more urban/suburban purpose-built trail systems
    FACT: More indoor MTB parks are appearing around the country


    I'd say these 4 facts alone are enough to eventually kill exploration entirely (with the exception of urban exploration like riding in storm drains, etc.)

    ---
    FWIW, I've seen the same thing happen with whitewater paddling (and it kills me that I helped it, see below).

    Once upon a time (not long ago, in the 70s and 80s) whitewater paddling was all about running rivers. But then two big things happened: the rise of whitewater rodeos, and artificial whitewater courses.

    I personally spearheaded a project to design and build one of the nation's first artificial courses in Dickerson, Maryland...and also helped design the '96 Olympic course on the Ocoee River in Tennessee.

    Now whitewater paddling is all about "water features" and hardly anyone actually runs rivers any more.

    Now, people find a good play hole on the river somewhere...throw their clorox-bottle-sized boats in their trunks, drive right to the play hole, do donuts in the hole for an hour, then pack up and go home.

    Boat designs have followed suit, with the average whitewater kayak being about 5 feet long these days—pathetically short, with ZERO hull speed. Made for spinning around only.

    ---
    I'm seeing the same thing happen in mountain biking, though to a lesser extent.

    Scott
    29er wheels are dangerous. They may cause you to go faster which can result in serious bodily injury. —Jim311

  25. #25
    Trail Cubist
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    Warren/Wild Wassa's beautiful images are what it's all about. Great pics Warren! Ahh, to live somewhere with such low population density...

    Scott
    29er wheels are dangerous. They may cause you to go faster which can result in serious bodily injury. —Jim311

  26. #26
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    Not dead around here...

    If it shows up as a little dotted line on a TOPO map I will try to ride it. I have been eyeing this one for a long time.






    it was tougher than I would have guessed but we climbed some of the highest peaks in NM



    Ride basically followed the ridge you see going down the valley all the way out to the brown flats below.

    /121_0164.jpg[/url]






    I don't think it had ever been ridden on a bicycle, it had barely been hiked. We basically had a nice hike with our bikes, but it is awesome to say we did it. I head out on rides like this at least a few times per summer.

  27. #27
    CrgCrkRyder
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    Cool pics Wild Wassa and greg deTaos
    I’ll add a few point and clicks from some explorations of the past

    You never really know what you may find on 2 wheeled exploration


    An old stage coach road

    If you are lucky, you may find classic singletrack




    Sometimes its covered up in green


    Or worse yet, a used tire, animal and refrigerator dump


    Or a horse trail, that’s better left to mountain bikers


    Complete with old mines

    Or used chariots parked along the route



    Paths of the past



    Still worthy of the time if you have it





    SWriverstone, as far as the longevity of the post, to keep your post around longer with more viewers, start it something like this:

    “I was riding my bike with Cricket, my trusty trail jumping dog on the Appalachian Trail, drinking and smoking some good stuff when a horse rider out of control made me crash in a fresh pile of manure. Dam_ hippy Sierra Clubber was chasing the horseback rider shouting “get out of my wilderness area you morons”. Thank god the hot Swede biker girls showed up to help me out – did I mention that they were naked……..”

  28. #28
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    Awesome pics CraigCreekRider! Your pics support what I've always said—that there are a TON of places in the Appalachians that nobody has ever ridden on a bike (or even a motorcycle or ATV or horse).

    People get so myopic living around big cities they sometimes forget just how much sheer terrain and space is out there...

    Scott
    29er wheels are dangerous. They may cause you to go faster which can result in serious bodily injury. —Jim311

  29. #29
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    Despite the fact that I absolutely agree with your passion for exploring, posts like this make me want to play devil's advocate for some reason I'm just speculating here, but I don't think there are any less mtb explorers than there were in past decades, there are just a lot more "regular" riders that make this passion appear more diluted in terms of the entire mtb crowd.

    I don't think your analysis is untrue, but I think its less a sociological change and more a demographic change. I don't think there has been any change great migration or significant change in relative population density of cities recently. I don't think people being strapped for recreation time has changed much either. There are simply more people that already fell in these categories that have now taken up mountain biking as it has grown and become more available because of local trails and parks. These people never were the explorers; they never were the type to run away deep into wilderness land regardless of whether it was on an mtb or not. Maybe building a passion for mtbing will make them curious about exploring and finding new trails though. Heck, that's how it is/was for me. I might have never gotten back into mountain biking and gotten serious about it if I hadn't moved to a town where I had a popular, well-maintained trail system 2 miles from my door. Only now that I've been at this for a while and look forward to long rides, it has started to peak my curiosity about some semi-local national forest trails, jeep roads, etc, but I never thought of that stuff when I first started.

    btw, there are only two significant indoor mtb parks in the US that I can recall, and both are in areas with bad winters and one is an area with all-around bad trail access.

    I'd guess that the same is possibly true for your whitewater example. How many more whitewater paddlers there must be than 30 years ago!

  30. #30
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    Excellent points boomn, and you're right...there probably are just more "milquetoast" urban/suburban mountain bikers today than 20 years ago. (And hopefully the same number of explorers.)

    Your points remind me of a point I'm always making on a totally different subject: whether it's safe for kids to roam around small towns on their own these days (just like I did all the time). Most people these days think that no matter where you live, there are pedophiles and kidnappers on every corner, lurking, just waiting to snatch up your kids. This of course is entirely media-induced paranoia...and I believe there are no more child-rapers today than there were in 1920...but the few there are get plastered all over the nation a trillion times on TVs, radios, websites and publications.

    I think much of the presence or lack of exploration depends on a given biker's social inclination. For some, sports like mountain biking are all about hanging with the buds...and all about competition, back-slapping, bullshitting, drinking, and good times. (Not that there's a thing wrong with that.)

    But I think history suggests that those with the true spirit of exploration were never social gadflies...but gained strength and solace by being FAR from the madding crowds. I definitely fall into that category---I enjoy social BS as much as others...but for me, there is something really powerful, memorable, and special about being alone (or in the quiet company of one other person) out in the woods and mountains. I get enough of people every day at work!

    Scott
    29er wheels are dangerous. They may cause you to go faster which can result in serious bodily injury. —Jim311

  31. #31
    I'd rather be biking...
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    Did this ride a few months back....pretty remote and im sure u can count the people that have rode it on a bike on your hands

    New trail: Red Canyon Epic

  32. #32
    CrgCrkRyder
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    Quote Originally Posted by SWriverstone
    Awesome pics CraigCreekRider! Your pics support what I've always said—that there are a TON of places in the Appalachians that nobody has ever ridden on a bike (or even a motorcycle or ATV or horse)....

    Scott
    Thanks for the comments
    Funny you mentioned the river float versus playboat thing. My old school kayak on namesake creek. Its nice to have different modes of transportation.





    When I was a VATech back in the early 90's I met a guy who floated a lot on the New River. I asked him where he floated to and from and he said he parked and played in the rapids. I was dumbfounded. What do you mean you don't float from point A to point B? Still don't really get it, but different strokes for different folks.

    Sorry, got off topic.

    I think the number who like to explore has always been pretty small. But we're out there. Good luck finding us on any given day..................



  33. #33
    is buachail foighneach me
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    There's a whole forum here that consists of a large amount of true exploration via bike:

    http://forums.mtbr.com/fat-bikes/

    And plenty more here:

    http://www.bikepacking.net/

  34. #34
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    Exploring new terrain is one of my favorite things about mountain biking. It took several years, but I finally got everything within 45 minutes of me completely dialed in. Unfortunately, the schedule doesn't often allow drive time of more than 45 minutes so gone are a lot of my exploratory missions. Now I'm working on more creative ways to loop it all together
    I agree with this. We don't have 'official' trail systems in Belgium, but connecting all the little paths, trails and roads in a way that produces the most challenging ride is really satisfying, in my opinion.

  35. #35
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    Yea I rode on some trails today that I've never been on before. For the longest time I thought it was just for dog walkers and joggers, but as I my normal route grew stale, I decided to ride it anyways. About half a mile in I realized this is really nice. I was getting speed and I constantly needed to slow down around the turns. I'm use to riding pretty flat trails with only little braking, so I actually felt more like a mountain bike rider today. I read some signs talking about local wildlife in the area, and the indigenous trees around the area. I felt dump when I saw a sign saying the trails were for walkers, runners, AND bikers. Also read a part that said when the trails are finished they will total of about 20 miles which is awesome! Whats weird is that I read this thread a few days back, and it got me thinking about the places I haven't been yet on my bike which kinda triggered something in me. I'm somewhat new to the mountain bike scene and I'm starting to think that exploration is a biggg part of the fun.

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