Advice for transitioning with my GF from gravel forest roads to singletrack?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Advice for transitioning with my GF from gravel forest roads to singletrack?

    My GF and I are long time paved road riders, and have only recently begun riding a Fandango hardtail mtb in Dupont and Bent Creek near Asheville. She likes the variety of terrain and scenery that Dupont offers more than the green tunnels of Bent Creek.

    However, she has no interest in riding singletrack or gravel on single bikes. She trusts my slightly greater experience on gravel for driving the tandem. Our number one priority is "Do Not Crash", because we are both of a certain "retired" age and broken bones aren't as fun as they used to be.

    We both love the climbing, and we both get kinda white knuckles going down some of the grades. I try to always be within my own comfort and safety zone, but she's told me that she "almost" asked me to slow down a couple of times.

    I don't have much experience on my own single mtb on singletrack and am not familiar with the trails at either of the venues I mentioned above. I've tagged along with another rider a couple of times, but I'm not sure I'd want to take the tandem on those trails.

    Is there a way to know how to assess various trails before I get out there? Or should I simply do my reconnaissance on my own single mtb first? Anything else I can do to help mix a little singletrack into the forest service road loops that we ride? It's not that we're bored. We don't get to the mountains often, so it's basically a big strength training program that incorporates great scenery and a generous dose of adrenaline. The rocky and rutted road on the back side of Dupont is plenty technical for us, I think. Thanks for your ideas.

  2. #2
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    I moved this to the regional section. Might get a better response to trail info. Can't help with getting your SO on the trails. My wife learned when she was in her early 20's and the ground was much more forgiving.
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  3. #3
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    MTB Project has details of area trails and pretty good difficulty ratings.

    FR 5097 is a 15 plus mile out and back gated gravel ride but it's all trees.

  4. #4
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    Does she even want to ride on Singletrack?

    From your post it sounds like shes content with gravel and pavement and there is a TON of that up here and its great.

    I would definitely pre-ride trails before sending them on a tandem with a less skilled stoker. Even reviews, etc on the various apps and websites are subjective. Only you know what is comfortable for your GF and yourself.

    Plus you get a little "me time" on the trail haha.
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  5. #5
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    I've met some folks on mtb tandems in a few places around the country, and to get one of those on most singletrack, you do both have to not only be confident, but also quite skilled in handling a tandem in particular. I encountered a group of mtb tandems in Brown County in Indiana once, and nothing here in WNC holds a candle to being as tight and twisty as what's available out there. I was amazed at their ability to ride that stuff.

    I also will say do not pressure your girlfriend. If she wants to do it, then she does. If not, then she doesn't. Pushing too much is going to make her hate it. My current wife expressed an interest in mtb when we were dating, so I helped her choose her first mtb (if you want to call my level of participation in the process that - I mostly just observed, answered questions for her, and my presence gave her a bit more confidence when dealing with sales staff).

    For a long time, I had to be REALLY careful about which trails I chose for us to ride on. Not only were her skills VERY beginner, but her fitness was pretty low because at the time, she did not participate in anything else athletic.

    She's at the point where she wants to build her fitness and skill, but she's still not confident enough to choose trails on her own that will be the "right" level of challenge for her. She knows what she likes and is reasonably confident on. I've been riding with her for enough years that I know HER and her riding skills (it helps that I'm also a certified mtb skills instructor). Online reviews on sites like mtbproject and trailforks, youtube videos of trails, and all the resources online just aren't enough. I've been burned more than once by using that method exclusively to choose a trail to challenge her as a "next level". So beyond that, I have to rely on intel and recommendations from other riders.

    "My wife rides/enjoys trail x, but trail z is too tough just yet. What's a good trail between those where she can build up to z?"

    After getting some recommendations, then I absolutely do have to get out and ride those trails that have been recommended so I can frame them in reference to what I know about my wife's skills and identify spots where I can push her a little bit, but not too much. It takes some work, but it's worthwhile.

    She also attends women's mtb skills clinics from time to time to work on some things and learn some things. Even though I'm qualified to teach these things to her, it's different with me being her husband, so working with people who are NOT me helps a lot.

    All of this is to point out that if your girlfriend doesn't want it herself, there's probably nothing you can do to change that. SHE has to want it. And even then you need to tread extremely lightly. It's exceptionally easy to get WAY over your head here in WNC and ruin everything.

    There really are a ton of gravel roads in the area, though. Stick with that kind of riding, and explore some other gravel road options. Check out the Mills River area of Pisgah. There's Wash Creek Rd. up to the Parkway and back. For a more mellow ride, there's the "Neverending Rd." There's Yellow Gap Rd. From the Davidson River/ranger station area there's Avery Creek Rd., Clawhammer Rd., Maxwell if you really want some long, hard climbs. More options out of the Hatchery area.

    Maybe eventually she'll get interested enough in mtb to want to try it out. If she does, I cannot recommend signing her up for a women's mtb clinic highly enough. A lot of these seriously have groups for EVERYONE. They take people who have never ridden bikes before, and people of all ages, so they will have a group she'll fit perfectly into. That social aspect of things can be huge. It absolutely was for my wife in the first clinic she attended.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamatt View Post
    MTB Project has details of area trails and pretty good difficulty ratings.

    FR 5097 is a 15 plus mile out and back gated gravel ride but it's all trees.
    Quote Originally Posted by Banjopickin View Post
    Does she even want to ride on Singletrack?

    From your post it sounds like shes content with gravel and pavement and there is a TON of that up here and its great.

    I would definitely pre-ride trails before sending them on a tandem with a less skilled stoker. Even reviews, etc on the various apps and websites are subjective. Only you know what is comfortable for your GF and yourself.

    Plus you get a little "me time" on the trail haha.
    Thanks for those suggestions. Because I have very little experience on singletrack myself, I will have to ride each one on a single bike myself before taking the tandem. We both love the workout climbing gravel, but I don't know if a trail rating refers to the surface or the climbing required. For hiking, a trail's difficulty generally relates to the climbing required, I think. I've ridden trails that seemed difficult due to the surface and my inexperience, but the climbing required wasn't much. I don't know what the ratings were there.

    Does she want to ride singletrack? Not at this point in time, and probably not at all, unless I can ensure a fun experience. Still, I've seen folks popping out of the woods onto a gravel road as I passed by, who all seemed to be having a great time on the singletrack. So I don't want to limit ourselves to gravel if we can find the fun of riding singletrack on the tandem.

    I'm sure an mtb riding clinic would help, but it's a chicken/egg thing. She would need to enjoy riding singletrack in order to want to own a single mtb of any kind, but has no interest in riding a single mtb, because she hasn't found (can't comprehend) the enjoyment of riding singletrack.

    I don't think the stoker's inexperience or lack of skills is going to be the issue. I've been on singletrack myself a handful of times and all I can say is that I didn't crash.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    I've met some folks on mtb tandems in a few places around the country, and to get one of those on most singletrack, you do both have to not only be confident, but also quite skilled in handling a tandem in particular. I encountered a group of mtb tandems in Brown County in Indiana once, and nothing here in WNC holds a candle to being as tight and twisty as what's available out there. I was amazed at their ability to ride that stuff.

    I also will say do not pressure your girlfriend. If she wants to do it, then she does. If not, then she doesn't. Pushing too much is going to make her hate it. My current wife expressed an interest in mtb when we were dating, so I helped her choose her first mtb (if you want to call my level of participation in the process that - I mostly just observed, answered questions for her, and my presence gave her a bit more confidence when dealing with sales staff).

    For a long time, I had to be REALLY careful about which trails I chose for us to ride on. Not only were her skills VERY beginner, but her fitness was pretty low because at the time, she did not participate in anything else athletic.

    She's at the point where she wants to build her fitness and skill, but she's still not confident enough to choose trails on her own that will be the "right" level of challenge for her. She knows what she likes and is reasonably confident on. I've been riding with her for enough years that I know HER and her riding skills (it helps that I'm also a certified mtb skills instructor). Online reviews on sites like mtbproject and trailforks, youtube videos of trails, and all the resources online just aren't enough. I've been burned more than once by using that method exclusively to choose a trail to challenge her as a "next level". So beyond that, I have to rely on intel and recommendations from other riders.

    "My wife rides/enjoys trail x, but trail z is too tough just yet. What's a good trail between those where she can build up to z?"

    After getting some recommendations, then I absolutely do have to get out and ride those trails that have been recommended so I can frame them in reference to what I know about my wife's skills and identify spots where I can push her a little bit, but not too much. It takes some work, but it's worthwhile.

    She also attends women's mtb skills clinics from time to time to work on some things and learn some things. Even though I'm qualified to teach these things to her, it's different with me being her husband, so working with people who are NOT me helps a lot.

    All of this is to point out that if your girlfriend doesn't want it herself, there's probably nothing you can do to change that. SHE has to want it. And even then you need to tread extremely lightly. It's exceptionally easy to get WAY over your head here in WNC and ruin everything.

    There really are a ton of gravel roads in the area, though. Stick with that kind of riding, and explore some other gravel road options. Check out the Mills River area of Pisgah. There's Wash Creek Rd. up to the Parkway and back. For a more mellow ride, there's the "Neverending Rd." There's Yellow Gap Rd. From the Davidson River/ranger station area there's Avery Creek Rd., Clawhammer Rd., Maxwell if you really want some long, hard climbs. More options out of the Hatchery area.

    Maybe eventually she'll get interested enough in mtb to want to try it out. If she does, I cannot recommend signing her up for a women's mtb clinic highly enough. A lot of these seriously have groups for EVERYONE. They take people who have never ridden bikes before, and people of all ages, so they will have a group she'll fit perfectly into. That social aspect of things can be huge. It absolutely was for my wife in the first clinic she attended.
    That is a lot of good advice, Harold.

    I think we'll be sticking with the gravel for now. We visit WNC every few weekends and use the climbing for strength training. We're not there enough to get bored with our routes, yet, but you've given us more to look up.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeadGrandpa View Post
    Thanks for those suggestions. Because I have very little experience on singletrack myself, I will have to ride each one on a single bike myself before taking the tandem. We both love the workout climbing gravel, but I don't know if a trail rating refers to the surface or the climbing required. For hiking, a trail's difficulty generally relates to the climbing required, I think. I've ridden trails that seemed difficult due to the surface and my inexperience, but the climbing required wasn't much. I don't know what the ratings were there.

    Does she want to ride singletrack? Not at this point in time, and probably not at all, unless I can ensure a fun experience. Still, I've seen folks popping out of the woods onto a gravel road as I passed by, who all seemed to be having a great time on the singletrack. So I don't want to limit ourselves to gravel if we can find the fun of riding singletrack on the tandem.

    I'm sure an mtb riding clinic would help, but it's a chicken/egg thing. She would need to enjoy riding singletrack in order to want to own a single mtb of any kind, but has no interest in riding a single mtb, because she hasn't found (can't comprehend) the enjoyment of riding singletrack.

    I don't think the stoker's inexperience or lack of skills is going to be the issue. I've been on singletrack myself a handful of times and all I can say is that I didn't crash.
    MTB trail difficulty ratings typically don't consider climbing at all. For that matter, around here, most trails that climb the mountain are different than than the ones that descend it. So the climb gets a different rating than the descent, anyway. But no, the difficulty ratings are almost entirely technical. They do include grade as a factor, but not the absolute amount of climbing.

    To get a feeling about the climbing, you need to look at both the total amount of climbing, as well as the grade. Average as well as peak.

    Part of the reason why mtb trails are rated differently in that way is because having the SKILL to ride a chunky trail is something entirely different than having the fitness to hammer up a 2,000ft climb at 10% avg grade. MTB trail ratings are more similar to ski run ratings than they are to hiking trail ratings, and that was done intentionally.

    As for the clinic issue, it really isn't a chicken/egg thing. She needs curiosity first. She doesn't need anything else to take a mtb skills clinic. She just needs to be curious what this mtb thing is about. She can rent a mtb for the clinic, and the instructors are going to make it a good time, whether she winds up liking riding the mtb or not.

  9. #9
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    Thanks for the excellent advice and explanation of trail ratings. I never would have guessed that the difficulty was not about climbing. I don't think my hardtail tandem belongs on chunky technical trails. I can barely keep upright on my single mtb through that stuff.

    Well, time will tell, eh?

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