Prepare for a Fun Mountain Bike Ride
Are you a mountain biker? Do you like dirt, the mud, and the wind?
If you're a nature lover and like to get great, rigorous exercise, look no further than mountain biking.
Imagine riding alongside a lake, or sailing by a beautiful rocky mountain. Feel a gentle breeze as you pedal, as your thoughts flee with the wind. All you hear is your breathing. In and out. In and out. You press on, letting the crisp air fill your lungs, cleansing them from the soot of everyday life. A bead of sweat forms on your temple, growing bigger until it tumbles over itself down the side of your face until it silently hits the ground. After awhile, you stop to rest, but you smell the aromas of pine, mulch, and damp earth. This is heaven...in the real world.
It's an adventure in nature.
It's a duty to have some fun.
Especially if you're a girl.
And, the sport seriously needs more women.
Which sport do you prefer?
Before the Ride: Get Prepared
Before the ride, it's good to be prepared. Your level of fun goes way up if you have the right gear.
- Eat a good meal and hydrate well before the ride. I always fill up my Nalgene bottle with my energy drink and sip on it while driving to our riding destination. That way, I'll have enough energy to sustain me for hours.
- Sunglasses - I have a pair of sunglasses with interchangeable lenses for different kinds of weather. I changed the lenses to a lighter shade so I would be able to see better in the shadows, shown in the picture at right. I particularly love these pair of sunglasses: my hubby gave them to me for an anniversary present. On sunny days, I change to the darker iridium blue lenses. I always wear them on a ride - I really don't want any nasty objects flying into my eyes.
- Hydration pack - I used to have a water bottle that I would take on rides. On the bumpy terrain of the mountains though, it's difficult to hydrate without having to stop on the trail. A hydration pack solves that problem. All you do is sip out of the hose that's attached to the "bladder" anytime you want. They hold a lot of water and fit on your back like a backpack. An added benefit is that you can carry extra tubes and tools.
- Good biking shoes. These shoes here are my old buddies. I have had them since 2001 (go, Shimano!). They have been through rocks, mud, hikes, falls, scrapes, bruises, epic rides, gone for a swim (more than a few times) and have oil stains on them from the chain on my bike. I will wear these puppies until they fall apart. They're still holding on.
- Biking gloves - Without these, the palms of your hands will scream rather wildly, threatening to let go of the handlebars just when you need to brake. Avoid that problem with some quality biking gloves. They come either full-fingered or half-fingered. I generally stick with half-fingered because I generally end up needing to do some fine-fingered task like tying my shoes or twirling my hair.
- Biking shorts - If you value posterity, a nice pair of shorts with a chamois in the middle is a must.
- Helmet - Don't forget the helmet. You want to protect the brain. This is probably the single most important piece of equipment you can have.
- Portable bike pump - Don't get caught in the woods without one. A flat tire when you're miles away from your car is never a good thing, but it's a hundred times worse if you can't pump your tire back up. An extra bike tube is always a good idea, too.
Last Minute Preparations
It's a good idea to check the cables, nuts and bolts before a ride. I admit, I don't always do this. Nor do I clean my bike like a good biker should. So, you know what you should do. Really, things can come loose if you don't check, but it's only been one ride since I last checked and washed my bike as seen in the photo at right.
Also, make sure the tires are pumped up. Flats aren't very fun. You can use a standard bike pump and keep that in your car; save the portable one for the trail.
This is a book I refer to time and again with regard to all my mountain biking adventures.
Now the fun really begins. As you head out, the wind picks up, you catch a little air and start ascending the hills. Watch out for tree roots, and ride them with as much speed as you can because it's much easier to let yourself roll over them rather than having to pedal over them.
Part of the fun on a mountain bike ride is the willingness to let nature "bathe" you in her hands. That is, accept the fact that you're going to get muddy, sweaty and even grimy. But, think of it as "nature's exfoliation". Then, when you get home and shower, you know that you've earned a moment to relax.
Pace yourself. Start out slowly and find your cadence. Don't worry that members of your group are ahead or behind you. Just ride at your own pace and enjoy the scenery. Your group should stop every so often to regroup and make sure everyone is okay.
Take a challenge. Do you ever try that jump over those logs? Maybe you will this time or you can still save it for next time. But, commit to trying out different things. The way to get better is by trying things that make you get out of your comfort zone - even if it's just a little bit.
Mountain Biking Trivia
- Mountain biking started in California around 1970
- Modern bicycles haven't changed much since the year 1900.
- A 5-seat bicycle is called a quindem.
- Bicycle Motor Cross - an extreme form of mountain biking - became a sport at the Olympics in 2008.
Ah, there is nothing quite like ascending a mountain and finally making it to the top. You're sweaty, out of breath, and maybe even a little dizzy from all the blood rushing to your head. It's worth it, though. The view alone is a sweet reward.
It's okay to rest for a few minutes when you get to the top of a mountain. It's not a race. It's an opportunity to experience nature in all her majesty.
When I am biking with friends, we have some of the most interesting conversations at the tops of mountains. While sipping on some "Gu" gel (it's a type of energy gel), we have talked about everything from ways to reduce mortgage payments, building alternative houses, jewelry-making, how to become a more efficient rider, and even what sort of picnic we might have when we bike back to our cars. When you're riding, there isn't always an opportunity to talk. It's rather a meditative experience. But, all sorts of things go through your mind and you're often anxious to share by the time you get to a stopping point.
The Downhill and Back
For the last part of the ride, the downhill is incredibly fun. Sit back, hold on, keep a finger or two poised on the brakes and have at it. Jump, sail, roll and high-tail it back to the car. The picnic is waiting.
© 2011 Cynthia Calhoun