Moab is a name that is comfortably tossed around in the American mountain bike scene, and riders of all experience and skill levels seem to view it as a destination of world-class riding. With endless sandstone and iconic Utah slickrock, Moab is undeniably a dream for most riders, but on a recent trip to the mountain bike mecca I had an experience that I am still trying to get a grip on. Our small group of 2 spent the first 10 miles of the day speeding down blue/black diamond trails near Canyonlands National Park. We weren’t (and aren’t) the best riders around and were still fairly new to the game, so we didn’t take into consideration the mountain biker laws of gravity-who rides down must pedal back up. It was in these lung-busting 10 miles on uphill singletrack back to the car that I had time to think about my love for mountain biking. I decided that the love was false, that I hated mountain biking, and whoever told me “mountain biking is fun” was a masochistic liar. I thought about the many reasons to never get into mountain biking and would like to share them with you, so you never get caught 10 miles down trail.
1) You will develop an attachment to dirt
The average human being goes to great length to avoid being dirty. Normal people consider pavement, concrete, and even grass fields pathways of haven sent from the skies that keep precious brand-name shoes and jeans from making contact with the unholy material. Mountain bikers? We are a class of our own, thriving on an inherently dirty activity and loving every loose, dirt-filled turn; anything but normal. Even worse, mountain bike long enough and you will become a dirt snob, believing that some dirt is “better” than others (because it iswhich is a fact). You will complain and complain that some dirt is just too dry, too loose, too wet, or even too clean and without enough loose dirt, while you chase the leader of the pack: hero dirt, the illusive perfect combination of dry and wet, loose and compacted. A dirt snob is what you will become, or maybe you prefer dirt connoisseur. If you haven’t jumped ship yet then read on, there are plenty more reasons why riding a bike off the beaten path is a terrible mistake.
2) You won’t be able to stay inside when the weather is rotten
Even worse than loving being covered in dirt is being covered in thick mud, head to toe. Mountain biking will systematically ruin the excuse that you can’t go outside when it’s too rainy, too cold, or too…terrible out. Mountain bikers have a sick affection for riding in conditions that are borderline un-ridable, and this will leave you yearning for some wild turns down the local trails. If you need to hose off in the yard before you enter the door of your home, then it was a day done right.
3) Say goodbye to intact shins
Attend any mountain bike event anywhere with at least 10 people and 9 of those 10 will have bloody shins. It’s as if pedal manufacturers designed flat pedals to allow for maximum grip while dealing maximum tissue damage. You can never walk around town in shorts again unless you want the casuals to stare at your scarred legs like they just witnessed a horrific train wreck. And forget about wearing white socks ever again in your new life of mountain biking. Instead, buy a $25 pair of flashy cycling socks…the price makes them easier to get the blood out of.
4) Say hello to scrapes and bruises everywhere
I take the latter back-people will always stare at you because you’re a mountain biker now, and a requirement of riders is to have badges of honor in the forms of scrapes and bruises somewhere on the body at all times. Friends and loved ones will be concerned when they see you like this and only be dumbfounded when you reply with, “Oh this? I’m a mountain biker now. This is nothing, you should see (insert the name of the friend who crashes more than you here)”. Because if you’re not crashing then you’re not riding hard enough, right? Mountain biking is an abusive relationship between human and bike, but you will find any excuse to ignore that and even take some pride in riding hard.
5) You will do a lot more reading…and we’re not talking novels
It’s common knowledge that reading is good for you, it keeps the brain sharp and interactive with different stories. Everyone wishes they had more time in their life for reading, whether for that new novel or long historical piece, but finding the time is difficult with families, full-time jobs, and different hobbies. The good news is that mountain biking will deliver much more reading to your life! The bad news is that the reading you will be doing won’t be in that new novel you were excited about. All of your reading will consist of new bike reveals and reviews, gear reviews, different sales going on, and anything and everything that’s new in the mountain bike world. Because your free time is being used riding bikes there will be even less time to read, so much of this reading will be done in hidden internet tabs at work or at home on the phone when attention should be paid to the dinner on your plate, because you just must know how the new knee pads feel when pedaling even though you know you’re never going to buy them.
6) You will start to crave suffering
In the recent trip to Moab that I shared at the beginning of this article, I whole-heartedly agree that we were suffering in the 10 miles of steep singletrack we had to pedal up. With that being said, about a week later I forgot how bad everything hurt and just remembered the fun 10 miles of downhill. A week later I was back in class at my school, sitting for lectures, studying all day, thinking about how great it felt to be outside and moving with my muscles sore because they were growing stronger. Even though we suffered for 10 miles, I would happily ride there again. It takes some adjustment, but soon after starting mountain biking all riders will start to enjoy the uphill rides and take pleasure in some suffering because it feels good to get stronger.
7) Your new fashion sense will be questionable at best
Riding gear and clothing comes in all shapes and colors and yes, most of everything comes in a neutral color like black or gray, but black and gray don’t “pop” when you’re out on the trail. You may start off with these flat colors, but mountain bike long enough and I’d say 90% of your riding kit will be some sort of neon primary color-helmet, bike, and riding glasses/goggles included. Admit it, when riding down trail it’s much cooler to speed past in a blur of baby blue and white on a lemon-yellow bike than in just gray and black. This fact will lead to more neon purchases regardless of if any of the kit matches or not. Couple this with the next fact that riding clothing will eventually take over your casual wear and it is a recipe for a new life of questionable fashion.
8) You will become more stubborn
Just like starting to enjoy suffering when out on the trail, mountain biking will make an easy-going person stubborn or an already stubborn person more so. In a way, it’s a requirement to get better at riding. You will inevitably come across trails that have a hill that’s too steep, too long, or has too many features on the way up. You may encounter obstacles that at first are too big or exposed, but eventually these climbs and features will seem manageable and the only way you’re going to convince yourself to ride them clean is by saying, “I can do this” and willing yourself through it. Once you ride something that you initially thought you could never do, the stubbornness and confidence will only increase, escaping into other aspects of your life.
9) You will start to speak in MTB and few will understand
The world of mountain biking (MTB) is sort of like a secret land of fairy tales-we spend a lot of time in dark, green forests and picturesque mountains, riders are covered head-to-toe in strange, bright clothing, and when mountain bikers talk to each other around non-riders, few will understand what we are saying. Like any other technical activity, there are words that apply only to mountain biking and have no use in day-to-day conversation. Because of this, there will be a lot of confusion between riders and non-riders and even those who are new to the mountain bike scene. The longer you ride bikes the worse this language barrier is. If you don’t yet know what it means when someone mentions low and high-speed compression damping in a Fox 34 CTD fork (hint: the fork is above) or why mountain bikers shiver when you use the numbers 2 and 9 in the same sentence, then you understand this struggle. Ride more and all will become clear!
10) Your new hobby will turn into more than just a hobby
Everyone has different reasons why they started mountain biking, but regardless of the reason I’m willing to bet that everyone started riding as a hobby, just something fun to spend some free time in. Whether you want it to or not, ride long enough and mountain biking will become less of a hobby and more into a lifestyle. It takes over the clothes you wear, how you talk, how you spend weekends, who you hang out with in the evenings, and sometimes even careers! As much as this isn’t what you intended when you agreed to try mountain biking, it’s a lifestyle of fast speeds, fitness, and many friends, and we think it is all worth it.
As many reasons as there are to never try mountain biking, I love it and messing around on two wheels with good friends will always be my favorite thing to do outside. So in the spirit of mountain biking, go riding! You won’t regret it!
“Get a bicycle. You will certainly not regret it, if you live.” Mark Twain