To me, mountain biking is a lot more than just a ride through the woods. Photo by Bryon Dalton.

For most riders, mountain biking is about fun and fitness. For me, mountain biking has been a life-changing experience. I discovered mountain biking at a time when I needed it the most, and am grateful for the benefits it has brought to my life. Here are three ways mountain biking has changed my life for the better.

Mountain biking increased my self-confidence

Mountain biking has given me more than just the confidence to tackle technical trails. Photo by Bryon Dalton.

I have struggled with self-confidence since I was a child. I am my own worst critic. I rarely see the good in myself that others recognize and praise me for. However, since I started mountain biking, I have gained more confidence in myself. I recognize the progress I have made since I first started, and the success I have had in conquering difficult sections of trail.

That confidence carried over into other aspects of my life. I have become more relaxed at work because I believe that, if I can conquer a technical climb or a steep descent, then I can tackle any problem I might face at the office. Gaining self-confidence has also reduced my stress levels and made me more fun to be around.

Mountain biking helped me learn to be comfortable stepping out of my comfort zone

Riding a new trail can be scary, but it can be a lot of fun too.

I have always been a creature of habit. I don’t like change. Instead, I like to stick to the same schedule and routine whenever possible. When I started mountain biking, I quickly learned that I had to get out of my comfort zone in order to get the most enjoyment out of the sport. I discovered that the thrill of pushing myself to clean a difficult obstacle or explore a new trail far outweighed the fear of what could happen if I failed. Furthermore, I learned that you can’t prepare for everything. When the unexpected happens, you just have to know the right way to react.

Learning to live outside my comfort zone has greatly benefitted me as a father. Even though I read parenting books, I had no idea how unpredictable and challenging children are. The unplanned moments of parenthood have been the most rewarding for me. I still have a ways to go, but I believe my experiences mountain biking have helped me be a little calmer when my son throws me a curve ball.

Mountain biking helped me become more extroverted

I wasn’t always a social person, but now I enjoy meeting new riders on the trail.

I freely admit that I am an introvert by nature. I have never been comfortable talking to strangers or being in a large crowd. Ironically, I was drawn to mountain biking because I could seek solace in the woods, however, I learned that mountain bikers are a gregarious group. Riders I didn’t know would come up to me before or after a ride, and strike up a conversation. Or, a rider would see me struggling with a section of trail, and offer me advice on how to clear it.

At first, I was really nervous when faced with such encounters, but over time I started welcoming them. Now, I really enjoy being a part of the mountain biking community and sharing my experiences with fellow riders. Thanks to the sport, I have developed a strong bond with my riding partner, and have met some really great people along the way.

For me, mountain biking is more than just riding through the woods

I am not the man I was when I first started riding, and that’s a good thing.

When I went on my first ride nearly 10 years ago, I had no idea that mountain biking would change my life. I was just looking for something fun to do. What I found instead was so much more. In addition to raising my fitness to a whole new level, mountain biking has benefitted my mental health and changed my character for the better. It has help shaped me into the person I am today, and I am thankful for that.

How has mountain biking changed your life for the better? Please feel free to share in the Comments section below.

# Comments

  • Matt Miller

    Great stuff Richard, thanks for sharing. All three reasons resonate deeply with me.

    • Richard Shoop

      Thanks Matt. I appreciate that. I hope I can be an encouragement to others.

  • rmap01

    Good for you Richard! The physical benefits of the sport, i.e. improved fitness and skills, are fairly obvious to most. You ride further and/or faster, you start cleaning sections you previously had to walk, you tackle sections you thought you’d never be able to. Heck, you may even lose a few lbs along the way. But for those that don’t ride it’s hard to truly comprehend the psychological impact of the sport. When you ride the stressors of life fade into the background. And it’s not because you can “check out” while riding. It’s the complete opposite. It forces you to be tuned into the trails, your lines, your body position, your speed, etc. etc. For me, it’s the challenge, (self)-competition (this is why Strava is great), self-improvement and overall sense of accomplishment I thrive on. And to top it all off, the camaraderie among the MTB community is as good as there is!

    • Richard Shoop

      Thanks. I appreciate your comments.

  • craige

    Richard, you and I share some, if not all of the same personality traits. Mountain biking has done the same for me. Thank you for your story!

    • Richard Shoop

      You’re welcome. I know there are probably a lot more riders out there like us. I hope I can inspire them.

  • hdmcfamily

    Richard, your story is awesome. I am sure we all touch the story in some way. March 11, my doctor told me to watch the sugar. I gave it up and began biking. After serving in the Marines for over 20 years, my knees were never the same. Biking has now become my life. Four months and 60 pounds less has given me a new lease on life. I appreciate your story as I know we all have to thank something that impacted us. Stay safe and ride hard.

    • Richard Shoop

      Thank you. I really appreciate your comments and your story.

  • mtsinhk

    To continue the theme, and in addition to Richard’s, three ways. One, humility; the trail will always kick your ass at some time. Learn to deal with it. Two, mindfulness: there ain’t nothing else important in the moment but what’s fifteen feet ahead of you on the trail. Three: over-developed smile muscles!

    • Richard Shoop

      Great comments. Thanks for sharing.

  • m.krupp

    Richard beautiful thoughts. The woods has always been a place for me and mountain biking combined being in the woods with riding a bike. Two of my favs. Like you I discovered that the mental benefit was a whole other level. Best stress reliever I know and pure satisfaction. The biggest surprise was the community. MTBers are awesome. Welcoming and always rooting for others success. So thankful to be a part of it with the rest you out there.

    • Richard Shoop

      Thanks for your comments. Yes, the MTB community is amazing. I am glad to be a part of it, and really appreciate all of the comments I receive on my articles.

  • aj2018

    Wait a second… is this an article about me? Holy smokes! Also, I definitely agree with how mtn bikers are easy to talk to.

  • Trail Niels

    Great write up Richard, I recognize so many aspects of myself in what you’re writing. I also started mountain biking just to have some fun, but it has definitely changed who I am. For me mountain biking is recharging my mind, being out in the woods, getting in close with nature, being challenged by the trail. It helped me through a time in my life where stress had been eating me up, and have brought med many awesome moments and new friends in the community of fellow mountain bikers.

    • aj2018

      I started mtn biking almost one year ago. Before that, I took nature for granted. Now not only am I enjoying crushing those rock gardens, but I’m also enjoying taking breaks in between just to appreciate life. Just don’t want to see a bear or mtn lion though.

  • Richard Shoop

    Thanks. I appreciate your comments. I think the community aspect of mountain biking has made such a positive impact in my life. There are so many awesome people who ride.

  • Pablo Ruelas

    Im 40 and have played basketball all my life. My knees can’t handle games and decided I wouldn’t play anymore, to top things off my comuting bike was stolen. I was curious for mountain biking but never tried it, I saw videos online for a month before I finally decided to go and buy one. I went for my first mountain bike, a specialized rockhopper, low end but capable enough for me to decide if this is the sport for me. I found a novice group to ride with on Facebook and joined the next ride. Even though I believed I had decent phisical condition I learned I was a long way from that, I fell in love immediately with the sport and went full commitment. First of all I quit smoking, it’s been 4 months and now I can’t believe I had that terrible vice, cleaning my lungs and increasing my endurance has been a challenge but I enjoy every second of it. I’ve lost weight and feel great. Im making great progress and becoming faster and handling medium drops. Piece of cake for an experienced rider but for me it’s conquering fear. I’ve learned to fall and get up, try again until I clean a feature. All this has reflected in my attitude in life and confidence has had a boost. Every time I make a bigger jump or a taller drop I feel I can do anything. Now I’m looking to improve as much as I can to run the megavalanche and visit whistler. My 13 year old son has seen how passionate I’ve become with riding and now wants his own bike to go ride with me.
    In conclusion it has changed my life. I quit smoking, lost weight, gained physical and mental strength, learned to take falls and conquer fear. And the best it’s something to do with my son.
    Only con is that I am now broke thanks to this sport, damn it’s expensive.

    • Richard Shoop

      That’s a great story. Thank you for sharing it.

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