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Adventuring close to home on an overnight bikepacking trip. Rider: Neil Beltchenko

Editor’s Note: “Over a Beer” is a regular column written by Greg Heil. While Greg is the Editor in Chief for Singletracks.com, any opinions expressed in this column are his alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Singletracks.com.

I’ve spent many hours working out, pumping weights in gyms. I’ve spent hours trying to enjoy riding on the trainer… and failing. I still work out in the gym on occasion and spend hours on my bike trainer, but mostly–mostly these things happen when I’m recovering from an injury or doing strategic work to prevent injury.

Generally, when I think about working out indoors, in a gym, the reason for doing so is fitness. If you want to stay fit, slogging out hours in the gym–especially over the winter when it’s cold, dark, and wet so much of the time–is of paramount importance.

The thing is, I’ve never been truly motivated by fitness. Becoming fit, looking a certain way, getting or staying “in shape,” has never been something that drives me. I just can’t make myself care enough.

What I do think I care about–and get a little annoyed by–is when I get into a conversation with someone about mountain biking and they assume the primary reason that I ride is fitness. To stay in shape. To remain healthy and continue looking a certain way.

That’s not me.

Rather, the reason I mountain bike is for the adventure.

It’s always been about adventure, from day 1.

Adventuring in the Spanish Pyrenees

Mountain biking–and even cycling on the road, or doing other mountain sports–has always served as a vehicle for exploration, for seeing and experiencing new places, or old places in a different way. The thing that drives me to get out on my bike is to discover what’s around the next corner, around the next bend.

If you walk into my house in the evening unannounced, especially on a Friday night, don’t be surprised to find me in the living room, with maps spread across the floor. I might have my laptop open to a Singletracks.com trail map. I’ll be envisioning daring routes, connecting roads, trails, and possibly animal paths in such an unconventional way that maybe, nobody has traveled just such a route before.

I’m planning my next big adventure, or the adventure after that.

I want to see what’s out there, in these blank spots on the map that I have not yet visited. I want to see what the view from the top of that mountain looks like, what’s hidden down in this canyon, and hey, is this trail over here actually rideable? If not, we may end up hiking the entire way.

Adventuring in the Swiss Alps.

Right now, I’m not doing any serious adventuring as I rehab yet again from surgery. But just a few weeks ago I got back on the bike, and the glorious sensation of moving quickly through the outside world took my breath away. And I realized: I can have an adventure even on roads and trails that I’ve pedaled many times before, because the ride is never the same.

Different times of day, different seasons of the year, seeing different animals and people, the effects of the weather patterns–our natural world is constantly changing and transforming around us, making every single ride a new adventure, even if we’ve pedaled the same trail a hundred times before.

Alright, confession time: I have done rides where fitness was my primary motivator. I may have even written a few fitness-oriented articles for Singletracks, although I think they’re few and far between. So what role does fitness play, then? Why would I do such a thing after all this talk of adventure?

It’s a simple formula: more fitness = more time spent adventuring.

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# Comments

  • mongwolf

    100% on target for me Greg. For me conditioning is the payment that must be made for greater adventure, and I actually enjoy making that payment. Conditioning is also a beneficial outcome but not the goal.

  • arkinet

    Opposite for me. 95% my motivation for getting out even if its freezing cold is fitness, with adventure as an added benefit. My friends who are adventure driven gets bored for riding the same trail again, and again, so I’m riding solo most of the time. And guess who enjoys the ride when its adventure time? 🙂

    • mongwolf

      I hope you and your friends are not riding the same trail over and over again, living in Colorado. But I can understand that if one lives in a location with few trails and little variety within an assessable distance, then adventure would become a much lower value.

    • arkinet

      Of course we do different trails, but the reality of life, with job and family and the time left you have in a day, you’re pretty much stuck with 2 or 3 trails. In a month maybe I do 1 or 2 “adventure” rides. Maybe it comes with age too, I can still do crazy rides but fitness is more of my priority.

  • Curt_P

    I add a third element: camaraderie. To me its about getting out of work, spinning the wheels and yucking it up with my buddies (how old do I sound?). I do really enjoy the adventure side too, especially on new to me trail. I’d say for me its 60% hanging out, 40% adventure. The fitness side is just a bonus. Not a motivator.

  • timcoleman

    Fitness is a nice benefit but it’s all about getting outdoors and exploring. I’m constantly looking for new trails. Even riding around my neighborhood is better than a trainer. I doubt you’ll ever catch me on a trainer. I don’t want to pretend I’m outside.

  • Chris Pickford

    Right on. Mountain biking is definitely a transcendent activity. If it was only about fitness I probably would have quit doing it a long time ago.

  • mongwolf

    Maybe I should, but I essentially do no “conditioning” for getting fit to ride and experience the adventure. I just get on my bike and seek the adventure and let the fitness come as a result. Maybe I should do more off the bike to help the biking. But I’m just not interested. I admit that I do do some push ups, pull ups, various abdominal exercises, and I stretch my core and legs religiously. So maybe that counts. But that is for the biking. It is just a lifestyle thing to keep some muscular health and fend off the effects of age a bit.

  • Greg Lytton

    It’s both for me. Riding at beginning to get fit so i can ride longer and experience more throughout the season. Because, if you ride singletrack, every ride will either get you fitter or maintain what you have. Never heard of riding and getting unfit.
    Legs, lungs, heart, arms, core, back, neck and more get better every ride.

  • Greg Heil

    Thanks for all of the encouraging comments and anecdotes!

    And I definitely agree that there can be multiple reasons why we ride, above and beyond both fitness and adventure. I’ve talked about mental and emotional stability a few times–that’s huge for me.

  • Lisa E.

    Another vote for adventure. The fitness is a nice by-product, but I’m all about getting out and seeing what I can see. Good times!

  • Slee_Stack

    Exercise has never been about fitness for me. It always has to be fun.

    If trail riding really is about fitness for anyone, aren’t there easier, cheaper, less risky, and more convenient activities to do to stay in shape?

    You must be on the trails for some other reason…

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