Spice Up Your Mountain Biking Life this Summer
Sadly, it is a fact of life that not all of us are destined to be the next Aaron Gwin or Rachel Atherton. The vast majority of us just don’t have the killer instinct. We don’t have that razor sharp focus, that burning need for glory, that desire to push ourselves to the very limit. It’s admirable and they are worthy idols, but it is possible to think they are great without wanting to be them. Shock, horror, some people just don’t want to race and do you know what? That is just fine.
The problem is, whilst we all obviously do love to ride our bikes finding the motivation to get up and out on a cold, rainy day (or hot and sweaty for our southern counterparts) isn’t always easy. After a long, hard week at work it’s understandable to be feeling a bit… well… lazy! Having a goal, an aim, a reason to ride, can be that added boost that you need to get out the door.
Definition of Motivation = To stimulate the interest of a person in an activity
Changing things up by giving yourself something to focus on gives the time you spend on the bike a purpose, rekindling your interest and making the rides more interesting again. Who doesn’t get a kick from seeing their fitness and skills improve, making new friends, and exploring new places? It doesn’t need to be racing that gives you all these benefits; here are a few alternative ideas.
Pick Your Challenge
1. Ride every day for 30 days
Follow in the footsteps of Singletracks editor Greg Heil, or see if you can beat his record with even more consecutive days. A sure way to blow any complaints regarding lack of bike time out of the water; by the end you will be dreaming of a day NOT riding your bike!
2. Set a long distance challenge
Aim to ride your furthest ever distance; make it hard so it will feel like a real personal achievement. This could easily be made into a group adventure, perhaps as a long weekend bikepacking point-to-point across a favorite National Park. The opportunities to make this into a real epic, once in a lifetime experience here are endless–think big!
3. Push your boundaries and up the skills
It’s easy to become comfortable at your own happy skill level, especially after you’ve been riding for a good few years. It becomes habit to go round the scary gap jump, stick to the red trails, take the easy route off the mountain. If you never push yourself, you will never improve. Pick a certain feature, harder-graded trail, or technical descent, and make it a summer project to conquer.
4. Climb a mountain
Put the mountain back in mountain biking and pick the biggest, meanest (yet feasible) mountain near you and pedal, push, drag, or carry you and your steed to the top. This makes for a fantastic memorable photo opportunity, giving endless bragging rights over beers with mates.
5. Join in with a group ride, charity event, or sportive
For new riders, joining in a large group ride can be a truly intimidating prospect. Nightmare images of being dropped moments after leaving the car park, disapproving glares from the speedy, blinged-out racers, falling in front of everyone, and imagining it will be obvious you’re out of your depth. We’ve all had these thoughts but in my experience, this is never the case. Mountain bikers are on a whole a fantastically welcoming bunch–it just takes that bit of courage to slap on a smile and turn up.
6. Go on a bike holiday
Again. the sky is the limit for epic once-in-a-lifetime experiences here. Get away with your bike and spend the week exploring new places, whether in your own country, at one of the big name favourites like Whistler, Morzine, and Queenstown, or getting off the beaten track with one of the guided adventures in the likes of Morroco, Nepal, or Chile.
7. Ride a dawn raid
We’ve all seen the incredible professional shoots of pro riders shredding hard with a jaw-dropping technicolor backdrop as the sun just peaks over the opposing mountain. There is nothing to say you can’t have your own magical moment if you can just drag yourself out of bed on a day when the weather gods are hopefully playing game. Sneak a moment of paradise before the rest of the world wakes. Suddenly, you’ll be seeing your local favorite spots in a whole new light (pun intended).
8. Diversify your riding
There are so many different fractions of mountain biking and it is a sport that fuels such a lot of passion, it’s easy to become fixated with the particular discipline you have gotten into. Yet it’s a shame to let yourself be pigeon holed this way when, if you love bikes and want to improve, there is so much to be learnt from other styles of riding that you can take back to your own. Get some skills on the natural steep stuff from enduro; push your bravery with downhill; boost your airtime with a session on the dirt jumps; work those legs and lungs on an XC loop.
9. Build your own bike
Happy with your riding just the way it is, or forced through injury to spend some time off the bike? Set yourself a mechanical challenge instead. It doesn’t have to be building a whole new bike: you could set specific skills you particularly want to learn to improve your current bike. Examples include: how to service the suspension, bleed the brakes, or go the whole hog and take the whole thing apart, service, and rebuild. This is a great way to improve your knowledge and save a few pennies by not taking it to the shop, to boot.
10. Set a personal Strava Challenge
Who needs to actually attend a race when the whole world has Strava?! Compete against your own record or see if you can top the leaderboard on your own hallowed turf, without any of the stress and drama. While races have a whole heap of other benefits, for those who suffer from nerves, lack of funds, or use it for training purposes, Strava is a great way to get yourself motivated to up the pace and see how your comparing to other riders. If competing against others doesn’t appeal, simply challenge yourself. Set a date you want to break a certain time; e.g sub-10-minute that climb by September; hit 30km through the speed trap; complete the entire loop in under one hour.
How hard you make the challenges and how much you let this dominate your riding time is entirely up to you, and that’s the joy of it. The wise rule more commonly applied to professional development goals is worth remembering here. Always ensure you make your targets SMART:
The aim of a goal should always be to push boundaries, to force you to step outside of stagnant comfort zones. The brief period of discomfort, the adrenaline rush of fear, the moment when you think “I can’t do this” but make yourself carry on anyway. That is all made worthwhile by the feeling of pride you get from achieving a goal, no matter how big or small in comparison to others. No promise is more sacred than the one you made to yourself. So set yourself a goal today, be brave, dream big, and prepare for a summer where you achieve more than you thought you could.