If you’re an avid mountain biker, you’ve probably heard every excuse in the book from people about why they don’t mountain bike. “You should give mountain biking a try,” you say. People shake their heads and scoff. They look at you like you’re the nutty one for biking in the first place, and then they’ll give you their best reasons as to why they don’t bike.
So, in no particular order, here are six reasons people often give me for why they don’t mountain bike. And, of course, here are my arguments as to why those reasons are ridiculous.
1. “Oh I’ve seen what some of you bikers ride… those are some crazy trails! I could never do that!”
First of all, no normal friend of yours is expecting you to go out and ride at the Red Bull Rampage, or drop the entrance to Horsethief Bench on your first ride. Nobody expects that. If you have a friend who does expect you to ride insane stuff your first time out, then you need new friends.
Every biker knows which trails they should take their first-time friends to. We want you to enjoy the sport, not be scared to death. We know about trails that are slightly wider and that aren’t too strenuous or covered with rocky drops. We know trails that will leave you smiling at the end, no matter what you were thinking at the beginning.
All most bikers want is for their friends to come out and have a good time with them. We’ll show you how to ride some features, too. Whether you choose to ride them or walk them is up to you. We don’t judge (at least not on your first ride)!
2. “It’s so expensive!”
It certainly can be. But if you’re just starting out, it doesn’t have to be. Find a bike shop that rents mountain bikes and take one out for a test ride with an experienced friend. All you’ll really need are some padded shorts (and if you’re brave you can forgo those), “baggies” to go over those, a helmet, gloves, and grippy shoes.
You can find some brands of spandex shorts, like Canari, on clearance for as low as $30 online, or probably even in-store. If you’re lucky, your friend will have a spare helmet and gloves, and I’m sure you have some hiking shorts in the closet somewhere that will work just fine for “baggies.” My first few rides out I wore my Merrell Siren low top hiking shoes. Just make sure to tuck the laces in so they don’t get caught on anything.
3. “I would never want my feet attached to my pedals.”
This isn’t something anyone expects you to start out doing. Most people agree that beginners shouldn’t ride with clipless pedals: they should be on flat pedals. First, decide if you like the sport and want to keep doing it. Then, once you’re riding more features, you can decide if you want to invest in bike-appropriate flat pedal shoes like Five-Tens, or in clipless pedals and shoes, like those made by Shimano. There are pros and cons to both and there are plenty of articles, like this one, to help you choose.
4. “I’m too out of shape to mountain bike.”
I was a smoker when I first started mountain biking. I rode Rustler’s Loop out at the Kokopelli Trails a few times and briefly thought, “Yeah, I should probably quit smoking…” Still, it was the first ride up Prime Cut, at the 18 Road Trail system, that did it for me. I knew I couldn’t keep smoking and ride up that trail. So I quit.
Don’t let whatever you think “out of shape” is to keep you from biking. If you really think you’re not fit for strenuous bike trails, then start with something easier, like a paved bike path, for a while.
Obviously, consult your doctor and get a check up. Explain what you’d like to start doing, and then use your doctor’s advice on diet, etc. to build up to riding mountain bike trails.
Once you’ve mastered the bike path and feel like you’ve got a little more fitness under your belt, you can ask a friend to take you on a short, easy mountain bike ride. Again, your friends don’t expect you to go out and ride 12 or 15 miles your first time. Do a short 3-mile ride. Even if that means riding 1.5 miles up a trail and turning around, just do that. The next time you go out, do that ride again. When you’re comfortable with it, extend the ride.
Every year, all of us who currently bike continue to work on getting “in shape” for biking. We push ourselves to go faster and farther each time. Trust me, we all started with short rides.
5. “I’m too old!”
I have a friend in his mid-sixties who mountain bikes on a single speed. When I say “mountain bikes,” I mean competes in 40-mile races in the single speed category. If you want to learn to bike, get out there on a bike. There are plenty of easier trails to be found that will allow you to enjoy the benefits of biking even at your age. If you’re like most people I know, those “easy trails” will get boring after a while and you’ll think to yourself, “Why didn’t I start doing this sooner?” and “What can I ride next?”
6. “Oh no. I’ve seen those scrapes and bruises you come in with on Monday mornings!”
Well, sure. Biking sometimes involves falling. It happens. But people also trip over cracks in sidewalks when they’re walking down the street. People slip on diving boards, slide down steep hiking trails, fall over the dog… there are a hundred ways you could fall down and get a bruise or a cut every weekend. In fact, a friend of mine went out on her first training run for a 5K race the other night, fell flat on her face, and broke her two front teeth. So it’s possible that ANY sport can be dangerous and cause you to fall! The only way to prevent that is to sit in the house wrapped in bubble wrap. Since I’m pretty sure you don’t plan to do that, you might as well go rent a bike.
Yes, there are plenty of other sports out there for folks to participate in, and I’m not saying everyone has to bike. But we all have those friends who we know would really enjoy biking if only they’d let themselves go do it and stop making excuses. So, the next time your friend comes up with a reason not to bike, how will you respond?