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Me in my 1990s riding gear at Canada Creek. photo: Leah Barber

I recently had a revelation: I now know more people who used to mountain bike than people who currently ride. Whenever I meet someone and we get to talking about what we do for a living, it’s surprisingly common to learn someone was, at one time, a mountain biker. So why do people stop mountain biking? I decided to contact some riding partners from the past to find out.

High School

Back in the 1990s, more than two decades before NICA and high school mountain bike racing, my friends and I caught singletrack fever. With miles of bike-legal trails in Sumter National Forest practically right outside our back door, we loved spending Saturdays pushing ourselves to ride deeper and deeper into the woods.

Jason was one of the first in our group to get his driver’s license, and not only that, he had an actual bike rack on his car! It’s hard to remember a single high school mountain bike ride without Jason, like the time our friend Gabi got hypothermia, or the time a hunter in a tree stand fired his gun in the air because we were making too much noise.

After graduation, we all went our separate ways for college and then work. To the best of my knowledge, none of the 4-5 guys I rode with in those days still rides his mountain bike on dirt. I decided to ask Jason, who is now living in Oregon, why he stopped.

“[I] started rowing [crew] in high school and ran out of time,” said Jason. “We all just stopped going or calling each other to ride; other priorities/things seem to have taken over (i.e., other sports, women, etc.)”

Always wear your helmet. Stonewall Falls. photo: Leah Barber

In high school, everyone is still trying new things, looking for the thing that will be their thing. Some who start mountain biking will give it up quickly, which is understandable, especially if mountain biking isn’t as much fun as they thought it would be, or they find something else that’s even more fun. Still, Jason seems to have a positive impression of mountain biking that he carries with him more than 20 years later. “I would like to ride again,” said Jason. “Probably in about a decade or less when my son can ride.”

Another high school friend, Joey (who I think prefers to go by Joe or Joseph these days), had all the best intentions of sticking with mountain biking after high school, but he found there just weren’t any fun trails near him in college. He still has his bike in his DC garage, a daily reminder of a former pastime.

“I’m about to hit 40 so I want to start [mountain biking] more. […] Isn’t that what everyone says at 40?” said Joey.

Early Career

After college, I went into the US Air Force and was blessed to be stationed in Colorado Springs, CO. A good friend and co-worker, Scott, moved to the Springs from Iowa around the same time as me, and he brought his Cannondale mountain bike with him. We were both stoked to explore the Rocky Mountains on two wheels, even if the trails were much more challenging than anything either of us had ridden before.

This is me in 2001 riding in Palmer Park, a favorite after-work MTB hotspot.

But as they say, all good things come to an end. After riding together for three years or so, we both moved on to other places. While in Minneapolis for Frostbike a couple years ago, I got together with Scott for the first time since we both left Colorado, and was bummed to hear that he had stopped mountain biking.

“My mountain biking career […] ended rather abruptly upon my departure from the Springs,” said Scott. “There are trails worth riding around here, but I haven’t ridden a single one.”

For many mountain bikers, riding isn’t about the bike; rather, the bike is just a tool for getting outdoors and exploring. When I lived in Colorado, it seemed everyone was a mountain biker–including the overweight, chain-smoking civilians in my office. Heck, one summer a co-worker organized a trip to the Monarch Crest Trail and I was shocked that so many seemingly non-biker people came along!

My boss’s boss Dan, who organized our Monarch Crest trip. Yep, those green Michelin tires were old even in 2003.

But Scott was a real biker who, like Joey, just didn’t see quite the same potential for thrills in his new local trails. We were truly spoiled by the quality of the riding in Colorado, so I can understand why he has decided to sit on the sidelines. “I still have the Cannondale, but I’ve probably [only] put 100 miles on that bike since leaving Colorado [13 year ago], and most of those were with a Burley in tow.”

Scott, like many former mountain bikers I know, is finding that family commitments take up much of the time that used to be available for mountain biking. Of course, that’s not to say it’s impossible to be a great dad and a dedicated mountain biker, but ultimately there are only so many hours in the day, and we all have to prioritize. For Scott, mountain biking just isn’t as compelling as his pottery hobby or any of the other irons he has in the fire (and he always has a ton of them!).

Graduate School

My friend Nate during our fall break trip to Tsali.

After leaving the military, I went back to school for a graduate degree, and once again, I found a great group of folks who liked to ride bikes in the woods. While we did some riding (and trail running) on the trails near campus, our group also filled breaks with trips to Western North Carolina and Colorado. In fact, three of us went on a hut-to-hut trip from Durango to Moab a couple years after graduation and had a blast.

Joe is one of my closest friends from business school, and honestly, I think we kinda pressured him into taking up mountain biking with the rest of us. He jumped in head first, buying a brand new Specialized mountain bike and tackling trails from North Carolina to Colorado and Utah. During school, Joe tells me he was riding his bike every day around town, and at least a couple times a month on trail.

“[I] left the South and lived in a northern city with far less access to good trails, and [was] no longer able to ride with the group,” said Joe.

Mountain biking is a social activity, and for many of us the relationships are even more important than the trails or the bikes. Heck, this is even true for me. I have a regular Tuesday night mountain bike ride with a group of friends and if no one can make it on a particular night, I don’t bother riding, either. Now, that’s not to say one can’t find a new group to ride with in a new city–it’s just not always the same.

But there is still hope that Joe might come back one day. Although his family commitments make mountain biking a difficult sell, he does still have his mountain bike which he uses for commuting occasionally.

When I asked if he thought he might get into mountain biking again, Joe replied, “I would love to downhill (cheating, I know).” Actually, it’s not cheating, and just might be a great outlet for casually getting back into mountain biking. Apparently, Joe hasn’t heard of electric mountain bikes yet.

Neighbors

These days I tend to hear the, “I used to mountain bike” line from all sorts of people in the community, like the parents of our kids’ friends, or from guys at church. My next-door neighbor David, who I shared a fence with for more than 10 years, used to mountain bike. Or at least that’s what he told me, though I don’t think I ever saw him riding a bike. OK, I did see him tooling around his the driveway with the kids, and heck, he even rode his dirt bike around his tiny yard in the city once in a while. But for as long as I’ve known David, he hasn’t been a mountain biker.

In college, David tells me he went mountain biking once a week, but after graduation, he found his job left less time for riding. Before he knew it, “the bike was obsolete.” David’s transition was a gradual one; he didn’t stop riding all of a sudden, but just found himself riding less often until he gave it up completely. His answer hints at the fact that mountain bikes are expensive, so riders really have to stay passionate to justify such an expensive hobby.

“I still have [my] bike: a 1999 Stumpjumper,” David says.

Having kids can take up precious riding time. Or, it can be a great excuse to get out and ride, albeit initially at a slower pace.

David has three boys, and every one of them has his own dirt bike. In fact, his youngest was ripping around on a mini bike at just four years old. It’s not unusual to see the whole family pack up the trailer and head out for a day or even a weekend of out-of-town dirt bike riding. While it might seem like David and his family have found a different hobby to replace mountain biking, I’m not counting them out just yet. When I asked David if he would ever take up riding again, he said, “probably as the kids get older.”

Takeaways

While this was a fun trip down memory lane for me and a good chance to reconnect with old friends, I think everyone who has a vested interest in growing the sport of mountain biking can learn something from this. In business, they say it’s always easier to sell to former customers than to find new ones, and apparently, there are a lot of former mountain bikers out there!

As these examples show, there are many reasons people stop mountain biking, which means there are a number of major roadblocks to overcome in reactivating former riders:

  • Family / time commitments
  • Financial cost
  • Trail access
  • Lack of riding partners
  • Injury

Still, these same roadblocks exist for people who have never even tried the sport, so we have the added challenge of convincing those people that mountain biking is fun in the first place. For those who are serious about growing our sport, I suggest we start by helping our former brothers and sisters get back into the fold. Note that every person I spoke with said they would be interested in getting back into mountain biking at some point, which is really half the battle. The next step is to remove whatever hurdle is preventing their return.

Today, NICA is by far the best thing going for mountain biking in terms of adding new people to the sport. Not only that, NICA appears to be re-activating high school athletes’ parents who used to be riders themselves. But what happens once those high schoolers go off to college? There is a big gap between college and becoming the parent of a high schooler. Focusing on this divide, and helping former riders overcome the roadblocks above, could radically expand the number of active mountain bikers.

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# Comments

  • AnelloGrande

    All those roadblocks, with the exception of injury, are really just excuses that can easily be overcome. Family/Time issues? – get your family involved with riding, pull a trailer, ride at night or early in the morning. Money? -Get back to basics, don’t get top of the line, buy used, take care of your equipment. Trail access? -Ride road, gravel, urban. Yes great trails are wonderful to ride on. But more people should just be cyclists, not just mountain bikers. You have a whole world outside your door to explore on bike. Riding partners? – Seriously? I ride for me, sure a partner can help with motivation if you’re training and you both have similar goals. But I love to ride, if I don’t have someone to ride with I ride by myself. Otherwise there are shops (and/or clubs) you can visit that may have group rides, and if not you could get one started.

    If you want to be a cyclist, you are a cyclist. If you choose to stop, don’t give an excuse. Just admit that you choose not to do it anymore.

    • Greg Heil

      While I’m definitely sympathetic to this sentiment (I have a related Over a Beer column coming in a few weeks), in these peoples’ defense Jeff was asking for an explanation of why they quit. So while maybe you don’t agree that the reasons that they give are valid reasons, I still appreciate them taking the time to articulate why they no longer ride.

      Sure, the real reason is “I don’t care enough to make it a priority anymore,” but getting some clarity into what else is taking priority in these peoples lives is, I think, insightful.

      Related: https://www.singletracks.com/blog/mtb-columns/beer-bad-want-pain-want-sustain/

  • Mudsoldier

    I don’t really buy it. Short of coming down with some kind of debilitating disease or disability such as going blind or ms etc, I don’t think it’s actually possible for a true to the core mountain biker to stop mountain biking. If a person finds his or herself actually ‘able’ to quit mountain biking, then I suggest they were never true to the core to begin with. …I have seen the type of people who actually have ‘quit’ riding, and they were different from the beginning than those of use who are still riding no matter what came along in our lives. My own observation has shown me that though indeed the number of original riders that used to ride together has in fact greatly dwindled over the years, the exact same people who did in fact end up walking away from the sport, were never truly the same as the remaining few of us who still ride. We ride because we cannot NOT ride. We cannot stop riding because we are true to the core Mountain bikers, and nothing, NOTHING will ever change the fact. So the fact is, IF you quit, you found yourself first and foremost ABLE to quit. If are ABLE to quit riding, then the sport was never what it indeed IS to those of us who STILL ride. In my own group, out of, say, 15 or so guys who used to ride together, only two of us still ride, but even back in the early days [the early 90’s], it was always the same two of us who were the one’s who always took the longest rides, whilst all the other guys bailed. It was also the very same two of us who scrimped and saved for the latest gear whilst ALL of the other guys didn’t see any point in doing as such. Now all those other guys are in fact non-riders, and, all but on of them is now ‘fat’…a few too fat to ever ride again. I think there are distinct differences in true to the core mountain bikers that serve to prevent even the consideration of quiting riding. Heck, I even chose the place I now live primarily in order to access riding year round. Some of us, though perhaps a minority, are incapable of every quitting, and I don’t care what kind of reason you use to justify doing so.

    • Jeff Barber

      The key word here is core. Not every mountain biker is core; in fact, based on reports I’ve seen, there are at least as many, if not more “recreational” mountain bikers in the USA than “core” riders. As I recall, the distinction in these reports was that core riders go at least once a month, and casual riders only ride off road a few times a year.

      Based on my observations, few people will jump straight from not riding into being part of the core anyway. The idea is to move the non-riders to recreational riders, and the recreational riders to the core. Everyone I interviewed followed a different path, but some went from core to recreational to not riding at all. Others went straight from core to not riding. The open question is, what does the path look like back to core, and do we even care if someone is core or recreational, or just that they’re riding?

      I’d still love to ride with every one of these guys, even if it were only a couple times a year.

    • Charles Williams

      Ahh…Mudsoldier, people get bored, and then they use other excuses. I think that happens a lot with people’s hobbies. They top out, and hit a ceiling or plateau that they don’t want to put the effort in to break through…because, it’s a hobby. A key friend stops riding, you get a nagging injury, your local trails close…there are some legitimate reasons why people lose interest. I played golf for years and competed for state championships, but once I got to the point that my game started to decline due to age, and I couldn’t play at the same level, I grew bored with it. I had nagging repetitive motion injuries that affected my mood and outlook, and it was just easier to walk away from it and find something else.

      Right now, 3.5 years into riding a mountain bike at 49 is like being a kid again, and I love it. I have some aches and pains like most guys my age do, but I’m hoping to ride as long as I’m physically able…hopefully into my 70’s, for the fitness and social benefits of it. But…who knows??

      I think if you talk to most “I used ot ride” guys, they have similar stories. They found another hobby to replace it with due to boredom with MTB. Sure…there are excuses that go with it, but that’s the “real” reason. It doesn’t mean they weren’t accomplished and avid riders. It just means things change in life.

  • rwilpizeski

    What a great article. I have kids; they are actually adults now, and I am 59. As a young dad, I couldn’t dedicate the time I wanted to cycling, so I rode when I could, and encouraged my sons to find enjoyment on their bikes. Fortunately, my 31-year old is now a serious C-X and mountain biker, and he makes a point of arranging trips for us to the local trails around the Philadelphia area. I once thought that mountain biking is a young man’s game, but that first ride got me hooked, even if it initially felt suicidal! I make the time now, because my adult son and I share a hobby that brings us together far more frequently than we would otherwise. There’s nothing as rewarding as having your son whip your butt on a dirty, sweaty ride, and then celebrate afterwards with a couple cold beers. By all means, have kids. Some day if your lucky like me, you’ll ride again, with them!

    • AnelloGrande

      THIS!!! When it comes to family, include them, and let them find their enjoyment. (Hopefully in cycling, but if not – then whatever it is they choose to get enjoyment from)

      I also agree that there will be times where can’t dedicate the time you want. But that doesn’t mean that you quit. As long as when you see the times available and take it. It’s not the amount of time or miles, it’s about getting out when you can and enjoying it.

    • Candido Huertas

      I have a totally opposite experience. My son learned to ride bike at,a very early age. I was tantalized by the fact that we together would ride roads and trail. I took him to our local trails and did some trips but to quickly realize that he wasn’t into it. I tried new trails,bikes and inviting his friends, but he didn’t show much interest , but he would still ride. To complicate things…he is into playing violin and participates in our local orchestra and he found in tennis his sport du jour, which I am very happy for him, but reduces my chance of riding. . To make matters more difficult, our local trails are bland and I’ve reached a plateau. Better trails require hours of driving and a full day to go ride. I have limited time to train to keep my endurance good enough so when I spend hours driving (hard to come by due to my family cpmmitments), I know I am not just riding for 30 minutes before blowing apart. So yes…I understand the physical and mental challenges of continuing the sport. But still try
      ..Im stubborn

  • kmedrums

    Great article and true – live has a way of getting in the way at times. As a 63 year old life-long bike rider (mostly mountain) and I can attest to the health benefits of riding – not only physically but mentally. When I am riding I am not thinking about my issues at work or home – just letting go and enjoying the time in the woods. For me biking has given me something I enjoy and kept me fit throughout the years (as I age). I can’t do what I did 25 years ago, and my rides are not as intense (falls heal much slower), but I still plan on riding until I drop. I raised three boys (2 in the military) and they all still ride. I am glad I was able to pass that down. Just rode with one that was on leave over the holidays. For those on the fence that are not riding I wish I had some words of wisdom – making time for riding when trying to raise a family can be tough, but there are so many pros to staying fit as we grow older which means you will be around longer for your kids. 🙂

  • thom248

    While I understand the point of the article, if the dedication is there, perhaps goals and objectives need to be re-examined.

    My daughter grow up riding the back of a mt tandem with my wife and I. Did we need to do the rad jumps, speed down flow trails. No, it was about doing what we enjoyed as a family. Cruising through the woods, occasional jumping a water bar, seeing how tight a trail I could take a tandem with a three year old.

    It was about family time and doing what we enjoyed. There was plenty of time later to finish beating my body up. (IE – last May, in Moab, shattering a wrist – at 66 yrs young)

    These family rides were also a great time to introduce friends to riding. Many are now my main riding partners.

    • GTXC4

      66 years young!! My kind of guy! *thumbs up* Hope you stay safe out there.

      Before my youngest could ride, I had the rigid rear bike seat on the back of the cheap fat bike. He loved it and I got a good workout with that and the 3 -liter CamelBak for my sons and I out on the trails. I can’t wait until we take our mountain camping trip. The boys will be stoked!

      Take care,
      -GT

  • GTXC4

    Everyone is going to have their piece. Like Mudsoldier stated, I ride for me and because I love too. All my GoPro footage except for maybe 3% is solo. I’ve had the opportunity to travel and ride in places others never will. As a husband and father, I’m finishing up my military career, finishing a degree, coaching, a church youth leader and all the other things in life that gets thrown at you. However, you make time for what’s important to you and the things that you love. Even though some trails around here aren’t what i had in the midwest, I ride and work to make them better. I still bring my bike when traveling to get any opportunity at something different.

    Concerning my sons, they started riding on the trails just under 3 on their Kazaam (Strider like bike) and have been at it ever since. They are now 6 and under and will ride all day long if you let them. If there is anything that they love more than the sports, games, and toys, it’s going ride the trails.

    When I felt like I hit plateaus or something felt monotonous, I’d change it up. it started with being faster on a cheap 26″ knock off mountain bike, with the snotty attitude people who fling their noses at you with their fancy $5k+ and/or 29ers as if you aren’t good enough or real. I would try to beat my times, add a lap, or change the gear ratio in which I usually pedal in. I saved money and went with my Trek Fuel EX instead of the SB-66 simply because it was on clearance as the previous year model (not bad for a starter bike). I began to travel, try more difficult trails, got into freeriding, then some downhill, started dirt jumping a bit, and have had a small taste of some slopestyle. Of course, not everyone will or is capable due to injuries or it’s just not their thing. However, mountain biking is an adventure. Just like when we were kids and ventured off into the woods for laughs, dares, challenges, and “Watch This!!!”, it’s a love, a love with a choice. I’ve tried and done many many things, however, mountain biking is here to stay as long as The Lord allows me to physically ride on.

    Most of the time I’m solo and cut up, when someone is along, it’s about sharing the adventure together.

    -GT

  • sentientcalifornian

    dirt riding since the early 1970s, now 72 years old and still active but sensible about drop offs and cliff edge antics but having fun… in marin county there are a large number of riders my age or close… the trails are mostly illegal but still ridden and the rangers are just tax collectors but few and far enough between so…
    meatheaded riders make it troubling to deal with angry hikers and of course the idiotic entitled horse set with their shit spewing mounts that they never clean up after so the trails have hoof strikes and piles of manure…
    the joys of sylvan fun…

  • ssapio

    As a kid I rode all the time but like most, bikes were traded in for cars, girls and party life. When I turned 35 I decided it was time again to get on a two wheeler. I haven’t turned back since then. I will be 59 years old this year and the mountain bike keeps me young. I ride with friends that are older and younger and we ride all over the country of course mostly in WV, VA, OH, TN and NC. We riding strictly cross country single track only. Yea we have some aches and pains and broken bones are harder to heal, but the fun and the health reason way out weigh a little bit of aches. I can’t image the day I can’t ride my mountain bike on single track trail in this beautiful country of ours. For those that think age is a factor that is more in your head, and also those that think E-bikes are the answer are only looking for the easy way out. Pedaling a bike with human power is the only way you will ever stay young and feel good about what you just accomplished when you arrive back at the trail head.

  • dbemmons

    Like most of you, I started riding as a kid. We lived on the edge of town and there were many dirt roads, pastures, and woods to explore. Later when my career and family obligations were more important, I dropped riding occasionally as needed. But there was always some sort of bike in the garage waiting. My kids loved to ride, and we’d explore just like I did when I was a kid.

    I’m 67 now and still ride, in fact more than ever. My fat tire townie changed a long time ago to cross-county bikes. We’re lucky in the Dallas area that we have a number of good off-road trails, and I ride several times a week. The trail allows you to temporarily forget “life” and concentrate on becoming a better rider. And, being in the woods reduces stress let’s you experience nature. I recently met a gentleman on a local trail who’s in his mid-80s and my goal is ride as long as he has.

    If you’ve given up riding, keep it in the back of your mind. Your friend in the garage is waiting for you to take her for ride. Thank you.

  • Jeff Barber

    Great comments. And “Welcome Back” to all the riders who temporarily quit mountain biking, but are at it again!

  • trishandjay

    This is a great article, and my biking friend and I can attest (we are both 71) riding partners come and go. We still manage to ride the trails in Boulder County at least 3-4 times a week, year round. Fat bikes on Heil Ranch and Picture Rock in the winter weather, and all of the rest of them when it’s dry. We still make it out to Fruita, Grand Junction, Moab, and The Monarch Crest at least once a year. I’m sure I make a pest of myself by being so slow on the trails, and I try to pull over when I’m aware of someone behind me, but no one will make me quit riding but Father Time. As I used to tell my kids when we rode the RAGBRAI in the 80’s, you don’t have to stop, just slow down and catch your breath. There are a lot of people who want to ride, but just don’t have someone to ride with. Go find someone. There are groups that have riders of all abilities. Find one, and keep riding, and don’t give into the E-bike temptation until you have no other options. This sport will truly be the one I’ll miss the most one day, but not for a while. Ride On!!

  • pitnextlap

    I rode for years in college but as I joined the workforce other activities occupied my time. When I turned 40 a few years ago I jumped headfirst back into the sport and it has changed my life more than I ever thought it would. Mountain biking has renewed my stoke! As I sit in an office most days I daydream about dusty trails, 20+ mile day trips and week long mountain biking vacations I have planned. I wear the skinned up elbows and bruised knees I earn on the weekends as badges of honor to friends and colleagues during the week. I am not just a white shirt and tie … I am a mountain biker!

  • RamblingIrishman

    As someone who bought his first mountain bike last June at the young old age of 50, I found this article interesting and hope to continue until Mother Nature takes me into her arms.

    I considered mountain biking over the years but found many excuses for not starting similar to reasons in the article for people giving up. So when I turned 50, I thought enough excuses and bought a bike and I haven’t looked back.

    I try to get out at least a few times a week and sometimes bring my dogs on trails that dogs are allowed and on quiet times, they love it. I just did 18km with then today and they loved it.

    I must admit I wasn’t sure if getting wet, cold and dirty in the winter months would be for me (well it’s always wet in Ireland) but who knew, I can handle it!

    I bought my wife a secondhand bike for Christmas and we hope to travel a bit, biking here in Ireland and maybe around the UK. She’s not into climbing up and would love an e-bike. My two eldest kids haven’t shown much interest in the sport but the 12 year old likes it but for Christmas he choose a bloody iPhone over a mountain bike… Maybe he’ll ask for one for his birthday or next Christmas.

  • syvdave

    Never quit just started Judo with kids. Now my oldest is a hardcore MTB’er so I’, getting back into it. Need to drop 40-50 lbs of unused fuel.

  • TheProletariat

    Interesting article, Jeff. I quit mountain biking back in the 90’s when I rode with dudes who crushed me on ascents and I just sort of thought I sucked at mountain biking. It made me sad to ride with my friends, and I’m not the competitive sort, so I just sort of… stopped.

    I didn’t ride anything for years, and then I built a pretty amazing carbon road bike and road that for a while. It was fun, but I found myself not enjoying that for similar reasons. Plus… it’s kinda boring.

    Cut to last year when I bought a $50 FS mountain bike to ride to and from work. I was tired of riding on the streets and stressing about every pothole and car, so I figured I’d just lollygag and who cares how long it took. I re-caught the bug. I started riding singletrack (alone) and started enjoying the same feeling I had when I was 19 (I’m 45 now with a young child). I took breaks when I felt like it and I charged hard when I felt like it. I bought a new bike. Now I go out every week — sometimes multiple times per week.

    I guess I realized that I enjoy the hell out of mountain biking and don’t really care how fast I go. That realization changed everything. I love technical challenges and I love banging down a well-chosen line, but I never look at Strava for speeds. When I ride with friends, they still crush me on the ascent more often than not and I’m fine with that, as long as they’re fine with waiting for a few. If they aren’t… well… that’s a pretty dumb reason for me to stop riding, so I won’t be making the same mistake again.

    So don’t forget to include ‘dumb comparisons of yourself to other people’ in list of reasons why people quit doing things they love. 🙂

  • mtnryder

    Passion comes and goes. While I think for most people, it mostly comes down to time and priorities, others just get burnt out. I know I was “core” from 1989-2002 and to be honest, mostly got bored. Back then, I hadn’t discovered to potential to travel for the purpose of mountain biking. I did that every year to ski and snowboard but never to mountain bike. I definitely didn’t have any friends that did that either. From 2004-2011, the entire family had dirt bikes and we bought a toy hauler so that scene consumed every second of our vacation time. I actually rode a mountain bike for work at the beach (tough life I know) but never got on the dirt.

    The game changer for me was breaking my femur (and tearing every ligament in my knee) in a dirt bike crash in Mammoth in July 2009. Two surgeries and 5 months on the couch, I was 28 lbs heavier. That led me to get back on a bike in 2010 to lose the weight. I’m now more addicted than I ever was. So much so, we sold the dirt bikes as the kids left for college and now I vacation to mountain bike 7-8 times a year. I also keep several bike related companies in business as every new improvement comes out.

  • mongwolf

    Wow. Great to hear people’s stories. Jeff, you most definitely struck a cord and caused a bit of reflection. I didn’t find mountain biking until I was 50, but it was all around me throughout my life. Though it took so long, it was inevitable that I would ride. As a young man, I had opportunity to launch into a corporate type career and decided against it. I instead went into forestry because of my love for nature and I could use my aptitude in management and similar skills. Without going into all the details, that led me to northern AZ and CO and finally Mongolia. With amazing nature/creation surrounding me pretty much all the days of my life I finally started biking at the urging of my sons. They could see how mountain biking fit my love for nature/creation, for adventure and challenge and for rigorous exercise. For me, I guess one of the takeaways from the article and comments, is how important our life choices are and that everyone is different. If you have things like mountain biking “in your blood”, then make some life choices to not end up living in the heart of LA or NYC. Greg has written about this. There are ways of doing it. You can go get the education needed to live in a preferred location. Or you can take a risk and start a business in a more ideal location for this kind of life and lifestyle. Obviously for some of us that kind of decision is maybe not a smart move at this point in life, but we all can encourage young people to explore their dreams and make decisions about their lives that are not just financial but truly economic (the evaluation of all types of benefits verses costs).

  • mongwolf

    Values. Values. Values. Most of us would probably benefit from taking some substantial time to sit and form a clear set of values, and then making our biggest decisions by them. It seems to me that Greg has gone through some sort of experience in this direction.

  • bob.thompson

    I have ridden since 1996. I am now 58 – nearly 59, and have an arthritic hip. I’ll never stop riding until I physically can’t do it anymore. Being in South Florida, I have found great trails, and I really don’t care if I ride solo. Most of my rides are. It’s my pace, my experience, and my enjoyment. Having a riding partner is great, but isn’t the end-all be-all. I’ve ridden in Texas, Florida, Oregon, California, and even Singapore in the rain forest on the side of a volcano. Monkeys and huge monitor lizards all over the place. Since I hate the gym, this is my outlet. Being outdoors, seeing nature, and challenging myself is why I ride. It does not matter what your bike is, nor does it matter how much money you have. It’s all about the ride!

  • dpb1997

    Hi Jeff,

    I have been mountain biking since 1989 and am nearly 55-years old. I have three boys that all adult now. They never impeded my riding and rode with me when they were younger. The cost was a factor in the early days with a young family. Last June and July I had to bad crashes that essentially ruined my entire summer for riding. Along with two injuries at work it could have been better. I love mountain biking and riding in the mountains or desert. I shall ride as long as I can and if that means buying an adult tricycle if needs be, but that will on cycle paths and roads…boring but it’ll keep me active and sane.

  • martnt

    My wife and I are early 60s I have had bilateral knee replacement we ride weekly and quitting isnt something we are planning on any time soon, We rode the Headwaters Challenge last January in Arkansas and most of the group rides we participate in we are the oldest, may not lead the group but were way ahead of those riding the couch. Make time its more than worth it…

  • mtbxcski

    I am 70, have aortic stenosis, spondylolesthesis, osteoporosis, cold induced asthma, have had meniscus surgery, concussions, separated shoulder, cracked ribs, broken rib, a partially collapsed lung, cracked knee cap, and on and on. Every year I go over the handlebars & get dirt & rocks pounded into my helmet slits at least twice. I’m always amazed that I can get up, brush off the dirt, & continue on. I ride every other day because I get too tired to ride every day. Everyone in my group is over 65 & we have a blast. Being older allows me to have a lot of bikes, & gives me the time to ride many trails around the country. I drive a 2004 Honda Odyssey with the seats removed so I can haul a road bike, 2 mountain bikes, tools, a gym bag full of bike clothing, a gallon milk jug of water, & my fishing gear. I don’t think I’ll quit mtbing until they pry my cold dead fingers off my handlebars, & wrench my shoes out of my cleats. Hopefully when my heart blows up during a lung busting, leg burning uphill. I am absolutely addicted.

  • mongwolf

    Wow, the response to this article has been amazing. An article entitled, “Why I Quit Mountain Biking,” could actual become one of the top articles of the year? Go figure.

  • bitterroot

    At first I rolled my eyes, but then I realized that if I replaced the words mountain biking with rock climbing or whitewater kayaking the same could apply to me. Over time I lost climbing partners and to moved to places where the water was flat, and the only waves were two hours away. In the end mountain biking isn’t the only way to stay active. Hopefully those people who have dropped out of biking have found something worthwhile that gets them outside.

  • Plusbike Nerd

    I have a job, a wife, two kids – one in college, one in elementary school, and I’m almost 60. I know about being busy, having limited time, and aging. Still, I ride about 4 times weekly and here’s why. Mountain biking is the funnest, easiest way to get exercise and be in the outdoors. If I didn’t ride, I would be a grouchy, over-weight, depressed, diabetic with high blood pressure. Mountain biking makes me a better person physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. If you must quit mountain biking, try to do something else like gravel/road riding, jogging, xc-skiing, snowshoeing, kayaking, roller-blading, etc. Get outdoors, sweat, and puff. It will make you a better person.

    • mongwolf

      Better person, dad and husband, I’m guessing.

  • Jim_Kelley

    Over the years, recovery time, injuries, LEOs in the service of equestrians, and a diminishing thrill of strategic trail poaching discouraged many.
    72 in May, increasingly solo riding as the herd has thinned.
    Practitioner of: “There are old trout and bold trout, but no old bold trout.”

  • mellowdaz

    I am a 63 years old woman and started mountain biking 3 years ago. I understand people’s fear of getting injured but with diligence hope to be able to continue to ride for a long time. I have the advantage of hitting the trails during “off peak” times and often have the whole trail to myself. Wish this was a thing when I was younger!

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