Have you ever read the best-selling book with a very similar title and three less habits? Neither have I, but the title alone peaked my interest enough to generate some thought on what might be some common characteristics among mountain bikers that are motivated, productive, and highly effective. Rather than a list of how to wax mad trail skills, training rituals, or pro tips from champions whose sole concern it is to win races all over the world, I came up with a list of 10 behaviors that many simple, yet driven mountain bikers share. These habits enrich the overall biking experience, give meaning, and even transcend our sport.


Being effective simply means producing a desired result with as little loss or waste of energy as possible, and it starts with setting a goal. Ask yourself what you will do, where you will do it, when, and why. Whether it’s pounding out 2,000 miles this year, occupying some real estate atop the podium, exploring 30 new trails, building new trails, learning to build or repair your bike, adapting a different biking discipline, or just spending more time biking with your kids, form a plan by working backward from the day you envision accomplishing that goal. Beyond this advice, there are many, many ways to tackle your goals and much of it will depend on how lofty and specific your goals are, so the take home is: set those goals and make a plan.



Given the ever-changing environment in which we recreate upon objects we subject to a hurricane of abuse, a highly effective mountain biker must remain vigilant, perceptive, and resourceful. She is mindful of her component’s service intervals, aware of trail conditions, sensitive to the needs and limits of others she rides with and cognizant of her own, and she appreciates the physiological impact of riding in varying conditions. To become aware, a highly effective biker regularly inspects her equipment, communicates trail conditions, logs ride time, draws inferences from experience, and reflects on what went wrong to make changes to her practice. This ear-to-the-ground mindset will keep you out of trouble, prepare you for when problems arise, and facilitate sound decision-making.



We’ve been granted access to the great outdoors and trail-slaying machines, but the highly effective mountain biker also understands that, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required…” (Luke 12:48), or, as uncle Ben in Spiderman paraphrased, “with great power comes great responsibility.” As consumers of the land, we are responsible in presiding, providing, and protecting it, those we ride with, and other trail users. A responsible mountain biker packs in what he packs out, communicates with uphill and slower riders, understands for what type of riding a particular trail was intended (and rides thusly), respects others, and values safety over the KOM. The office of a mountain biker carries the burden of trail ownership and inherent caretaker duties that, if not fulfilled, may be to our own detriment.


While a highly effective mountain biker will certainly work up the physical appetite to match her output, by “hungry,” I’m not referring to a post-ride pub session. Effective mountain bikers are not complacent. They don’t idle waiting on fair-weather friends and the weekend to align in perfect harmony, but crave the ride so much as to seize every opportunity to turn the cranks. Not only does this mean seeking unfamiliar trails and new destinations, one more lap, a little more climbing, or another session, but riding whenever possible.

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By Greg Heil

Hungry mountain bikers ride at night, in the bitter cold, the hot and humid, the rain, and on snow and ice. When you hunger for a ride, you embrace “the suck” even when said suck is intended. Effective riders find that riding as far, as long, as big, and in as many conditions as possible enormously rewarding. It’s in those soul-crushing experiences ambitious riders discover their limits, cross them, and outline larger ones, making them stronger than they were without them.



Applying for a job, school, scholarship, or promotion can be a rigorous process wherein each candidate is judged not only on the amount, but types of experiences, with the nod usually going to the one who has diversified best. Diversifying has also been shown to augment wealth, enrich one’s education, and foster a satisfying and productive workplace. So, what does your mountain bike portfolio look like? How many and what types of trails have you ridden? Have you ever tried fat biking, dirt jumping, bikepacking, or (gulp) e-biking? How about turning left at the fork instead of always going right? Broadening your biking horizons provides insight and experience that empowers you and, if nothing else, makes you a much more interesting person.


A highly effective mountain biker is a life-long learner. He wades through tech manuals, calculates gear ratios, watches “How-To” videos, gathers trail beta, listens to podcasts, examines leverage ratio charts, and doesn’t knock it until he tries it. He does so to make smart purchases, be self-sufficient, develop skills, be a responsible rider, add to the growing body of mountain bike information, and to simply know stuff for the sake of knowing. Educated mountain bikers seek understanding and answers to the problem, come up with their own solutions through trial and error, and fear not the unknown.



Armed with the right tools, foresight, and know-how, a highly effective mountain biker rides anytime, anywhere, and for as long as she wants without having to phone a friend. Self-sufficiency is a mountain biking habit that is rarely disputed. Grave bodily injury and death in mountain biking is quite rare, yet the possibility of a ride-ending mishap during any ride is very high. As a responsible biker, you accept this and should also prepare to handle whatever might happen. While it’s beyond the scope of this article to discuss exactly what is needed to be self-sufficient, sufficeth to say, your level of preparedness should be directly proportional to the likelihood your ride does not go as planned. What’s more, no one likes riding with someone who isn’t prepared, so don’t be that person.


A highly effective mountain biker gives back to that which has given him so much. He gives up the shred for a shovel, donates time and money to the local bike club or trail association, mentors youth and novice riders, spends an afternoon down at the local co-op, gives away his last master link to the broken-down, and tips his mechanic. Not surprisingly, when we give back to biking, biking continues giving back to us, which is why this goodwill hunting is seen among effective mountain bikers. The trail in which you invested gets better, the trail crew you supported builds more, and the mechanic you tipped will keep hooking you up, brah! But even if your generous investments result in zero return, this altruistic attitude is born of the pure love for mountain biking and is simply the right thing to do.

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By Chris Daniels

Photo: Tim Maddux


A highly effective mountain biker supports political issues surrounding our sport in order to conserve the history, protect the present state, and promote the future of mountain biking. Advocating for mountain biking can be done with written (now typed) word, physical presence, and money from as far off as Washington, D.C. to as near as the screen you’re using to read this. While you or your thoughts alone may not reach those who are directly involved in decisions that shape our future access, your vote adds to a growing voice that can affect change. If you need a little kickstart, visit the Sustainable Trails Coalition.


Despite being self-sufficient enough to ride for days in the backcountry, informed enough to build, maintain, and repair their bike, and hungry enough to tear off into the sunset solo, a highly effective mountain biker understands the importance of developing relationships of trust with others. There are certainly merits to being the lone wolf, as riding alone provides a connectedness with oneself, but it takes a village to raise a mountain biker. Local bike shops, trail crews, mentors, race or other event organizers, clubs, books and online resources, have all somehow directly or indirectly made an impact on your experience. Because these groups need you just as much as you them, fostering a connection strengthens the entire mountain biking community.


Notice this list is void of any trail-slaying skills, strength-building techniques, or rigorous training steps–there are lists for those things. Instead, I’ve outlined broader beliefs with a bigger picture in mind that focus on you as a mountain biking citizen. These are principles that separate people that ride mountain bikes from mountain bikers, if you will.

Although not practicing any of these behaviors may not have any direct or immediate damage, adapting any of them can positively impact you or someone now! What’s more, think about the long-term consequences of a person who opposes these habits: an ignorant, irresponsible, selfish, needy, and oblivious rider. And it’s probably a good thing he doesn’t diversify so I know how to avoid him. Don’t make me avoid you!

# Comments

  • mongwolf

    Hey Chris, this is one of the best articles I have read in a while, and I have read some good ones of late. It is a great article and in some way gets even better in the end, especially the second to last paragraph. “A mountain biking citizen”. Great thought. It seems these habits may also make up the character of a mountain biker or the values of a mountain biker or maybe the spirit of a mountain biker. You have done some outstanding thinking here. Thank you. I see areas I need to grow in.

  • mongwolf

    I see so many of these qualities in many mountain bikers I know, especially the charity. How many times have all of us been trailside and someone riding by checks to make sure we are okay and have everything we need. Another example, recently, a friend of mine who works in research for one of the big mtb component companies just handed me two 200mm discs because he knew I was riding big slopes in Mongolia and having a hard time keeping my brakes cool. I hadn’t asked. I hadn’t even cross my mind that he might have components available. It was a totally unexpected act of kindness.

  • mongwolf

    Chris, your example of “gives away his last master link to the broken-down” reminded me of one of the best moments I (we) have been granted to be charitable to another rider. My wife, 18 year old youngest son, his close friend and I were half way across Mongolia in the middle of nowhere. We were making the long drive back to the capital after 10 days of biking, camping and fishing in some backcountry. It was late in the evening, and we still had a good 200+ km to go, when we see these two gals sitting alongside the dirt road on vast open steppes of Mongolia, huddled over one of their bikes. So we pulled over to see if we could help in some way. They were from France and had broken one of their chains. They had been riding across Mongolia for about two weeks and were on their way back to the capital too. As we talked, I couldn’t believe that they had make it as far as they had. They had no tools, no basic mechanic skills, no support, and somehow no major mechanicals in the 14 or 15 days. We took off the broken link and saw that the chain was quite short and going to be really tight. So we checked our little tool kits and pulled out our last quick link and had the chain back on the bike in no time. Such a simple fix, but without that fix, they could have been stranded there for a couple of days until someone came along who had space enough to give them a ride to the capital. And at that time in Mongolia nobody but us had quick links. That was surely the only one left in the entire country. What were the odds of these two gals breaking down in the middle of nowhere in Mongolia and us coming along maybe 25 minutes later with a quick link in hand. We gave them a couple of extra tubes and a pair of tire irons. They were of course extremely appreciative and were able to continue on their great adventure across Mongolia. It was a great finish to a great biking vacation for us. One is always blessed when he or she helps another.

    • Chris Daniels

      Cool, mongwolf! thanks for sharing. It’s one of my go-to examples of giving back and it usually resonates with someone

  • Greg Heil

    Chris, great article idea, and loved the direction you took with this!!

  • Han-so-slo

    I have been Mountain biking since 1995 and a Mountain biker since 1997 when a high school friend asked me to go trail riding with him. You have nailed the spirit of true Mountain Bikers with this article.

    I don’t hold any contempt for the non “true mountain bikers”. I just try to convert them.

  • andrewspink.nl

    The nice thing about mountain biking is that I don’t have to be ‘highly effective’, just being in the woods with me, my bike and sometimes with mountain biking friends!

    • Chris Daniels

      Kind words, thanks! To Han-so-slo and andrew, thanks for reiterating a great point. I would never snob someone for not pitching in on work days, or not maintaining their bike (well, maybe a little), or not advocating, or not saying “hi” to me at the trailhead, etc…. Not doing this stuff doesn’t harm anyone and yes, at the very least all you need is you and your bike. These are simply things that enrich our experience and I believe that anyone who says “nah” hasn’t engaged the sport as fully as they could. Again, not like you have to run for mountain biking mayor, but there’s so much opportunity surrounding mountain biking that completes a larger experience.

    • mongwolf

      Great reply Chris.

    • andrewspink.nl

      Yes, I agree completely that all those extra things can add to the larger experience, I just meant that sometimes it is nice to have no pressures and not to have to excel, and for many people the place where that can occur is on their bikes (also in the cold and rain MaxwellID!).

  • MaxwellD

    Great article. This will help me as we have been having such bad weather here, rain, pretty cold. Thanks for the inspiration and the tips!

  • mongwolf

    Yep. No excuses Maxwell. Get out and ride. Temps here in Outer Mongolia are forecasted as highs in the low to mid 20s, little wind and sunny for the next two weeks. After single digit and subzero highs throughout the mid of winter, I have no excuse but to start my 2017 riding season. I’ll have to check out some snow riding on trails and do some longer rides on the roads.

  • Michael Paul

    Great article Chris! Spot on. Apparently, henceforth, all writers should appropriate the pronoun “ze”…haha. Sorry, there are some silly, stupid people out there… (yeah, talking to you pronoun guy…find another sport to gripe about).

  • techmastermike

    Brilliant writeup! “Be the change you wish to see in the world” Gandhi (might have) said. 5 years ago I moved to a new place (Alaska) with a small but growing MTB community. I was not a mountain bike citizen at that point, but was interested in TRYING NEW THINGS. I joined the board of a local (Nordic ski) trails association, and tried putting on some non-ski events in the summer months. One MTB race turned into a series, and as my 4 year term on the board came to a close, we had a 9 race MTB series that had run for 3 years, a new 4 race cyclocross series. People would come from over 100 miles away to do these races. The best part? When my board term was up, people saw the value in the series and took over organizing. I can race now! And the races are bigger than ever and growing steadily. Sometimes it’s up to the individual to be the change.

  • bikerboy14

    Great article Chris, very motivating to do the best I can and ride as much as possible..

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