Lately, I have noticed riders who seem to have the “roadie” mentality on my local trails. These riders are the mountain biking equivalent of Agent Smith from the Matrix movies. They sport dark sunglasses, expressionless faces, and matching jerseys and shorts. These riders are hyper-focused on speed, and will mow you down if you get in their way. Why so serious?
IMO, mountain biking should be based around having fun. Every ride should not be a race. If you are guilty of being way too serious on your rides, here are four things you can do to put the fun back in mountain biking.
Ditch the cycling computer
My riding partner has a nifty little cycling computer. It offers all kinds of statistics. High, low, and average temperature during the ride. Amount of positive and negative elevation changes during the ride. High, low, and average speed during the ride. And, most importantly, speed!
A cycling computer is a great motivator, and I enjoy seeing the progress I’ve made over time. But cycling computers can be addictive, and take the fun out of riding since they make us focus more on stats than having fun.
I got rid of my cycling computer a while ago, and I haven’t really missed it. Instead, I find myself stopping to admire a sunrise, or just reveling in the woods that surround me without stressing about my elapsed time or average speed. The world doesn’t end if you don’t set PRs or KOMs on every ride. Some days, it’s just not going to happen regardless of how focused you are. So lighten up and go with the flow. Admire nature and be thankful you are riding in it. You’ll have a lot more fun that way.
Get creative with your clothing
While I have said before that the right bike clothing is essential to having a comfortable ride, I also believe that wearing tight jerseys and shorts for a prolonged period can cut off circulation to the part of the brain that makes us fun. This, in turn, causes riders to be way too serious on their rides.
To counteract this, I suggest an occasional ride wearing something way out of the norm. A Hawaiian shirt on a summer trail ride. An ugly sweater on a holiday ride. It could even be something simple like a funky pair of bike socks. I guarantee that even the most serious rider will crack a smile when they see you wearing something like that, and it also prevents you from becoming too serious while riding. It’s another sure-fire way to put some fun back into your rides.
Go for style over speed
There is a great trail here in town comprised of flowy clay singletrack with lots of rollers in the trail. If you pump the downside of the rollers, you can get some great speed and momentum on your ride. Riders can also launch off the rollers to get some good air as well.
I personally love doing the latter. It might not be as fast as pumping, but it sure looks cool. Roots in a trail are also a great feature to pop off during a ride. If you are riding with a partner, or part of a group ride, challenge the others to a bunny hop contest or see who can manual the longest. You might not get your fastest times by doing this, but it sure will put a smile on your face. And isn’t that what mountain biking is all about?
Do a ride in the dark
Think you know your local trails well? Try riding them at night. It’s a whole new world!
Night riding is a blast. Even the most familiar trails will look and feel completely different in the dark. Plus, you aren’t concerned about speed when night riding because your primary focus is staying on the trail without hitting anything.
If local regulations permit, grab your buddies, some good bike lights, and hit the trails when the sun goes down. You will feel like a kid again, exploring the unknown, and wondering what is around the next corner.
Having fun is what mountain biking is all about
While it is great to be competitive and challenge yourself, it is not healthy to do so at the expense of having fun. We have enough stress in our lives already. Why bring it to the trails? Mountain biking is one of the few platforms where it is acceptable for grown-ups to act like kids. Take advantage of it, and put some fun back into your rides.