Summer is near and those coveted weekends are precious. There’s a lot going on, and you may wonder if a mountain biking road trip is worth the time, effort, and money to go beyond your local trails.
A road trip is more than a bike ride, it’s an experience, and one you should do at least once during the summer. If you’re on the fence, here are five reasons why it’s worth the price of gas, motel rooms, campground fees, and hours staring at the stickered-end of motorhomes.
1. Mountain biking happens in cool place
Listen to the sound of these towns and think about the visions they conjure in your head: Park City, Durango, Sun Valley, Oakridge, Helena, Downieville (and I’m sure there are lots of cool places in the East, I’m just a Westerner). It’s like a who’s who of cool places where there’s typically more than mountain biking despite their reputations as destinations for bikers.
While those are can’t-miss destinations, don’t feel like you have to head down these well-worn paths to find great riding. One of the cool things about road trips is discovery, and great trails are spread all across this wonderful nation. There’s no shortage of trail information. You don’t even have to leave this website to find some awesome trails and intel about them.
Then there are guided mountain bike trips, shuttle rides, and lift-served mountain biking available in many places. You probably won’t have those options if you stay on your local trails. Time to branch out, or return to some of your old favorites that you haven’t ridden for a while.
2. The trails are different than what you’re used to riding
I live in Boise, Idaho (also a good destination), and there are more than 200 miles of trails within an hour’s drive of my house. But even within my own state, trails are dramatically different from place to place, and sometimes you want to trade your brown dirt for tan dirt, or tan dirt for red dirt.
New trails often make you dust off skills you haven’t used in a while, or learn new ones, which might remove you from your comfort zone. You may also get to work on your route-finding skills. Even in well-mapped and well-marked areas, you may take a little unplanned detour. It’s all part of the fun of discovery.
Push yourself a little and appreciate how the trails are different than what you normally ride. Don’t feel pressure to ride every trail perfectly. Appreciate being out of your element, and don’t be surprised later if you miss the terrain that freaked you out a little.
3. It’s about more than riding
Even if you’re in great shape, 6-8 hours of riding per day is probably pretty good, and for many of us, half that is plenty. Excluding sleep, that gives you 10-plus hours to do other things. Head to a lake or river and cool off after your ride, check out the local sights, eat big, hearty meals at the brew pub. Belly up to the bar and shoot the shit with the locals.
Cook a big meal at camp, then lay around in a food coma and watch the sunset over a lake, or behind the mountains. Build a campfire and stare at the stars. Get up early and catch a trout before breakfast, or just sleep ridiculously late and don’t feel guilty about it.
Of course you will ride, and it will be awesome, just don’t be so hyper focuses on riding that you overlook other opportunities. Savor the whole mountain experience (even if you’re in the desert).
Life is hectic.
How often has this happened to you? You rush to get your gear together for an evening or weekend ride, pump up the tires, and fight traffic driving to a trailhead to meet your riding buddies. Sometimes it’s so stressful it almost seems like work, and by the time you get home, you’re as mentally tired as you are physically.
Road trips allow you to take things at a slower pace. Your day revolves around one thing – riding – and you probably won’t be on a tight schedule. Take life as it comes, and enjoy moments like you’re cashing in chips from a winning hand.
5. Make tracks and memories
A road trip is about more than a drive and a ride, it’s something that will make you smile when you look back on it years later. You might also start an annual tradition that you can build on, where the tribe grows each year and some rides become old favorites and others, epic goals to achieve.
A good road trip may also make you curious about more places, and you might find yourself scouring the depths of the Internet for some exotic and mysterious place that’s beyond the usual travel brochures.
None of this can happen if you don’t get started. Summer only lasts for 12 weekends, and remember, “one of these days” never seems to arrive.