The Stoke is an occasional opinion series highlighting the things that get us stoked about mountain biking. 🤘 👍 👏 🙏
I’ve got no problem pushing myself to ride hard, but I hate when it’s hard to go for a ride. So, I’ve been working to make it simple and easy to hop on a bike anytime, and I’m stoked to say I’ve never had more fun (and more time) in the saddle.
Like a lot of mountain bikers I went through an evolution that went something like this: start out owning just the basic level of equipment (a helmet, a pair of gym shorts, and a water bottle), then start accumulating all the “stuff.” There were gloves to make my hands comfortable, a chamois to keep my butt happy, tech jerseys and shorts to wick something or other, and stiff riding shoes to maximize every pedal stroke. I got the biggest hydration pack I could find and promptly filled it with a mini tool, pump, tubes, and special snacks that tasted sorta gross but that I was convinced were essential.
And then somewhere along the way, perhaps not coincidentally, I started to dread going for a ride.
With all that equipment, there was so much to remember, wash, repair, and restock before heading out the door. I found myself forgetting things; one time it was a helmet, the next time it was my shoes. Driving up to the trailhead and realizing you can’t ride is like showing up for a test you forgot to study for. It’s a mistake you vow to never make again, which leads to even more stress and pressure for every ride after that.
So one day, I decided to ditch every piece of equipment that I could.
The hydration pack was the first to go. I always found riding with a pack uncomfortable anyway, so I switched to water bottles and stash tools. I found a set of grips that felt good without gloves and embraced everyday athleisure-wear to make sure I’d always be ready to ride. Admittedly it was scary to step away from the chamois so I started riding without one on short rides then worked my way up to ever longer days in the saddle. I haven’t made the switch to flat pedals yet, but once I do, the only thing I’ll need to grab before a ride is a helmet and a drink.
Famed architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe adopted the concept of less is more when it comes to design, and I think the same is true about mountain biking: less stuff means more riding. We already have life responsibilities that keep us from biking as much as we would like, and being able to ride at a moment’s notice is like a super power, or at the very least, a useful hack.
As we all know, the mountain biking flow state can be elusive. Like a drug, it’s sooo good when it’s good, and worth nearly any price to attain. The irony is that the less we spend in terms of time and mental energy to get ourselves on the trail, the easier it is to find flow. Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher once said, “Clarity of mind means clarity of passion, too.” Or to paraphrase the Notorious B.I.G., more gear, more problems.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love the feel of a high quality chamois and a pair broken-in gloves. But I don’t need those things to have a great ride. Right now, my stoke comes from just being on the trail.
Jeff, what’s with that expression? You’re on a bike in the woods, for heaven’s sake!!
Frankly, if I were to make riding my bike… It would be a bloody chore! Chores suck and bikes are the best.
My favorite is equipped with a one speed automatic transmission and towing package brakes! That bike has been my therapist, going through cancer treatment. Now that same bike is my physical therapist as I recover from that treatment.
A simple singletrack, my singlespeed with those lovely 3.0’s, it’s all good. Doesn’t have to be complicated, just a fun ride in the forest on a fun, fast paced singletrack. Time to play bikes and have a good time!
Jeff, my friend, that pic shows some fine singletrack for a pedalfest regardless of how under/overbiked an onlooker is likely to think we are.
SWEET RIDE!!! Seems like RSD is doing things right.
That’s my concentration face. Those Klunkers are fun to ride, but today’s bikes require even less effort. 🙂
When I first started riding, I struggled with all the “stuff” and forgetting things too. Today (10 years later), I still ride with a pack. The way I keep it simple is to keep the pack ready to go at all times with everything in it (e.g. gloves, multi-tool, pump, helmet attached, power bars, etc., etc.). I carry the same things for every ride whether it’s an hour and a half ride or a 30-40 mile backcountry ride. The only difference is how much water and food I bring. I keep my pack in the truck all the time. So it’s always there ready to go, like a trusted friend. It has saved me and others many a times on the trail. My check list for leaving the house is three Ws and my phone. The Ws are water, watch, wallet (and the phone). That’s it. Good to go (!!!) and find the stoke!!!
I don’t need all that stuff for a great ride. Turns out I do need it for a great fall, though. The ground is pretty hostile here with lots of big rocks to bruise bodies and break bones. And where there aren’t big rocks, there are lots of little sharp, tiny ones that grind flesh as you slide down the trail. I’ve lost enough blood riding that a soil sample from most trail networks here would likely come back positive for my DNA. So gloves, helmet, knee pads are the minimum I take to my most frequently ridden, nearby trails. Besides that though, just a multi tool and bottle.
This reminds me of an old joke about beginner paintballer, experience, and advanced. The advanced and beginner looked exactly the same. I literally went through all that. After playing for 20 years my equipment and paint for a days play fit into my goggle bag (stock class Phantom pistol, 100 rounds paint, a few 12 grams and 10 round tubes). Keep it simple. I have to ride and e-bike these days because I’m disabled but that also means I can put whatever equipment I need on the bike itself and the weight doesn’t matter. Usually just an extra tube, patch kit, lights and water bottle.
I’ve scaled back gear/padding on familiar group rides. Also riding my SS HT more than my FS. Still kit up for longer, faster, technical rides.
I can’t get enough of singlespeed through the forested trails.
Agree. The point of riding is to ride and get some exercise. I have a road and MTB Klein, but also have a beach investment property with Electra beach bike at (don’t make anymore or would link) 29*2.125, single speed, knobbly-ish tires. I ride on the beach, but work had a charity who could exercise the most – came second, riding a mix of road and beach before dawn. In many ways more fun than the good bikes…
Yes! So, so true.
My own journey has gone from a BMX in the 80s (Tshirt, surf trunks that were way too short and vans) to a fully rigid MTB in the 90s (camelback and spandex), to two full suspensions including a sweet Yeti (baggy enduro set up and pads) back to a singlespeed. I’ve been on the singlespeed bike for years now and never looking back! Ditched the camelback years ago and now my kit lives in the van in a little bag. Super easy to go for a quick ride!
I support you on this, but I have simplified by having a go bag, which is just my oversized hydration pack with all the essentials in it, or latched to it.
I don’t even own MTB shorts. I just have “shorts” that I wear to bike, run, lift weights, swim, go to the store, etc. If it’s a long ride, I do have a couple of nice liners.
Tech shirts are a nice option. But not really necessary.
I love this. I too have forgotten things for a ride and its a killer. I have downgraded to a simple fanny pack with very light essential tools, no more chamois (for less than 2 hour rides) and a water bottle (or 2). My review of that Funn Adlib HD saddle mentioned it was good with no chamois and that is still VERY true. I enjoy it more than ever on my new hardtail.
Having a bike with flat pedals ready to go is the best, especially a hardtail with tires that are hard enough to go on pavement.