The Stoke for Easy Bike Rides

Cut the crap. Ride more. Get stoked.
Photo: Leah Barber

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.