Over a Beer: For Me, Riding Isn’t About Fitness. It’s About Adventure

For Greg, mountain biking -- and cycling in general -- isn't motivated by fitness. Instead, it's motivated by adventure.

Adventuring close to home on an overnight bikepacking trip. Rider: Neil Beltchenko

Editor’s Note: “Over a Beer” is a regular column written by Greg Heil. While Greg is the Editor in Chief for Singletracks.com, any opinions expressed in this column are his alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Singletracks.com.

I’ve spent many hours working out, pumping weights in gyms. I’ve spent hours trying to enjoy riding on the trainer… and failing. I still work out in the gym on occasion and spend hours on my bike trainer, but mostly–mostly these things happen when I’m recovering from an injury or doing strategic work to prevent injury.

Generally, when I think about working out indoors, in a gym, the reason for doing so is fitness. If you want to stay fit, slogging out hours in the gym–especially over the winter when it’s cold, dark, and wet so much of the time–is of paramount importance.

The thing is, I’ve never been truly motivated by fitness. Becoming fit, looking a certain way, getting or staying “in shape,” has never been something that drives me. I just can’t make myself care enough.

What I do think I care about–and get a little annoyed by–is when I get into a conversation with someone about mountain biking and they assume the primary reason that I ride is fitness. To stay in shape. To remain healthy and continue looking a certain way.

That’s not me.

Rather, the reason I mountain bike is for the adventure.

It’s always been about adventure, from day 1.

Adventuring in the Spanish Pyrenees

Mountain biking–and even cycling on the road, or doing other mountain sports–has always served as a vehicle for exploration, for seeing and experiencing new places, or old places in a different way. The thing that drives me to get out on my bike is to discover what’s around the next corner, around the next bend.

If you walk into my house in the evening unannounced, especially on a Friday night, don’t be surprised to find me in the living room, with maps spread across the floor. I might have my laptop open to a Singletracks.com trail map. I’ll be envisioning daring routes, connecting roads, trails, and possibly animal paths in such an unconventional way that maybe, nobody has traveled just such a route before.

I’m planning my next big adventure, or the adventure after that.

I want to see what’s out there, in these blank spots on the map that I have not yet visited. I want to see what the view from the top of that mountain looks like, what’s hidden down in this canyon, and hey, is this trail over here actually rideable? If not, we may end up hiking the entire way.

Adventuring in the Swiss Alps.

Right now, I’m not doing any serious adventuring as I rehab yet again from surgery. But just a few weeks ago I got back on the bike, and the glorious sensation of moving quickly through the outside world took my breath away. And I realized: I can have an adventure even on roads and trails that I’ve pedaled many times before, because the ride is never the same.

Different times of day, different seasons of the year, seeing different animals and people, the effects of the weather patterns–our natural world is constantly changing and transforming around us, making every single ride a new adventure, even if we’ve pedaled the same trail a hundred times before.

Alright, confession time: I have done rides where fitness was my primary motivator. I may have even written a few fitness-oriented articles for Singletracks, although I think they’re few and far between. So what role does fitness play, then? Why would I do such a thing after all this talk of adventure?

It’s a simple formula: more fitness = more time spent adventuring.

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