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.
I have found that ditching the action camera, and forgetting about Strava, have both helped me enjoy riding more!
I may have to don that old early 90’s lycra lime green GS speed suit I used to wear when snowboard racing. Maybe head to Bachelor with it on. Thats the last place I wore it in a Pro AM race. I could NEVER keep a straight face when bike riding in that. I doubt anyone seeing me could either! People be all,,, WTH was that that just flew by????????
Seriously though, some Mt bikers are just too serious, maybe its the times we are in with busy busy lives and carving out a bit of time for a ride is hard for some and whey want to MAX the ride to the effect of misery. Im in it for the fun and exercise, and little adrenaline fix now and then.
I see a lot of people like that myself. The “hurry up and have fun” types who dart from here to there and are constantly in motion. That’s what inspired me to write the article. Mountain biking should be the last place to have that mentality. Just chill and soak in the moment.
Nice article. I tend to always wear fun t-shirts and loose-fitting shorts. Sometimes they match. Sometimes they don’t. 🙂
That’s the spirit.
“wearing tight jerseys and shorts for a prolonged period can cut off circulation to the part of the brain that makes us fun”…Best quote of the week 😉 I think what we see in mtn biking is a symptom of a larger problem in outdoor enthusiasts in general. It’s beyond “if it’s not on strava it didn’t happen”….you can’t hike up a mountain for the sake of the view and the enjoyment of experience, you have to “bag the peak”…COME ON PEOPLE. The reason most of us are outside is to escape the hyper competitive, comparison oriented, social media driven and frankly fake atmosphere of “real life”. But it seems like we take our problems with us….I can totally enjoy racing, but it’s not all a race. And nobody complains about PRS, but all of us will get older and slower as time goes on and if our speed (or even rad skills-something I am singularly lacking in) define us we’re in for a long, slow decline into frustration. I want to be like the 70 + YO folks I meet occasionally who are still having a ball, still exploring new areas, and still looking for challenges as time goes on, not depressed because somewhere on the planet there is someone (possibly riding an ebike and not admitting it but that is DIFFERENT gripe) who just took their QOM/KOM. GREAT article!
Very well said. I am lacking in the rad-skills department myself, but I’m still trying. For me, mountain biking is both an escape from reality and a cheap form of therapy. I live for each ride and try to enjoy every minute of them. Thanks for your comments. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.
I agree, mountain biking, like surfing, is about fun. The old surf saying is “The best surfer is the one having the most fun”, and for me it is the same on my bike.
Totally. My best rides are the ones where I’m relaxed and not focused on being fast or doing something epic.
I met a couple the other day riding in Dupont in NC and we rode Ridgeline together, their first time. At the end we were all smiling ear to ear (as I always am, esp on Ridgeline). Some guy finished right behind us and had some serious stoic face and the guy I was with said “if you come off that trail and you’re not smiling, you’ve done something wrong”. Amen, brother….Amen.