You may have noticed I like to encourage kids to get out on the mountain bike trails between the Cyclocross seasons. There are a lot of reasons for this.
Mountain biking, like CX, is excellent physical exercise. The challenges of even the smoothest flowing beginner trail raise our heart rate, warm our bodies, and enliven our brains. The close proximity of trees, the occasional rock garden, and the ever-changing condition of the ground challenge us to learn to handle our bikes confidently. Just about the time we recover, catch our breath, and cool off a little, another climb, switchback, or creek crossing builds our muscles, tunes our agility, and strengthens our overall fitness.
Along the way, our minds are reeling. Getting past the rush of riding a section that scares us brightens our view of the immediate world. Gripping the bar and riding with our hips behind the seat, we don't have time to stare at a screen or worry about social issues. Riding MTB means we are fully engaged. We are watching the trail ahead and trusting our bikes.
Physical activity that is mentally challenging opens doors to our hearts we may not expect. Great joy is found on MTB trails. We are physically and mentally wide open, and the natural surroundings are full of wonder and amazement—the real kind. The kind seen in full surround smelled with every breath and heard for miles. Outdoor surroundings empower us to abandon confinement, not only physically but emotionally.
Get yourself a mountain bike. They're handy! You can ride the trails and mountain bike through all kinds of front yards, living rooms, rooftops, ponds, and to school and back. You've seen the videos. Mountain bikes are fun! Get to know your bike and treat it like your CX bike, like your best friend.
Before you go to the trails, KNOW IF THE TRAIL IS OPEN. Do not ride MTB trails when they are closed due to moisture. Learn the trail rules and respect them. MTB trails also include signage, trail markers, and caution flags. Bring your brain when you mountain bike, or you could end up somewhere you didn't plan. When you arrive, practice as you do for CX. Wear your team kit or your D! colors. Learn to use a backpack made for cycling. Unlike a CX race, there is no wheel pit on MTB trails. You'll be carrying more food, water, tools, tubes, weather protection, and in some cases, bear spray. You'll have plenty of fun on the trail, but stay focused and leave the parking lot well-prepared.
Drop in and spread out. It's easy to get on a wheel on a single track. If the person in front of you knows the trail well, you'll find yourself pacing their wheel, watching it carefully, and making speed. That might be great in a race, but the rest of the time spread out. Look around. This is not your parents' family room. Nothing on the ground is consistent, no walls or ceilings and wild living creatures are everywhere. MTB trails host hundreds of animals. Like trail conditions, you should know the animal population and be ready. Venomous snakes don't like to be touched, a lot of cute small animals bite, and some animals found in the woods can trample or eat you to death. Know your trail conditions. Spread out, and stay alert.
While this all sounds a little intimidating, it might be if you let it. Don't. Love yourself and know your life is worth living out loud. Trust the outdoors to host you with open fields, narrow canyons, and wooded acres. Go! Don't overthink it. Walk out of the house and get to a trail. Lose the earbuds, look around, and experience the wild outdoors. You'll find yourself thriving and living a life many dream of.