Mountain biking is a great sport for thrills and chills. I presume you know the experience or are about to. Consider this blog an introductory ride. Most areas of Australia have great trails, even if you have to leave the city to find them. But as we know, the country is full of wide open spaces. I can go far and wide for new adventures. Meanwhile I train and get prepared to take on the best. I do it for recreation in the interim, often with friends.
The last time, we had an extraordinary time. Too bad it ended in a spill in the mud. It had rained the night before. I saturated my clothes and was covered in goo from head to toe. I wasn’t sure even a hot shower would do the job. It would have to be super long – and really tax the hot water heater and empty the tank. When I told my friend he laughed. “Our water heater is tankless!” he exclaimed. “What? Will there be any hot water when we hit your house?” Of course, silly. Tankless doesn’t mean no water. It produces what we need when we need it. Here, read more about it!” he said, as he shoved his phone in my face. “Really,” I questioned, fascinated.
He was right of course. There was plenty of water to make us squeaky clean. There is nothing like a cleansing spray of intense, hot water. And we didn’t run out as I feared. We then sat watching some biker videos and planned our next course. Always looking for a challenge, we called some friends and arranged a powwow to discuss options. In the next blog, I will recount where we went. Hopefully, there will be no mud—only white clouds and a blue sky on the horizon!
I used to run marathons. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and a lot of my friends were runners. I actually got to be pretty good at it. I didn’t so much like the running as the sense of accomplishment at the end. Finishing a run felt really good. I also liked pushing myself and improving my times. I ran races mostly for the swag. It didn’t so much matter what place I came in as long as I finished. I was way more interested in whether or not I was able to improve my personal stats. It also helped keep my beer gut in check and that made it worth continuing.
Then about five years ago, I got into an accident. I was running around my neighborhood and I was hit by a car. Totally the driver’s fault, but at least she stayed with me until help arrived. It wasn’t so bad, cuts and bruises mostly, but it did break my leg. That sort of sucked. It was just the way the car hit me, I guess. When I was doing the physio afterward, I had to ride a stationary bike. I hadn’t really thought much about biking before that and I realized I liked it.
I cleared it with my doc and got my own bike. Not a stationary one, the kind that I could take out and ride places: a mountain bike. The stationary bike was getting pretty boring. I started just around my neighborhood (avoiding cars, of course) and I liked that way better than the stationary bike. From there, I started going on trails near my place. I realized I could apply the same runner’s mentality I used to have to biking. I started researching trails and their difficulty. As I got more into it, I found different ways to track my stats, and the information was pretty comparable to the info I used to get from running. I am really into stats in case you did not know. It’s how I know I am improving.
The more I rode, the better my leg felt and the stronger it got. And I really, really liked it – which is more than I could say about running. It was work but it didn’t feel like work quite as much as running did. I got my running buddies into it, too. It became something that we could do together instead of running and that sort of fell by the wayside. Soon instead of marathons, we were riding in races. Nobody won anything right away but that was not the point. It was getting out into the nature, discovering places we had never seen before and had no real reason to be other than to ride.
Eventually I also got a dirt bike. It doesn’t give me as much of a workout as my mountain bike, but it certainly is a lot of fun to ride!
One thing I really want to try is the Great Vic ride. I want to do the longest one, which currently sits at 9 days and 541 km. It is on the pricier side – there is the ride itself, food, supplies, and all the gear that makes it financially intimidating. Nobody I know is actually concerned about the length of the ride. Whether they can handle that distance or not will remain to be seen, because unfortunately it has been hard to sway friends to come with me. While I am sure I would be fine doing it by myself, it would certainly be more fun with other people along. Maybe next year!
I know they offer shorter distances that significantly cut the price of the trip down. But it also significantly cuts down on the amount of riding you do. You also get less time in each place, which is a bit of a bummer. The 5-day ride starts with the riders who are going for the full 9 days and stops halfway through. The 3-day trip joins up with the 9-day crew toward the end of their ride. I just feel like if I am going to do the Great Vic, I want to do the whole thing, you know? I want to get the full experience! Of course, the ride won’t be exactly the same next year, but maybe it will be even better than this one.
This year it is going to start in Bright, right near a great craft brewery. That’s my kind of start to a ride! From there it will go all over the place. Riders get to go through a bunch of different towns — some known for their shops or history, others for their MTB friendly trails. You get plenty of time to explore the different places, too, as not every day is spent riding. It is also an incentive to get to each location quickly, I guess. You can eat at great restaurants, swim in local lakes, or brush up on your history at a museum. Plus you’re camping, which is cool.
The landscape changes along the route, which keeps the ride from getting monotonous. There’s hills and plains, farmland and rivers. You get to ride it all. The terrain can’t be too difficult, though, because they let kids ride it. The Great Vic is a great way to for me to see a part of the country I am not all that familiar with. I like the idea of a ride this long through a place I don’t know well. I have done some of my own riding around on trails and made sure I can hit those kinds of distances back-to-back the way the days were broken up. Now I just have to get the money and a friend or two to head out with and I’ll be set to go the next time.
So there was a trail I hadn’t been on yet, and I probably should have waited a couple more days so the trail would dry out a little more before I headed out on it. I figured I have done this a million times and I’d be fine. It should come as no surprise that I made a few mistakes thanks to my stupid attitude. I should have known better. Much better. But you know, it has been a bit since I was able to get out there and I was getting a little crazy. And when we get a little crazy, we make mistakes. Today my confidence got the better of me and I might be paying for it for a while.
Ok, you probably know where this story is going and it is not entirely pretty. So I’m taking the trail and it going fine and then I get to a patch that is a little more muddy than the rest, probably because it is more shaded than the rest of the trail so far. I misjudged a turn, like we all do from time to time. My back tire lost traction and when I tried to correct it, I skidded out a bit. There was a hill there and I got a little nervous because I was a bit close to the edge. Luckily, though, there was a tree there. I slammed into it and it stopped my momentum. On a normal day, slamming your knee into a tree is a huge bummer, but I will take that to careening down a hill just about any time.
In other good news, I managed to stay on my bike. Because I hit the tree with my own body and not my bike, there was not a whole lot of damage to my bike. That would have caused all kinds of issues. Hooray for that!
I managed to get myself off the trail and limped back to my car. It was slow going but I was not in any kind of rush so it did not matter to me when I got home. There were some other riders there just about to head out and they helped me get my bike strapped to my car and made sure I was OK. I told them sure, it looked worse than it really was. I actually didn’t know that at the time but they were looking a little nervous and so that sent them on their way. I have a first aid kit in the car to clean myself up with and it did look a little better after that.
I drove home carefully because it had really started to hurt. I got myself in the house and now I’m sitting here with some ice on my knee, a match on TV and a beer. I am going to convince my roommate to grab dinner tonight and I’ll be all set. We’ll see how my knee feels in the morning. It is just bruised up and scraped on the one side, so I doubt it is a big deal.
If you want to get healthier, there is nothing better than biking. It is excellent for cardiovascular exercise and to strengthen muscle. You have to do it right, though. You need to have a plan. You may think that because you already know how to ride a bike, it is just a matter of going farther and faster. That is actually a recipe for injury.
First, you need to be smart. Set up a training regimen or find one online. Have a plan for what you want to accomplish, whether that is weight loss or to ride for a certain length of time or a specific distance. You want to start out at the level you are already at, then gradually work your way up to the place you want to be. You don’t need to go from four miles a day to 15 in a week, and you shouldn’t. You can set a high goal for yourself, but add realistic benchmarks along the way.
Second, if you really want to improve, you need to increase your intensity. There is a difference between going three km on an easy ride for thirty minutes, or if you take the same amount of time and go twice as far. The best way to track these things are by using an accelerometer and a gps so that you can measure your workouts.
Another thing you need to be is consistent. You must regularly work your muscles in order to improve or you will be wasting your time. Unfortunately, it is a lot easier to lose fitness than it is to gain. It can be a slog but stick with it to achieve your goals. Especially if you are training on your own, it can be hard to find the motivation. Giving yourself small rewards like some new gear when you hit benchmarks can really help you get where you want to be.
One thing people overlook, which seems a little contradictory to the paragraph above, is rest. If you do a hard day, it needs to be followed by an easier day. Recovery is actually part of the best training regimens. If even your easy days are high enough intensity, you will be going into your harder days more tired than you need to be.
Before I go, I want to relay one more thing, because doing that stuff is not all you have to do. You also need to have the right gear – if you don’t know what type of bike you should be riding or if it is adjusted properly to your height, spend some time at a bike shop. You also need to maintain your bike properly – make sure everything is tightened and that everything works the way it should before every ride. Keep it clean and oiled properly. You also need to wear the appropriate safety equipment. Take care of your equipment and it will faithfully help you reach your goals!
While I like riding my mountain bike a lot and that’s primarily what I do, I am also a fan of dirt bikes. It is all the fun of riding a bike but without nearly as much physical effort.There are some other differences, though.
For example, dirt bikes can potentially be more damaging to the area you’re riding. There has been a smart push toward eco-friendly dirt bike riding. Personally, I make sure that dirt bikes are actually permitted on the trails I want to ride because I don’t want to scare off wildlife or run over some rare plant by accident. Some places allow both mountain and dirt bikes and some places are strictly one or the other. So it really depends on what you’re into and where you feel like going. I usually prefer tracks and moto parks to nature trails, which is sort of the opposite of the way I like to ride my mountain bike. To each his own, though. You might want to see some farmland or some plains zip by as you ride. You can just do what I do, poke around online for a bit and you’re sure to find a place that will fit your needs. There certainly are a lot of places to go, so no worries there.
I find that I wear more protective gear when riding a dirt bike. That’s just common sense. The faster you’re capable of going, the more damage you can do to yourself if you crash. I’ll ride my mountain bike with shorts on without thinking twice about it, but I would much rather have my full legs covered while on the dirt bike. I also have a better helmet for that bike. I want a helmet cam for it. Maybe one day.
I also have insurance for my dirt bike. It was a bit of a pain and I certainly had to look around to find somebody to do it. Not every company does the same way they have motorcycle insurance, and not every company supplies insurance that is actually worth anything. Again, it is a speed thing. I am way more likely to destroy my dirt bike if I wipe out on it than on my mountain bike. I haven’t had to use it yet but it is nice to have.
I have a bit less of an understanding on all the parts to my dirt bike, as there is a lot more of them than my mountain bike. Therefore my mountain bike is much easier for me to work on by myself. I’ve got to take the dirt bike to a mechanic if something is wrong and it is not very obvious right away what it is. I am gradually learning how to take the thing apart and put it back together like I can with my mountain bike, but I am not quite to the point where I know everything yet.
What about you? Do you have a preference between mountain and dirt bikes?