10 things I wish I knew before becoming a mountain biker

I started mountain biking in 2012 at the ripe old age of 38. I won’t claim to be a know-it-all by any means, but here are my top 10 things I wish I knew before I started mountain biking (in no particular order).

  1. Even though you could ride a bike as a kid, doesn’t mean that you can ride as an adult. When you go on your first ride, don’t go all crazy fast right out of the gate. You’ll be out of breath VERY soon and wanting to puke your just-eaten hamburger on the side of the trail in front of your new friend (true story).
  2. You will need to learn how to eat to ride. Both on and off the bike. Nutrition is so important to any athlete. And it’s different for every person. What works for your buddy may not work for you.This is a huge challenge to me with my gut problems, and it even changes as the riding season progresses.
  3. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Strength is hard to build, but easy to lose. Stay active. You’ll notice the difference at the beginning of the season if you put in the work over the winter.
  4. Suspension gimmicks are no replacement for a actual bike suspension. Bouncy seat posts and other weird things exist. Some will like them. But if you are wanting a smooth ride, go full suspension. A good fork is WAY better than a cheap fork. Not only is an air fork lighter, but they work better. But don’t let a cheap fork stop you from riding (see #8).
  5. Yes, full suspension bikes are expensive, heavier and require more maintenance … but it is worth it. Ride longer and don’t feel so beat up. Your 40 year old back will thank you.
  6. Fat bikes are fun. Don’t over-think it. Get one for those weird days where you just want to ride and NOT go fast. They are great for riding with the kids.
  7. Just go clipless. It’s really not that scary. Even when you get used to it, you still will fall over randomly. Good stiff shoes make a difference.
  8. You don’t need an expensive bike to start mountain biking. Just start. Upgrade when the bug hits you. A shop once told me that I needed to spend a minimum of $1,500 on a bike to start. I walked out. Spent about $500 on a entry level bike. Rode the crap out of it and upgraded bits as I went. I learned how to adjust everything, and through upgrading, learned how to work on my bike.
  9. You’ll always want a new bike. – or you’ll be looking at ways to make your bike better. When you start, you have no idea what works or what doesn’t for you and your style of riding. Plus new and better equipment gets released. Do your research, ask questions, buy what seems right.
  10. Not only are there great physical benefits to riding, but there are also mental benefits. You’ll feel better. You’ll learn about yourself and your limits. You’ll get outside more. You’ll meet cool people.

So those are the big ones for me. I really wish I had started earlier, but looking back, it was the right time for me. Now get yourself on a bike. Find a trail. And ride.

Zoic T-Shirt Review

A good t-shirt can be so many different things: A memory, an identity, a statement, a function … I have so many t-shirts. Some I will never get rid of … old band T’s or the ones from my skate shop that I used to own. So at times it’s difficult to add new T’s to the army and retire the crusty ones.

A few years ago I purchased a Fox Tech T. It’s 60% cotton and 40% polyester. I’ve found that I don’t like 100% polyester jerseys to ride in. They either feel too hot in the heat, or too cold in the cold. This Fox Tech T came out unscathed after a crazy bad fall i had.

I’ve been a fan of Zoic since my first pair of Ether shorts when I first started riding. Since it was the beginning of the season, and I’m itching to get some new gear, I jumped on their site to see what T’s they had.

Two T’s jumped out for their design. And as a benefit, they are the same material blend that I like! Can’t go wrong!

The shirts feel and fit great. Tagless design so they aren’t itchy. The material blend is much softer than 100% cotton and absorbs sweat better. The fit for me was an athletic large. Meaning it’s a little slimmer than a normal large, but a bit longer too.

This year, Zoic has partnered with the MiSCA HV United Racing team my kids are on (which I’m helping coach). They are offering 20% off for our friends and family. Simply go to their site and enter promo code HVURFF20. When you do that, YOU get 20% off regular priced items and the HV United team gets a portion of the purchase price from Zoic!

So to recap … awesome T’s, awesome gear, 20% off, support kid’s mountain biking. Go now!

Snow, Mud, Puddles … Why Not?

Every once and a while, we here in Michigan get a random 50 degree day in the middle of winter and during the warm up of spring. March tends to hover in the 30s, so when the 50s show up the shorts come out and people go crazy … which leads to riders braving the local trails.

Michigan weather gave us a couple inches of snow a week back that has been slowly melting. Back in the woods, the snow has been sticking around. Out in the open, it’s a melty, muddy mess. But that is what fat bikes are for right?

Fellow “Dad on Dirt” Jake and I decided to give Island Lake State Park in Brighton, MI a try. It highly traveled through the entire year. The Blue loop is a little longer at around 9 miles, but tends to be a bit easier. We expected rough conditions so it seemed like the best route.

Its always funny to start a ride like this, when you are trying to take it easy through puddles and mud. At some point you stop caring and embrace the fact that you will be completely covered in dirt by the end of the ride.

After about a 1/2 mile or so we ran into a rider with a broken chain. He was on the side of the road that linked to trail sections and a fellow roadie was helping. I offered a quick link to fix it, but he had a 9 speed chain and these were 10. He ended up taking a couple links out and we said our “good luck”s and moved on. Right into a long clay-mud climb.

My chainring DID NOT like that. My small ring on the 2×9 developed constant chain suck. Which meant I was stuck using the bigger ring. This was going to be a tough ride.

We knew there is a little swimming pond coming up that we could rinse the clay-mud off.  The water was FREEZING. There was a dog there playing in the water. I can’t imagine how he tolerated it. I found a log that I could walk out on a couple feet and tried my best to rinse off my drive chain. It was clean, but still not working. The big ring was going to be the ticket today.

The rest of the ride was a weird combination of terrain. It would vary from leaf covered, to mud , to puddles, ice and 3 inches of loose snow. I’d say this was the most varied conditions I have ever ridden in.

We were in it for the long haul. Playing leap frog with a trail-runner (hats off to that guy!) The climbs were tough in the bigger chainring, but it was a good challenge for the beginning of the season. I was surprised at the number of hikers out on the trail. Lots of wet feet were in Michigan today!

By the time we got back to the trailhead we were covered in mud. Bikes were filthy and sounding horrible. It was going to take some work to get the bike back to working, but it was totally worth it. I load my dirty bike into the back of my car with the plan to stop by the power washer on the way home.