New Year, new stuff to do. Here are twelve things you should do this year. Yep, that works out at one a month. Handy that. Get planning!
1. Clear out a trail
We all have that trail – or section of trail – that has gone a bit wrong over time. Maybe the destruction and debris from last year’s crazy winter rains are still messing up the trail’s flow. Take twenty minutes or so to stop and have a go at sorting it all out. Have a think before you head out if you’re likely to need any tools (folding saw/spade, gardening gloves, pruning shears etc).
If you want to go one better, then search out your local trail advocacy and/or maintenance crew and get involved.
2. Get fitter
The classic New Year resolution. It’s either get fit or lose weight – usually both. Except in mountain biking that is. Why is fitness such a taboo subject in mountain biking? Partly it’s because most mountain bikers ride bikes for fun more than they do it for fiutness or weight loss reasons. But it’s also because mountain biking is the best form of exercise already so it’s hard to improve on what we’re already doing!
Want to get fitter? Just ride more frequently and ride further. Easier said than done but it is arguably as simple as that.
3. Learn to how set up your suspension properly for once
If you have spent money on suspension then you should set it up properly. Badly set up suspension is often worse than having no suspension at all, as it makes for an unpredictably behaving bike that is hard to control. At the very least take time to learn how to set your sag. Better still, learn how to set up mountain bike suspension in all its forms. Realistically it will take around an hour. Not a quick fettle in the car park before the ride starts. Allocate yourself one hour, get all your equipment (a shock pump, a tape measure, a phone for jotting down your pressures/clicks and your riding kit) and get yourself set for the whole year.
4. Go on a ferry ride
In recent years we’ve noticed a boom in ace trail centres situated off the UK mainland (or at least best accessed via a ferry). Northern Ireland is the obvious choice for a long weekend over the water (that’s Rostrevor in the photo above). But there’s also the enduro-racers’ secret Dunoon that involves a quick ferry hop and can be easily included in your annual trip to the 7stanes centres.
5. Go for a ride without recording it
No need to do anything rash like leaving your phone at home (you’ll only end up having a huge mechanical/crash and needing to contact someone). Go for a ride and don’t switch on Strava. Don’t take any Instabangers. Don’t reply to any texts. Just ride and remind yourself why you mountain bike in the first place.
6. Enter a local race
Local races need your support. They’re usually significantly cheaper than a national enduro series. It’s even worth doing something crazy like entering a trad XC race if it’s on your doorstep. Minimal travel. Minimal time away from home. Family may even be tempted to watch and support/heckle. They may not be technically be ‘fun’ but they’re rarely regretted. Everyone needs their riding mettle tested now and then.
7. Walk or run somewhere you normally ride
This can be good for a few reasons. Firstly, it gives you a new outlook on an over familiar area. Secondly, it exercises parts of the body – and mind – that aren’t much touched by mountain biking. Thirdly, you may well stumble across new trails or new ways of putting existing trails together.
8. Do your longest ever ride
Ever done a 50km? How about a 75km? Having a long-distance riding goal is much more exciting than having a race or event as a goal. There are plenty of prescribed and waymarked long-distance routes out there these days if you don’t fancy the task of creating your own and/or want to cut down on navigational hassle during the ride.
9. Navigate your way around a new route
This could be part of #8 above but it’s worth putting in as its own thing too. Basically, stop just riding trail centres and the same few natural routes you know. Pick a brand new (to you) route and navigate your way around it. In the age of the smartphone, navigating is easier than ever (just keep an eye on your battery life).
10. Clear out your bike clutter
Take it to a cycle recycle place. Or if you can’t find such a place, find out about your nearest bike jumble and get rid. Someone will be very glad of the parts that are currently just stopping you sorting out your garage/shed/cellar.
11. Sell that old 26in wheel frame
A specific addendum to the above. Get shot of that old 26″ frame/pile-of-bits you have cluttering up the place. You’re never going to fix it up into a hackbike or commuter and ride the thing. You would have done it by now wouldn’t you?
12. Find your first ever mountain bike
In a complete about-face to the de-cluttering activity mentioned above(!) use next winter’s darker months to trawl eBay or Gumtree etc to find a model of whatever was your first ever proper mountain bike.
You’ll get extra pointlessness points if you’re old enough to look for your first ever BMX.