Switch it up
Perhaps a bit of time spent in a different direction is what you need to keep things fresh. Here are five different types of bike you should think about.
For many people cross-training conjures up images of sweaty gym halls with a ruthless taskmaster making everyone grind away till they drop. Sure, taking part in other sports is probably good for your heath, but do those activities have to be a chore? Let’s have a look at a few that will not only improve your mountain bike time, but also give you a chance to work on other aspects of your physical and mental health that you never even knew needed attention.
Once you feel what it’s like to hammer up an impossibly steep hill while laughing your head off with your mates, you’ll be back for more. It’s not a replacement for your regular mountain bike – it’s something completely different. The harder you try, the more you’ll achieve. People that have never ridden them think they’re just for old folk or people with heart conditions. E-bike regulars know that in reality you can actually achieve twice what you normally could, and with steeper climbs! Hitting your favourite climbs at three times the speed is just one of the unexpected pleasures of embracing the future.
Pump track bike
This can also include BMX track, skatepark, and dirt jumps, as well as pump track. Once you get past the self-conscious shame of a fully grown adult having fun on a kids bike, any of these disciplines are a great way of improving your skill on a bike. As soon as you drop in and do a few laps you’ll realise just how physical riding one of these bikes is. Pick a time of the day where there’s no-one around and get involved. Pumptracks are popping up all over the place, and they are a brilliant way of working on skills that will transfer to your wider remit of better fluidity on trails. Remember and stay close to your bike, and push/pump with your legs not your arms. You’re not there to absorb the bumps. You’re there to push back into the heavy parts of the track and smile for miles.
While putting faster rolling tyres on your trail bike will let it roll with less resistance, riding a full on proper XC bike is a completely different discipline. Climbs will become just as exciting as the downs and the quick handling will keep you on your toes like never before. It’s like riding a knife edge everywhere you go. The lycra shorts and fancy disco slippers might look a bit cook if you’ve never tried them, but the faster and lighter you go the better you’ll perform. Cheaper than an e-bike and more robust than a gravel bike. This might be just the type of cross training you need to feel more confident on your trail bike.
Better tyre clearance and more robust components are adding to the ever increasing discipline of gravel bikes. If you rode mountain bikes back in the early 90’s then you’ve probably got a good idea of what you can expect, but taking away suspension, stability and control on steep gnarly trails and replacing it with speed, faster reaction times and massive, epic loops, is a whole world of adventure that you never even knew you needed. This is much more than a cross between road and MTB. It’s an adventure waiting to happen; allowing you to link up long stretches of road with a whole network of access paths and fire roads. Your boring linking path that you use to get to your normal spots will never have been so much fun and every root or turn in a path will come alive again.
While nowhere near the mountain bike in terms of quick hitting excitement, the road bike offers a completely different form of escapism. The key to a good road ride is the roads that you choose. Getting out of the busy city is often the worst part. Once you’re on quiet, twisty back roads or country lanes you’ll soon tune in to the slow burn of pacing yourself and taking on long term challenges like rolling hills or big milage milestones. Remember to eat and drink. Your energy levels will be like throwing down thread from a ball of string. Release too much of it at any one time and you might not have enough to get to the end. It can take a bit of practice, but pace yourself properly and you’ll have the satisfaction of riding like a hero all the way home.
Doing a day of uplift is a brilliant way of getting a whole different experience out of your normal bike. Heavier tyres and some extra padding might be all it takes to put a completely different spin on your regular set up. While riding to the top might give you a certain type of satisfaction, taking lift allows you to get so many more miles of descent that it becomes a completely different demand on your body. Your arms will be hanging, your legs burning, and your face sore from smiling. You can ride a different trail every time, or spend time practising specific parts of your technique on familiar territory. Whatever you chose to do, it will allow you time doing a slightly different activity while staying in familiar terrain.