Obsession. That’s how most people view it. Many of us here at MTBVT spend 100+ days on a bike per year, and devote much of our time and resources to mountain biking. It can be expensive, it can be dangerous, and it takes a lot of our time. But in truth, it doesn’t feel like an obsession for any of us; rather it’s a lifestyle choice, and we all have quite a few reasons for why we bike. I checked in with Nate and Ryan and it turns out our reasons all overlap quite a bit.
Perhaps the most obvious benefit is that biking is, well, exercise. Mountain biking specifically gives you a good balance of cardio with a component of a full body workout if you’re riding aggressively. We all feel more energetic, stronger, and in better shape when we’ve been riding a lot. Nate says that “The more I ride, the better I feel physically. This results in me being a much more energetic family man, and more successful in my career as well.” But why not just go for a run to get in shape? “Show me the day that I can run off a rock drop, around a tight berm, and over a double at 25 mph, and I will buy some running shoes,” says Nate.
In addition to mountain biking’s physical benefits, all three of us felt like there were important mental benefits as well. Ryan noted “Fresh air, movement, endorphins and adrenaline are the perfect antidote to sedentary work life,” even going as far as to call it his “meditation.” Nate also notices: “To have my mind focused purely on riding forces all the other unimportant things to be secondary. It is in the saddle where I have realized my greatest moments of clarity.” I, too, feel that same clarity, and often my worries melt away while biking. In fact, there is actually science backing up these statements. There is well established research that exercise is a potent antidepressant, in addition to other benefits .
Problem Solving and Confidence Building
Perhaps what sets MTB apart for me from other cardio physical activities is that it engages my mind. I like that I forget that I’m breathing hard and sweating when I’m trying to navigate through a rock garden or hit a freeride feature. Especially when I’m riding with my buddies and we are all working together and pushing each other to clean a new feature. “Its feels amazing to be an old dog learning new tricks… There is nothing more empowering than cracking the code of a formerly impassable section of trail,” says Nate. Over time, skills build on each other, and all of a sudden, you’re able to ride technical features that a year ago, you would have never though passable on a bike.
I’ve never met a mountain biker that I don’t like. It’s a community of laid back, fun loving, outdoor loving individuals. In fact, almost all of us here at MTBVT didn’t know each other before and met through biking. “Biking has been the catalyst to meeting and collecting some of my favorite and most rare humans,” says Ryan. “Riding bikes is part of my community fabric. It bonds me to many of my dearest friends and gives us an opportunity to commune over riding again and again.” Nate, Ryan, and I also include our families in this, riding with our wives and our 10, 8, two 4 year olds, and a 3 year-old on a regular basis. “Its amazing to experience the sanctity of the forest, the adrenaline of the downhill park, and the adventure of an epic cross country ride with your closest friends and family,” says Nate. “These are often the experiences and people that are closest to my heart.”
How many of you have lived in one place for a few years and realized you barely know the area? I’m guilty of this. Once I started mountain biking, it became a catalyst to explore new areas. Vermont may be one of the top states where this is possible, with high quality, purpose built mountain biking trails to be found in just about every corner of the state. I’ve seen some of the prettiest parts of nature on my bike, and been outside on a bike when I never would have dreamed of being outside otherwise. I’ve seen owls perched beside the trail in the middle of the night, trees draped with mist and dripping with dew after a rainstorm just ended, and early morning vistas lit by early morning sunlight… all times I would not have been outside otherwise. All three of us have enjoyed trips focused on mountain biking in the last few years, including Iceland, Utah, Colorado, and many other states in New England. This constant assault of novel beauty is highly rewarding and refreshing, and perhaps my personal favorite reason for being on a mountain bike.