Robert Frost is great, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes you really need to travel on the path most traveled. Otherwise you’re kind of a jerk. And you might get killed. Or otherwise harmed.
You may remember from my old poem that I love bikes. Trek basically owns my soul at this point. They earned it. Yes—you will be seeing Trek gear reviews in the future, after this week’s installment of Women in Climbing…don’t even worry.
In mountain biking, you really need to stay on the trails. It’s better for your bike and the planet, not to mention it’s just safer for you as a human. Thus I have spent a lot of time on bike trails. For hours every week I pedal up and down rocky hills in the forest, constantly reminding myself that the burn is a good thing and that I probably won’t die and I have a helmet so at least the brain should make it out okay but my oh my that’s a big drop. Despite my countless hours out on the trails, and non-brushes with death because you know I walk my bike through the scary parts, there’s something I have yet to see: significant female representation on the trails.
I’ve been on trails in cities, suburbs, and the middle of nowhere. Nevertheless, perhaps my observations are inconsistent with the rest of the world. Assuming my observations are correct, I have yet to figure out why there is this disparity (unlike my findings in Women in Gyms), but I’m going to address my best guesses in the hopes that more people get to enjoy the fear and fun of mountain biking.
- Safety: There’s always an associated risk when people spend time in the forest alone (or even with others, for that matter). You have to know your local parks to assess for yourself where you’ll feel safe. However, to make you feel more secure, here are some tips to start:
- Carry your phone with you. If you run into trouble, you can call for help. You can also share your location with a friend while you’re out.
- Keep your bike in good condition and don’t bike a distance you couldn’t walk (unless you feel safe in that area). When your bike is happy, you won’t have to stop mid-trail. If you get a flat tire, you won’t have to rely on a stranger to help you out if you can walk back out of the park. However, in my experience, I have found other bikers, like climbers, to be very friendly and happy to stop their biking to make sure you’re safe and your bike is okay.
- Know your park and start small. Doing some research beforehand is good not only for respecting the land, but also to help you feel comfortable with the area. MTB Project is a must, and starting with shorter trails helps you get the hang of things quickly.
- Bike during the day and make sure you have light at all times. Daylight is helpful for seeing, but it is also when other bikers are out, and is generally accepted as safer. In case you get caught out during sunrise/sunset, make sure you have little LEDs on the front and back of your bike so you can see and others can see you.
- Bike seats aren’t as uncomfortable as they may seem. Some may take a little time to get used to, but if you give it time, it really is no problem at all. Additionally, while you may not have the balance to fully stand up on your bike when you are cycling over difficult terrain, you can simply engage your legs and hover, lifting yourself perhaps a quarter of an inch. I promise it works!
- Biking feels better on the joints than running. As you guys know, I’ve played numerous sports, most of which have caused me physical pain at one time or another. It’s hard to find fun cardio that you can do at any age/mobility/physical shape. Learn how to use your gears properly and you will probably find that the only other non-stationary cardio that could be better for your joints is swimming!
- Bike at your own pace. Even on tight single-track, there’s no pressure to be biking like a world champion. It’s totally cool to let people pass you on the trail and to walk your bike through parts for which you are not ready.
- Free, public parks are your friends! You can usually find trails that don’t require entrance fees. If you do encounter a park that does require an entrance fee, I still recommend doing your research beforehand so that it’s not a surprise when you get there.
- Bikes can be expensive. I can’t lie; getting a nice bike will cost a bit. However, even a cheap bike can get a lot done. If you still want a nice bike, buying a used nice bike will usually work out well. It might need a little help here and there, but it will likely still perform as intended. Lastly, you can try to get older models; of course the newer models are really cool, but really the older ones are often worth it for the price difference, as you usually won’t lose many features and the bike is still new.
- Storing bikes can be tricky. I like to keep my bike inside to keep it safe from theft and the elements, but of course you need space for that. Additionally, having a bike hitch can be pricey (especially if you don’t install it yourself). You can get around this by popping off a wheel or two, folding down the back seats in your car, and laying the bike in the back on its side. This does mean that you really couldn’t bring more than one friend with you, but it does save you some money and the trouble of taking a hitch on and off your car and storing that somewhere as well.
Mountain biking is one of the most freeing and “user-friendly” sports out there. The animals, trees, and fresh breeze are all there waiting for you. Now you just have to take the most traveled trail to them.
- This is entirely based off of my experience, so please fill in the gaps by commenting below!
- If you have any questions, feel free to comment or contact us by email or DMs.
- Be safe out there and enjoy the freedom the trails offer!
- This podcast guest and his wife are INCREDIBLE mountain bikers…take a listen!