The Stoke is an occasional opinion series highlighting the things that get us stoked about mountain biking. 🤘 👍 👏 🙏
It seems like every mountain bike video opens with a car driving down the road. Viewers could be forgiven for thinking that mountain biking requires not just an off-road bicycle, but also a vehicle — preferably a pickup with a tailgate pad — to get to the trails. Fortunately a number of recent developments have made vehicles entirely optional for a lot of mountain bike rides, which has me — and possibly the planet too — feeling stoked.
In the olden days, there just weren’t a lot of sanctioned mountain bike trails available, which almost always meant short to long drives to the nearest trailhead. While there are a lot more trails to choose from today, the very definition of a mountain bike trail has shifted to include things like pump tracks, jump lines, and skills areas that are easily tucked into pocket parks located in neighborhoods anywhere. If there’s not a mountain bike spot within riding distance of your home right now, there’s a good chance someone in your community is working to change that. If not, you can be that person, ensuring that your regular drive to the trail shrinks to zero. Now more than ever before, communities are open to providing off-road biking facilities for residents of all ages.
Covid was a commute killer for many mountain bikers who swapped office life for working from home, and for those who decided to stop working altogether. As a result, many of us were freed to move about the country to places with better access to not just neighborhood trails, but epic mountain bike trail destinations. With internet connectivity reaching the far corners of our planet, it’s easier than ever before to live close to the trails where we ride. Taking things a step further, a growing legion of vanlifers are starting and ending their afternoon rides from beneath a vinyl awning, with a welcome mat that’s plopped down in a new spot every couple of weeks.
The increasing popularity of singletrack bikepacking is another step toward fewer car trips. With the right gear, riders can cover a tremendous amount of ground by pedal power alone. And if you’re already planning to ride a couple hundred miles on your bike, why not add on a few more and ride to the start of the route?
Not only have the trails come to us, and us to the trails, but even our bikes are encouraging us to skip the drive and ride to the ride. Newly popular gravel bikes roll to the trail easily with fast tires and big gears, and it turns out they’re still a lot of fun to ride on the trails too. There are still some haters out there, but even e-bikes have made it easier for mountain bikers to cut back on car commutes, speeding up the ride to the trail, and saving riders’ energy for the singletrack.
Now it’s true that not everyone has mountain bike trails that are close enough for them to ride to, or that it’s even worth the effort involved. One of my biggest challenges is finding the time to ride during the week. For me a good ride should include at least a couple hours of saddle time, plus there’s the time spent loading up, driving, and unloading everything, then doing it all in reverse. Adding an extra hour onto my rides for the commute often makes the difference between getting in a ride that day, and not. Rolling right from my house, on the other hand, opens up more time slots and opportunities for a ride. Plus it means one less car on the road, which benefits not just the planet, but also all of the other cyclists who might use city streets to get to the trail. Talk about a virtuous cycle!
Part of riding to the ride involves a change in mindset, which admittedly isn’t quick or easy to accomplish. Still, I’m stoked to have so many more options that making riding to the ride so much easier than it’s ever been.