Mountain biking is a complicated sport -- there can’t be any arguments there. Aside from the bike itself being a subtly nuanced machine, the sport itself is littered with potential potholes and slip-ups for riders of any experience level. We spend a lot of time on the so-called ‘major’ components of our ride. But, today, we’re looking at some of the most commonly overlooked pieces of a successful day out. That’s going to include everything from your crew to your shoes, so be sure to stick around -- you won’t want to miss this one.
When you’re seated on a mountain bike, you’ve got three points of contact with the machine -- your butt, your hands, and your feet. Particularly aggressive riders will likely spend most of their time standing up, at which point you’re reduced to just two contact points. Given that in mind, it’s hugely important to keep your feet properly equipped. You’ll see riders in Vans and even Chuck Taylors, but trust us -- for best results, you’ll want to splash the cash on some specialized mountain biking shoes.
Without your vision, you aren’t exactly in for a great time. Primarily, quality goggles will protect your eyes from dirt, snow, branches, and bugs. But, there are a few pieces of technology any good mountain biking goggle will feature as well. Vents to prevent fogging, polarized lenses, and a silicone-striped strap are all key features to a high-quality pair of mountain biking goggles.
Similar to the footwear issue, your hands are one of the three main points of contact between you and your bike. But, we’d argue that your hands have much more influence over the safety and quality of your ride than the other two (feet and butt). And as such, your gloves need to be up to the task. Good news: Dirt Gloves are just that. With a four-way stretch material that is equal parts robust and ergonomic, Dirt Gloves are the glove for total MTB optimization. Not to mention, they look cool as hell.
Not to get too ‘zen master’ on you guys, but having a clear, positive mindset is hugely underrated in mountain biking (and in life, but that’s another conversation). A sport as dangerous and fast-paced as mountain biking requires absolute clarity of thought for success. You can’t go into a trail thinking about your boss, your S/O, or the varied stresses of life. Further, don’t let the trail intimidate you -- take your rides one at a time. With a clear, confident mind, you’ll be able to better glide over and around any potential obstacles.
Diet makes a huge difference when it comes to any physical activity, mountain biking included. You don’t even need to make any huge, sweeping changes to your everyday life, but being conscious about what you’re eating on the day of a ride is huge. Don’t load up on simple sugars or processed foods before going out on the trails -- those heavy, artificial foods are typically going to weigh you down and reduce your overall performance. Carb loading the night before a ride is suggested by some -- fresh pasta with red sauce, for example. All in all though, make sure you’re eating clean before and during your rides to optimize your own performance.
Just like your diet, hydration is a hugely underrated performance enhancer when it comes to mountain biking. The market is flooded with sports drinks and energy beverages that all claim to optimize your body, or give you some chemically-induced boost. While the occasional pre-ride Red Bull isn’t going to ruin your day, it’s important to keep drinking WATER. Good ol’ fashioned WATER. A CambelBak-style hydration system is going to keep you going long after the effects of that Red Bull have worn away into nothingness. Our hot-take is to skip the pre-workout, energy drinks, and sugary Gatorade. Stick with water -- your body will thank you, in both the short and long term.
GET YOUR SLEEP! We know that there’s some kind of macho, anti-sleep mentality in today’s play-hard, work-hard culture, but it’s about time we ditched that. Doing a trail day with four hours of sleep isn’t doing you any favors. Despite what some may think, a lack of sleep is absolutely going to affect your performance on the trail -- not to mention your safety. Time after time, studies have shown significantly decreased motor function without a full night’s sleep. When you’re barreling down a trail at full speed, ‘decreased motor function’ isn’t something you want to add into that equation. Getting 8+ hours of sleep the night before a trail is going to do wonders for your overall mentality and performance.
Your Spare Parts
So often (too often, in fact), we’re willing to skimp out on our spare parts. Riders are often happy to bring low-quality versions of products as their spares, citing that they probably won’t get used anyways. If that’s a risk you feel like taking, so be it. But, when it comes time to bust out the spare and it’s a veritable hunk of junk...well, don’t say we didn’t warn ya. Keeping high-quality spare parts on hand is going to ease your mind and even encourage you to ride a little more aggressively. If you know you’ve got quality spares, you may be less inclined to ‘take it easy’ on the bike.
Last but not least, the people you bring with you are going to hugely impact your ride and your performance. Make sure you’re riding with a positive group of people that actively encourage and challenge one another. Although riding is an athletic pursuit, it’s also a great chance to hang out with the guys/girls. Make sure you’re riding with a group that you actually enjoy being around -- if you find that isn’t the case, consider attending some local MTB events to find a new crowd! With a challenging sport like mountain bike riding, it’s key to stay in a positive state of mind.