Craig Wisner

Thoughts on Mountain Biking

I’ve been interested in MTB packing lately, knowing many local trails will be closed to vehicle traffic soon.  The MTB would allow me to continue getting into some good spots this winter, away from crowds.  Another percieved advantage of MTB touring; time- being able to do large loops in a limited amount of time.  Given many of my trips need to fit into 24 hours, this could open some options.  Could…

I rode today for the first time in many months, if not over a year.  I left at about 9am and did a 10 mile loop from my house.  I started with Millard Canyon to the saddle below Brown Mtn., then turned back for the singletrack of El Prieto, finishing at JPL and riding home.

El Prieto canyon this morning.

Some observations from today’s ride:

  • Mountain biking is hectic, especially riding technical/semi-technical singletrack.  I’m not new to this, but it’s been a while.  It takes some getting used to the speed and reflexes necessary to not go down in a cloud of rock and dust.
  • This is such an easy way to really get hurt.  I rock climb, trail run, skateboard, and have generally never shied away from pursuits that involve physical risk.  But even when I was doing it a lot, mountain biking has always struck me as the easiest way to break one’s neck, especially when riding technical terrain.
  • Surprisingly, I didn’t ride that loop much faster than I can run it.  I did almost the same trip running a month ago and finished only 20 minutes slower.  I’d assume a greater time difference.  I can actually run uphill faster than I can bike it, especially in rougher sections.  Mountain biking (at least at my skill level) seem sto be a lot of stopping and starting, whereas running is steady, nonstop progress.
  • There was little time to think and take in my surroundings because so much mental energy is occupied with controlling the bike.

The last point concerns me the most; as I now recall, it’s probably the main reason I stopped mountain biking in the first place.   It seems that this morning I missed half of my surroundings.  I’m so focused on where my wheel is rolling and scanning the trail for obstacles that I’m not very present in other ways.  Running gives you time to look, think, feel.  Mountain biking is just one big blur, comparatively speaking.  There’s something lacking on a deeper level- the Connection wasn’t there today.  I think things were a little too cluttered to feel it- too much gear, too much noise, too much speed.

Is this the end?  No.  I still plan on using the MTB for some upcoming trips.  But I’m not sure I’ll be riding for the sake of riding anytime soon.  Leave it to my wife: as I’m voicing my reservations and concerns, she says “Those machines don’t belong in the mountains- too fast”.

Friday I run.  The plan is to do the 20 mile Mount Wilson loop.  Need to start putting in the miles in preparation for the upcoming season:  Cactus to Clouds loop (San Jacinto from the desert floor and back), Joshua Tree and the Grand Canyon R2R2R.

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