Another 12 months have passed and with that, naturally, have come a lot of ups and downs – specifically though on hills and trails while riding a mountain bike.
But it’s now that time of year where we get to dream up a set of New Year’s resolutions to take us through to the end of 2020. Resolutions can be a great reminder that sometimes it’s nice to have a sit down and think about some things that you would just love to do, learn or see in your lifetime and in this case, on your bike.
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Here are just a few suggestions for mountain biking-related resolutions for 2020.
1. Go bikepacking
There’s nothing quite like waking up to watch the sunrise over your local hills, cooking up a pot of coffee and then setting off for a day of riding even deeper into the wild. There’s something deeply meditative and empowering about the whole experience. There’s no travelling to the trails to be done and no rush to get up to the hills before it gets busy; you’re already there.
It can seem like a pretty big leap to go from a few hours on the trails to fending for yourself for a whole weekend. But it’s a lot less daunting than it once was, with there being a lot of purpose-built gear for bikepacking on offer these days and loads of information online. Do your research, get all the equipment together and get outdoors. One trip will likely lead to another.
2. Learn the complete anatomy of a bicycle
So, you know how to fix a flat tyre, regularly pump up your wheels before riding to get that pressure just right and you even clean your bike and dry it properly after every ride. That puts you ahead of about 75 percent of other mountain bikers in terms of TLC.
But could you build a bike up from scratch? Do you really know what every single bit of your bike does, how it connects to the next, how to keep it in absolute tip-top shape and how to fix any given part should something go wrong? Learning all about your bike will not only help to keep your ride running smoothly and exactly how you like it, but it’ll probably save you quite a bit of cash as a result in the long run, too. Plus, if you do get into bike building, you’ve got a whole new hobby on your hands.
3. Try a different discipline of cycling
We understand it may sound like sacrilege to certain mountain bikers to suggest that they don some lycra and climb on a road bike, but there’s actually quite a bit mountain bikers could learn from their tarmac-based cousins – not least improving endurance, which will come in handy when you do get back onto the trails.
Even out on the trails though, there’s so much you can learn from switching up your riding patterns every now and then. If you’re a downhill fiend, then a bit of cross country won’t do your fitness levels any harm and you’ll end up seeing some beautiful scenery you won’t have come across before. Alternatively, if you’re a dedicated XC rider, a bit of time on the downhill trails could improve your bike handling skills. Cyclocross can be a good laugh too and a great way to keep your fitness up and weight down in winter, especially if you don’t mind eating substantial amounts of mud.
4. Compete in a mountain bike race
Competing in a bike race, whether cross-country, enduro, downhill or even pumptrack racing might not be for everyone. For a lot of people, the enjoyment of riding a mountain bike comes simply from getting out on two wheels, into the great outdoors and riding some trails surrounded by the beauty and silence of nature. But don’t knock competition until you’ve tried it.
They say that racing is something all regular mountain bikers should try at least once. If you hate it, never do it again. But if you love it, it could give you a whole new motivation in the sport and just because you start competing doesn’t mean you have to stop riding for fun, either – it just adds another side to your riding. You don’t have to be an amazing rider to compete; most races tend to be incredibly friendly and a lot of people will be there for the laugh and the buzz of it all rather than to try and grab a prize.
5. Ride abroad
If you were planning on going on a city break with your friends this summer, then why not look to get out to a bike park somewhere in Europe instead. It won’t be that much more money all in, plus you can rent a ride pretty cheaply for the day while you’re there to tackle some stunning new trails.
Not only does riding in another country feel like a proper cycling adventure, but it also challenges you to ride a completely different type of terrain, lets you know what your skills and weaknesses are on a bike and ultimately makes you a better rider. If you want to take your bike to even wilder destinations take a look at Rob Warner’s Wild Rides series for inspiration.
6. Build a mountain bike trail
You ride them every single time you get on your bike, so why not make 2020 the year that you finally get involved in trail maintenance?
The best way to do this is to get in contact with your local mountain biking community – often there is a Facebook group or equivalent – and ask how you can help. This will ensure you don’t start shovelling and accidentally disrupt someone else’s work or get in the way of other plans.
Not only does trail building help you get a better sense of how to ride features you build, but it’ll also develop your personal preferences and help you realise what features and styles of mountain biking you really love to ride. Once you know this, you can build more of it! And you’ll probably make a good few friends along the way. The dirt always feels better under your wheels when you’ve earned it.
7. Ride that trail
You know the trail we mean. It’s the trail that you’ve thought about riding half a dozen times. Maybe you’ve even ridden the majority of the thing a couple of times, but had to get off the bike and walk a few sections because you lost your nerve or things got a little too gnarly. Maybe there’s a big drop you’re not sure you can handle, or a jump section that feels just that bit out of reach.
Make 2020 the year that you ride that trail! It’s the perfect motivation to centre your riding on. Build up to it, practise on similar trails and on similar features until you’re really comfortable and confident and eventually you’ll be able to smash through the thing like a pro. Don’t rush it – you’ve got all year. Look at the segments you’re struggling on and target them with your practise. There are few things quite as rewarding as flowing through a trail that once felt beyond your skill level.
8. Get a new mate into mountain biking
Last but by no means least, make this year that you spread the bike love. Sure, you’ve probably already got friends that ride, but we’re betting that you also have some really good friends that love the outdoors, but probably couldn’t pick out a downhill track if they were standing on one.
Mountain biking can be quite a daunting thing to get into after a certain age if you don’t have someone to explain what the hell is going on. Get your friend on a bike – lend them an old one to start with, if you have one, or maybe get them to rent a bike from a local shop – and then take them up into the hills. Show them your favourite trail, the beautiful scenery and by the end of the year you could have a new favourite riding buddy. In fact, you could have made someone else’s year.