Choosing a Mountain Bike, with Matt MacDonald
A branch snapped. The man’s head whipped to the right to see what caused it. He could hear – but not see – the creature in the bush. Rustling leaves, twigs, shuffling – something was in there. A little black nose poked through, but then quickly disappeared. He decided to press on. With an adjustment of his glasses, a long tug from his waterpack, and a squint at the sun, he continued along the trail…
Have you ever been lost in the woods? Or perhaps, not so much lost, but purposefully set out to spend time away from paved roads, crowds and buildings? Those who have embraced the sport of mountain biking know that your thoughts take on new directions when you hit the trails. No two rides are ever the same. You notice new landscape, make different decisions, and each ride has a pulse of its own. People who mountain bike see things that no one else gets to see.
Matt McDonald is one of those people. Matt works at Cyclepath Kelowna serving riders of all skill levels. He especially enjoys serving clients who share his passion – mountain biking. When someone comes in looking for a new bike, Matt’s first question is always:
“Where do you see yourself riding this bike?”
The answer to that question dictates the place to begin in selecting a new bike.
Generally, people fall into 1 of 3 camps:
- People who envision themselves heading into nature, off the paved streets – on trails or greenways;
- People who plan to do a mix of cross-country trail riding with some ascent / descent on mountains; or
- Those who have no fear of the gravitational pull that comes from taking a chairlift to the top of a mountain and letting loose as they navigate down at faster speeds.
What makes a mountain bike different from other types of bikes available? The frame, suspension and tires are designed for rough, off-road riding. Within the mountain bike class, different suspension options, tires, gear combinations and frames are put together based on the skill level of the rider and, of course, where he/she plans to ride.
Matt said that as soon as a person can ride a bike, he/she can start mountain biking. Because Kelowna has so many different off-road trail options as well as the tough mountain terrain, you don’t have to look far to find a place that fits your skill level.
Newer riders and younger riders should gradually build their stamina and confidence before tackling aggressive descents. Cross-training your mountain biking activities with an aerobic exercise is helpful because mountain biking is an anaerobic activity. This means your body requires a lot of energy in short bursts, without the availability of oxygen. The energy demands on your body exceed the capabilities of your aerobic system alone, so your anaerobic energy system must kick in.
Riding Solo or +1 or +2 or +10
Matt advised that other mountain bike equipment to plan for includes a helmet, full-fingered gloves, hydration pack, pumps and tubes. For longer rides, consider having a nutrition bar or two in your pack. A cell phone is another useful piece of equipment. If you plan to ride, you should plan to fall, and sometimes the falls can be nasty – the phone might come in handy. (Riding with a friend is a good idea in the back country!)However, if you stick to trails that match your skills, you’ll be in good shape.
One of Matt’s favorite aspects of the sport is the camaraderie built among friends as you enjoy nature and feel the burn of an intense workout together. So, a “friend” is also an ideal item for your equipment list. Meet some new ones on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/cyclepathkelowna
Cyclepath offers group rides to help you out. Cyclepath’s rides are ideal for riders who know their limits and have a pretty good cardio base. Check out some of our group rides here: http://www.cyclepathkelowna.com/riding/shop-rides/
If you could only have one bike…
Matt believes that a mountain bike offers the most versatility. Bike manufacturers, like Giant, continue to evolve bike components to address new techniques and rider demands. Over the past 5 years, a 29” wheel has become desirable because it is easier for the recreational rider in climbing and biking over things. It also makes the mountain bike a bit easier for times you need to be on the road.
Coming back to the question, “Where do you envision yourself riding?” is the place to begin. Then, take your answer to Cyclepath and let Matt, or another one of Cyclepath’s knowledgeable and passionate staff members, hook you up with the right gear to make that vision a reality.