Helping a Friend get into Mountain Biking

Mountain biking, sure its more addictive than crack and a little more pricey too (hmmm… there has to be a Rob Ford joke in there somewhere).

Recently one of my friends, who rode a really long time ago (as in pre disc brakes) decided that he wanted to get back into biking and I wound up being his guide in terms of the whole process of getting into mountain biking.

So first most basic piece of kit, the bike.  Wheel size is always an issue, but really pick whatever you want in my opinion they all work, they are all fun… just depending on your point of view some are more fun than others for certain things… and no I don’t want to wade in on that debate.

Second basic question – a bike with a front fork or full suspension, over the years i’ve gotten a few people into riding and i’m of the view that you should, if you think your going to ride a lot get a full-suspension bike, eventually you’ll want one.

Next, the most essential pieces of kit; a good lid, gloves, pedals that are better than what comes with the bike and a set of 5.10 shoes.  The 5.10 shoe is, at least on the coast one of the few pieces of ubiquitous kit. Originally 5.10 started out making climbing shoes, 5.10 being the grade of rock climb were someone can really start to consider themselves a rock climber…. (note I’ve never been consistently able to pull off a 5.10, i often crap out on a 5.9).  5.10 shoes are comfy and generally stick to a set of Straightline pedals almost as well as an SPD setup with he added bonus of a reasonably stiff sole.

The stiff sole comes in handy if you happen to dab on a high speed run, the photos below are what can happen if you are riding in shoes not made for the abuse that mountain biking can dish out.

Last piece is self sufficiency, you can get away with a water bottle, but at some point you need to just grab a pack (Camelback, Dakine, Evoc, etc) and get tools and tubes to be self-sufficient, but having a buddy like me that is always uber-prepared allows you to defer that.

Alright – so all kitted out and a few thousand dollars poorer, the next question is where to ride?

Living on Vancouver Island, there is a wide array of different areas to ride with varying distances from town, levels of cardio and technical challenge.

So what trails to take someone on a ride?

I think there are some good intro to MTB rules:

  1. Take them to an area with good signage, they will no doubt come back alone and nothing worse that getting lost if its rainy and cold and they’ve perhaps hurt themselves.
  2. Closer to town is better than farther, mountain biking will become a good habit if you get to do it more regularly and humans are pretty frickin’ lazy so close is better.
  3. Fun Trails.
  4. Limited grind up, singletrack up if you can find it.

#3 Is perhaps the most controversial and here I am going to wade into a pretty heavy controversy, as what defines a fun trail?My perspective is that a fun trail, especially for a beginner is a flowy fast trail, that still has a few challenges on it but never hits that “oh god I might die” moment.

Green trails in most parks are pointless, and “blue” trails a lot of times aren’t that fun – note blue trails in Revelstoke are freaking awesome…. (Frisbee Ridge is technically a blue)

So in my local area my buddy left to his own devices has found his favorite trail, and the name for some of my old school brethren might surprise some.  His favorite trail is “Who’s Your Daddy.”

When I first started riding in Victoria, I really honestly thought I was an accomplished rider, having learned to ride near Calgary in Canmore and Bragg creek.  Holy crap was I ever wrong… it wasn’t different terrain, it was a different sport.  “Who’s your daddy” was so far out of my skill level it was funny, it was my list of trails “I might never ride.”  Admittedly the technology has changed, but after a season my riding skills got to get to the point where I could ride that trail…..

Who’s your daddy has been given all sorts of love in the last year or so.   The new who’s your daddy in my friend’s opinion, and mine as well kicks all sorts of ass…. If you really want to find a technically knarly “oh god I’m gonna die” trail on Vancouver Island, you can still find that don’t get me wrong.  If you want to attract and keep people in the sport of mountain biking, the sanctioned trail areas do need trails like who’s your daddy, fast and flowy with awesome berms and a bit of chunder, but not much chunder.

There has been a lot written about the “dumbing down” of trails, but personally I think a lot of them have been “up funned” and really a lot of those old trails after lots of heavy use, just weren’t that fun anymore and needed the love so that they could still get use.  If you want to find some gnar, whether your on the island or on the mainland you can still find that in spades you just have to look harder.

And these up funned trails will help more people get into the sport and thus more areas to ride.

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