For my 16th birthday I got a bike, in 1999. A really, really nice bike a Raleigh Serengeti RSX with an upgraded Deore XT group set, for a hell of a deal! Long before Raleigh went the way of Walmart. I rode pretty serious single track back then and for the next five to seven years. Then I parked it, save for a handful of rides. It sat in my mom’s heated garage for the next 8 years while I finished university then grad school.
Then my mom went into clear out mode when her then finance moved in. If there wasn’t space for my old tax returns the bike had to find a new home too. So I dragged it back to my then non-fiance’s house and evaluated my options. It was at least 15 years old, had some hard miles on it and was in bad need of a tune up. So I dragged it into the bike shop in the trunk of the corolla and asked what my options were. It turned out as a survivor I could sell it for about $500, it needed about $100 of work to get it going again. So I opted for some new parts, just the minimum and figured I’d ride it on the crusher dust trail behind the house, maybe to get groceries.
I got into it because my high school boyfriend was into it and it seemed like fun. The bike shop at the time had a financing plan and someone had bought my bike and not paid up. Two moths later it came back. Since it was still that year’s model they swapped out the deore group set for the XT to get the value out of it since it was now used. Turns out I got a nicer bike than the boyfriend. That and when I was fitted I got a larger frame so this meant he didn’t want to go biking with me that often. Did I mention that we were in high school and both pretty immature.
After I got it back on the road three years ago by the end of the summer I had 1600 more km on it and while 900 of that was on the trail or the road at least 500 km were logged on single track trails deep in the woods. I had thought I would grab groceries 5 km away in Hubbards but I was regularly biking 22 km to Tantallon for the same. I remembered how many awesome trails originated within 5 km of where I was now living. I came home so muddy sometimes Richard insisted on hosing me down before I came in the house!
Bike technology and budgets: same
In that time a lot had changed but a lot had stayed the same. First of all the bike, if I sold it for 500, it would still cost $1700 to replace it almost exactly what I paid for that one. I considered it if the new one would be lighter but the replacement would weigh the same. 33 lbs is a lot for 120 lb me to shoulder when I have to go around an obstacle for any length of time.
The bikes in the shop: Changed
In the late 90’s when I was shopping there were two types of bikes in the shops. Either light delicate road bikes or mountain bikes and the mix depended on the ethos of the management. Wandering into a bike shop now the stock is dominated by hybrids some that run closer to a trail bike others that run closer to a road bike. A true mountain or road bike was somewhat rare. Step-throughs had also become a thing as had highly styled cruisers which in all likelihood were fixed gear. Back in the day bikers were out in the woods or drilling extra holes in their road bikes to save weight and go fast on road bikes. Despite our differences both groups were on their bikes often. In fact there was a running joke that someone had discovered cycling and their divorce was imminent. Now the cycling had become trendy among baby boomers and hipsters and their tastes had changed the landscape.
Trail etiquette: Same
If everyone mountain biked and took the lessons they learned to heart in their everyday life the world would be a better place. When you are out in the woods, it is possible stuff will go sideways. To read about the time an off-roader grabbed me when I was near a momma bear with cubs click here!
Trail etiquette says that you take care of other trail users. Bikers have a responsibility to take care of walkers and people in motorized vehicles take care of those that aren’t. That means if you see an ATV or truck you can expect them to wave and nod or even pull over, introduce themselves and maybe even tell you their plans for the day in case you need help. You also have a responsibility to not freak them out with careless actions. I sometimes am out there to pick berries and leave my bike on the trail. I make sure it is upright, pulled over and I’m within earshot. Often another trail user will stop and holler to make sure they can find me and I’m okay. If I were to leave my bike strewn on the trail blocking the path, perhaps taking a wheel off to make sure it was obviously non-functional that same trail user would look for me with a great deal of concern. If they couldn’t find me they would quickly alert the authorities with the same intensity that they would have for their own family.
Imagine if we all took care of people more vulnerable than ourselves as if they were our family. If we made it our responsibility to make sure those people were safe and let them know we were there for them before anything bad happened.
When I headed back out to some of my favourite single track trails lots were rutted out by ATV’s or too wide to be much fun. However Spyder Lake in Dartmouth still kicked ass! Other trails were subdivisions, sad face 😦
Finding places to ride: The same and changed
Back in the day, am I old enough to say that yet? We used to keep the good trails pretty quiet, you didn’t want machines out there ripping them up just like now. You’d ask around at mountain friendly bike shops and go looking three or four times before you found it with vague instructions like, once you get to the third tree that leans to the left hang a right and you’ll see it from there, it’s pretty gnarly so make sure your dialled in. Now websites like singletracks exist and trails have GPS co-ordinates and go-pro footage. But your still finding trails from a close-knit group of bikers and we still want to keep the machines out as much as possible.
Mountain bikers are a self-reliant bunch: Same
Mountain biking can be dangerous and you still might be in the middle of no where with no cell service when the unthinkable happens. You might crash and hurt yourself or breakdown. The issue is that you might be 25 km from the end of a deserted dirt road when it happens. As such mountain bikers travel with a backpack that can get you through most things. I’ve got a pump, duct tape, zip ties, a bike tool, patch kit, tubes and grease in case I break down, and I do. I have a paired down first aid kit, emergency blanket, food, extra water (reserved for emergencies), warm dry clothes, lights and a lighter in case I get injured or stranded. There is also the best practice that you pull new or crazy tricks when you’re most of the way back to the car. That way if you have to walk or carry your bike it’s for a shorter distance. Been there done that. I load my pack with what I would need to get through the night if I got stranded given the weather, which I check. Now do I have outdoor skills? Am I a winter camper? Hell no! I asked Richard what he would say to search and rescue if they needed to come get me and he said, “Here is where she is, when you get there she’ll probably be hugging a tree and crying.” I hate that he’s right!
Cell phones: Changed
Is it okay to say that this is the best thing to happen to mountain biking in the last 15 years? It defiantly is if your happy place is alone in the woods. The last phone I biked with was a Motorola startec and before that ancient Nokias. No GPS even for first responders, no battery life and probably no (then analog) service when you need it. Best case scenario you had service if you got into trouble and you had about 3 min to try to explain to the 911 operator where you were before it died. Best of all I installed cyclemeter elite on my iPhone but there’s a full review of it’s capabilities on that at the end of the post because it deserves it! Amazing!!! Now you could call for help and send a pin but service deep in the woods is still spotty.
The local bike shop: Same and great!
I shopped for a year for my bike. Back then you did that with catalogues you requested from companies with the specs of all the bikes printed. At the time serious mountain bikers shopping for serious gear were not often female. At one shop the guy pretty much refused to talk to me even when reminded gently and not so gently that I was the one buying the bike. I ended up buying from Sportswheels in Sackville and that’s where I bring it when it needs service beyond what I can do. Those guys are great and treat me with the same respect that they treat the guys, now and then! They treated me with mad respect even before I came in with trail damage and taco-ed wheels. The shop still does amazing work at reasonable prices.
Download Now! CYCLEMETER GPS
So this is in no way sponsored, I have like 10 followers, PS you 10 rock!!! This is just an app I feel really, really strongly about. It does all of the things you want a fitness app to do and some of it in the free version. It tracks your speed and route via GPS, tells you your speed and distance at regular intervals, has an Apple Watch display, see below, plays your music, gives you the weather, has spots for multiple bikes, tracks cadence with bike computers, gives you calories burned and I’m sure I’m forgetting something. I’ll be using it a lot this summer while I’m doing my olympic triathlon training.
But the amazing thing that it does in the elite version (which is $13.99 Canadian per year, ouch) is email anyone you choose automatically. I have mine set to email honey when I start a ride automatically and every 45 minuets after that. But those emails have an anytime clickable map generated within them. Even if you don’t have service and something bad happens the last location where you did is still displayed. So when my derailleur crapped out 15 km from the car I called honey and let him know what happened. I was able to zip tie it in place in a moderate gear, but only that gear. Sad face 😦 Being rescued would mean loading the trailer on the truck and the ATV on the trailer. Then driving to the gate, unloading the ATV and reversing the process post rescue. I told him I could probably make it back it back to the car before it got too dark but he was at home clicking the map to make sure. Another time I went berry picking and it was getting close to dark, rather than call me he just clicked the map, saw I was almost back to the trailhead and it put his mind at ease. Should an accident happen first responders will know right where I am even if I can’t tell them myself. Plus the Apple Watch display is hella cool.
This lets you go for solo rides in the woods with the reassurance that someone who cares about you knows where you are. The best part is it happens automatically in case its a spontaneous ride or you forget to send a text. And it integrates with the health and activity app so it counts to closing your rings.
Being the baby boomers that they are my mom and stepdad eventually got into biking. Even though I lectured them about safety which included both taking their phones and did all sorts of fall drills with them, when they got into biking they only took one phone. My mom and her husband both use it now even though they only ride together after they got separated one time. They searched for each other for what I’m sure felt like an eternity before showing up at my house a mere 6 km away breathless and scared on one of their first rides. They were both REALLY freaked out after and upgraded immediately setting up the email option for each other every 10 minuets, the most frequent setting. Also they listen to me drone on about bike safety more now too. Even though they just bike the trail my stepdad carries a backpack with emergency supplies. Zip ties people! That reminds me I should pick them up some emergency blankets….
Have you been mountain biking forever? What has changed in that time? What has stayed the same? Did I miss anything?