Do I really truly think this? YES!!! Have I thought about, tried or ruled out ever possible alternative, No. Am I biased, yes, but I’m alright with that and it’s still pretty great! It burns a tremendous number of calories, is a full body workout, fun, provides an adrenaline rush (if you’re doing it right), can be transportation and sorta makes you a bad ass! Let’s start with some history, move on to making a good bike choice and finally why it’s the best workout ever!
I have two people to credit with getting me into mountain biking a high school boyfriend, the biking stuck and Jennifer Kulier whom I’ve never met. I started in 2000 and it’s been a love affair ever since! It’s some thing I do alone with peace since I use the cyclemeter app. If you’re a mountain biker and take nothing else from this post check out this review/ overview of the app I did here, it really could save your life.
So what really is mountain biking and how did it come to be. Mountain biking started to get somewhat known in the mid 80’s a few high-end brands were offering mountain bikes by special order by the end of the decade. In the early 90’s they were standards in bike shops and in department stores by the end of the decade. Hard core bikers day it has to be on a path with rocks and roots, others say mountain biking starts where road bikes (and now maybe hybrids) can’t go. But if you’re riding a mountain bike you are at least in the neighbourhood.
Chances are these days if you have a bike in your garage it’s a mountain bike or at least claims to be. If you hate driving it, even if it has all the bells and whistles you probably bought it at a department store. Ditto if you find it really heavy or something is always breaking. Bikes bought for a few hundred dollars at Canadian Tire or Walmart even if they have full suspension and disc brakes, which I’ve noticed they all do, aren’t really worth their scrap price. For the same price, even if it needs a tune up at the bike shop, buy one used from a respected brand like:
While not all bikes by these brands are amazing they are all head and shoulders above ANYTHING you will find at the department store.
Mountain bikes can have no suspension, hard tails (front suspension only), full suspension or just a seat post shock. Most riders will like to have suspension in their front fork, but some is often better than none or a lot. A bit of play in that fork gives comfort on the trails but suspension components are really heavy so think long and hard about a full suspension bike. Jennifer recommends women keep it to 27 lbs for women, tops! Mine is 33 pounds with kit and a longer fork and it can feel heavy. Especially heavy during a triathlon! Suspension also eats up your power, some of your push is wasted in a more comfortable ride. A good place to start is a short shock in the front fork so you get most of your power out of your strokes but also takes the ouch out of the big bumps. If your finding you don’t have enough play for your gnarly riding style then upgrade your bike or just your fork at that point. If your just traveling on a groomed trail with a few bumps a bike without suspension will be fine too. Check out Jennifer Kulier’s book A Trailside Guide for lots of great information especially for lady mountain bikers but all will find it helpful. This is the book that helped me get into the sport so it makes me sad that it’s on clearance for only a few bucks but you have literally no excuse!
So why is mountain biking the best workout ever, for the following reasons:
It burns mad calories: Like a shit tonne! Often with out you even noticing it! I offer you GPS and Apple Watch data from two similar length workouts. One medium effort bike rides about an hour long and one 10 k race at high intensity during which I PR’d. The bike ride was an easy and fun trail ride I picked up groceries on the way back I burned 615 calories in 58 minutes (10.6 per minute) and it was fun and didn’t feel like a hard one. In the run I burned 586 calories in 63 minutes. (9.3 per minute) and I came home and had a 2 hour nap. That’s 14% more for the easy mountain bike trail ride than the all out 10k race. There’s a good chance your average will be more. I weigh about 120 lbs and my resting heart rate is consistently in the low 50’s high 40’s each day so your total might well be higher.
It’s a full body workout: Really it is, but you’re going to have to leave the trail to get the most out of it. Unlike road cycling or even riding the trails taking your mountain bike off the trail and into the woods your arms core and legs get a wicked workout. You pull up on the handle bars against your own body weight and gravity to go over obstacles giving you some great definition in your arms. You stand/crouch to absorb bumps and lean the heavyish bike back an forth to go around things and turn engaging all of your abdominals. And all that peddling a pretty heavy bike, usually in a relatively low gear means you do get those shapely legs and nice tush! Do an image search for female mountain bike racer and get inspired!
It can be transportation: There is a case to be made that a mountain bike is the best commuter bike you can have. I have been known to drive mine on errands when going out in the car wasn’t an option. Like after a storm dropped 70 cm (about 2.5 ft) of snow in our driveway and the need for coffee was quickly leading to a murder suicide situation. A mountain bike equipped with a large rear fender can be a great commuter bike if you live in a place that has well, weather. A road bike can be slippy in the rain and unusable in the slush, snow or if there is a chance of even a hint of ice. If you ride on the sidewalk, legally or not, it’s often uneven and a bit of a wider tire and and some suspension can be appreciated. That’s actually true of lots of streets around here too! Plus mountain bikes are more robust and aren’t likely to suffer as many breakdowns from daily road use.
Fun and exploring: Mountain biking is so much fun and you get to see places you would never see otherwise. After a day of fresh air spent in nature and beautiful sites it’s hard not to be in a good mood! Plus you get to venture into pretty places you would never see in your car, SUV or even ATV. Some places I go are more akin to rough hiking trails but if I was walking there is no way I could cover 30 km in a day and this girl doesn’t camp. I take my bike to the best berry picking spots, eat my lunch at the base of waterfalls and take amazing panoramas for cover photos in places I could never get to without my bike. In fact when I get off my bike and look at the numbers from the great workout or just a fun ride I always have to double check it to believe it!
Bad ass factor: There is a reason your friend who is an adrenaline junkie is also a single track mountain bike racer. He/she might wear a full cervical helmet but you don’t have to in order to earn some trail cred of your own. Landing a drop, even if you didn’t know it was coming, makes you feel like you were flying. Falling and sometimes bleeding and the scars that come with it make you feel tough as nails. Seeing places only a mountain bike can take you makes you feel like a turn of the century explorer. Returning home covered head to toe in mud is absolutely empowering, plus good for the skin. Pro tip: shower in your bike clothes then soak in a bubble bath. That way you won’t get everything in your washer dirty when you wash them.
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