FEATURE — On the surface, mountain biking seems to be a simple affair. Jump on your bike and go for a ride. Simple enough. But something that you may be overlooked is the fact you’ll be heading into the wilderness.
Of course, that is one of the strongest allures of mountain biking — to get away from it all and enjoy the quiet, the solitude and the vistas. You can ride a trail and only hear the sound of the breeze, the sound of your spinning chain, maybe the sound of a hawk calling or a tree squirrel chirping.
Everything is peaceful. Then suddenly, psssssh! You get a flat tire. Are you prepared?
Remember, this is wilderness. No cars from which to hitch a ride, perhaps not even cell phone coverage. Walking your bike out is never as much fun as riding, and you can get a long way from civilization pretty fast on a mountain bike, so the slow walk home could take a very long time.
I grew up playing in the dirt. Pedal bikes, dirt bikes, hiking, off-road cars and more have been the backbone of my life. I’ve learned something that is a common thread with all of them: Things probably won’t go wrong, but when they do, you need to be self-reliant.
Off-road racing and endurance mountain biking in particular have common beliefs ingrained in them that if things don’t go as planned, finishing the race becomes just as important as winning it. Using whatever you have carried with you to patch your vehicle back together and get yourself across the finish line becomes a badge of honor and a win in itself.
Now, perhaps my racing background and the fact that I put broken bikes back together for a living may drive me to carry more than I really need. On the other hand, I often see people riding trails with no tools at all and some carrying no water at all. Sure, I’ve looked through my backpack and thought, “When was the last time I used this tool?” Yes, I could lighten my burden by leaving it in the garage, but it won’t help me if it’s there when I need it.
Here is a list of several things you should seriously consider packing with you when you head out:
I really shouldn’t have to say anything about this since we live in a desert, but I’ve seen people out on hot days without a drop. Shoot for about a water bottle (20-24 ounces) an hour. Hotter days, of course, will require more.
Carry some. There are a myriad of choices for easily carried nutrition. If you’re riding an hour or less, you probably don’t need to eat anything if you’ve had a meal recently, but carry something in case you have a mechanical issue, you come upon a tempting trail intersection that calls to you to extend your ride or you just need to stave off that terrible “bonk.”
I don’t expect you to be able to fix every eventuality, but it’s surprising how just a loose bolt can ruin a ride if you don’t have a wrench with you. Get yourself a multitool (there are loads to choose from) and learn how to use it. If you’re not sure about how a certain tool works, ask your friendly neighborhood bike mechanic.
Carry a tube, even if you’re running tubeless, since a cut sidewall may be more than sealant can handle. We live in a world of sharp objects that are just itching to let the air out of your tires.
Knowledge of the trail, weather
If the trail is new to you, carry a map. If you’re not sure how long you’ll be out, carry more than you think you’ll need, and if the weather is “iffy,” carry extra clothing to layer on for warmth.
Going mountain biking can be a simple affair, but it shouldn’t be taken lightly when you’re heading into the wilderness. Throwing some staples into your backpack can really save the day and keep the fun flowing.
Now pack up, and go for a ride!
This article was first published in St. George Health & Wellness magazine and updated for current publication.