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Old 08-25-06, 12:35 PM   #1
Digital Gee
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Going to the light side...

I've had my Trek 3900 XC for 14 months, fast approaching 2000 miles, 800 with knobbies, 1200 with slicks. I was out riding today and several things became crystal clear to me:

1. I still love this bike, and have no desire to sell it. I may not ride it often, but it's still a pleasure, everything continues to work well, and I love riding it in the rain too. If my other bike(s) were out of commission or in the shop or stolen or whatever, I'd be happy to be "confined" to my 3900 for a while.

2. That said, I haven't squeezed all the potential out of this bike. When I got it, I was new. I had very rusty skills and not much confidence. I quickly made road riding a habit and never, ever, took the bike off road, except to cross a patch of lawn or something.

3. I'd like to try "mountain biking" but I don't have a clue how to start. I think there are quite a few trails out here in San Diego, and there appears to even be a book with maps, etc. But I have some concerns, and i'd love to hear from those of you who ride offroad with any tips, suggestions, etc.

a) I think the best way to start would be to find easy trails in the woods, rather than trying to tackle steep, boulder-filled trails. Am I right?

b) I ride alone 99.2% of the time. Will this be an issue when riding in the back country?

c) How should i budget my time for riding offroad? In other words, I know that I ride 10-15 miles an hour on the road, but off road? If the trail is a 3 mile loop, how long will that take?

d) Do I need other equipment beyond what I have? I have MTB shoes, no clips, the bike, bike bag, pump, etc.

e) How do I "unhook" my brain from thinking about how FAR i rode offroad, which is what i do think about when I'm on the street? Seems like that would be pretty silly, right? But I know me, and i'd be debating about whether or not to take the ride, given that it's not going to add much to my annual mileage goal. Have to bust that paradigm!

f) What skills will i have to develop?

Thanks -- I'm betting that doing some riding on the light side will be fun!
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Old 08-25-06, 01:34 PM   #2
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[

Mountain biking is the only way to go if you want to have fun. Don't get me wrong but road biking does not hold the same "Thrill" for me. First thing to remember is that Mountain biking is harder than road riding. Even if it is just gentle trails with an unmade surface. Heavier bike, Knobbly tyres, Rougher ride to sap energy- and it does, and the hills are just as steep. Things happen faster offroad aswell. You suddenly find yourself in very close contact with the track for no apparant reason. You may have missed the rock with your front wheel, but the rear one catches it and throws you to the ground. Then there is the weather- There is no such thing as bad weather for mountain biking. Heat of the summer you know about. Riding trails with 3" of mud or 6" puddles can be the norm at certain times of the year, but this all adds to the exitement of Riding- turns the do-able trails into an achievement if you get past over the obstacle. Only time I do not ride is when rain and high wind is forecast. That is not enjoyable.

How do you start? Find a trail and ride it. Make certain the bike is set up for the rough stuff and go prepared with spare tubes- tools repair kit and food. Try a gentle 10 mile route that is offroad. Hopefully with a few hills but take care. Wet tree roots- Deep mud-Rutted ground have to be taken with care initially, but you soon learn the technique.

10 miles offroad will be the equivalent of 15 to 20 on the road. Depends on the road and depends on the trail but Mountain biking will take it out of you. On my trails I hope to manage 9.8 mph on a good day on the solo. That will be around 30+ miles take in three climbs of araond 600 ft each and the corresponding downhills. (As a novice offroader- take care on the downhills and don't get above 30mph. Really take it steady downhill till you are used to it and you know the route.) Aim for around half your road average and you won't be far out. Any above that is a bonus- till you get to know know to ride.
Riding on your own is not recommended but I do occasionally. I just take it a bit steadier.

Give it a try but try and find out if there is a 10 mile loop you can do that is well signposted. Or is well travelled if you get lost. Offroading is fun, but best idea to find out is to sell the cypress- come over here and try the back of the Tandem. If that does not scare you off biking- let alone mountain biking- then you have mud running through the veins- just like me.

Never know- we might be talking about the virtues of Full suspension over a hardtail next---

Pastorebob- Please save us.
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Old 08-25-06, 02:23 PM   #3
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Riding offroad is a completely different kind of thrill: the single track trails around our power plant utility lake total around 20+ miles, divided into two halves, east & west sides of the dam. The east side I've ridden a dozen times (not in the past year) and can tell you that there are 4 or 5 different 'loops' that wind around through creek beds, woods, sand, gravel, there are even some logs that you can ride 'over' if you know the technique (I don't). But the heartpumping thrill of finally getting down into the creekbed & getting back up the other side with its right angle turn halfway up a 45 degree slope is really cool.

BTW, I finally bought shinguards at the LBS because I kept having to stop & the damn pedals came around & whacked my shins so many times. Never tried it with toe clips (like I ride with now) or clipless pedals (never ridden with them at all) but supposedly it is easier clipless, whatever that means.

As a break from road riding or as an alternative to riding the same street routes all the time, I highly recommend off-road. Just gravel & dirt trails are lots of work & the sense of accomplishment is more like a good hike than counting the miles & minutes. Different experience altogether and much more varied / physical / thrilling...put the knobbies back on your Trek & give it a try. 10 miles is a pretty good challenge depending on what the trails are like. If I do all the loops on east side of our trail system, I'm done for the day. Our lake trail system is rated in the top 5 singletrack in the whole state of Texas & they have sanctioned state-wide qualifying races there so it's not just some 'ride in the woods'.
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Old 08-25-06, 02:52 PM   #4
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Gary I have a lot of miles off-road, motorcycle and mtb. I would suggest you start on some fire roads, they can be great fun and you can work on your skills without too much risk. For time, it depends on how much climbing, just like on the road. I do a hilly 18 mile ride that has no "technical" stuff and it takes me over 3 hours. I will go through a 70 oz Camelbak and a snack on this ride. A tough 40 mile off road ride is like a road century in some ways.
There are skills to learn and some people pick them up pretty quick. A few tips; look where you want to go, not where you don't want to go. Keep your elbows up and your weight back in rough terrain.I set my brake levers low so I can brake with my elbows up. Learn to steer with your legs and get used to the rear wheel moving around. Always weight the outside pedal in turns and on off-cambers.
You didn't say if you have front suspension, but try running your front tire pressure lower than the rear. I use 35-or so psi unless I'm in a bunch of sharp rocks.
Extra equipment? A Camelbak is great, but I don't carry much more than on the roadie, multitool, tube, pump, etc.
It is a great change from the road, especially when you get sick of cars, or in bad weather. It reminds me of being a kid playing in the mud and snow.
It also seems easier to convince girls to go on a fire road than on the highway, had dates that way before.
Just give it a try and stay within yourself. Be patient and the skills to negotiate rough trails may come.
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Old 08-25-06, 03:17 PM   #5
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There is good advice throughout this thread, Gary. Start with dirt roads, such as in Los Penasquitos Canyon, Rose Canyon or Daley Ranch, or along Lake Hodges. If you are like me, such multitracks may provide all of the thrill you can handle. However, if you are blessed with average or better physical coordination, you can graduate to single track, or even some intensely technical maneuvers.
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Old 08-25-06, 03:20 PM   #6
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Great advice, everybody! I'm going to start simple as has been suggested, and see what happens. I'm excited about having a whole new venue to explore -- it seems so silly to have overlooked this before.
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Old 08-25-06, 03:30 PM   #7
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Definitely put the knobs back on that bike and go play in the dirt. It's great fun and a nice counter-point to road riding. Your local bike shop and local bike clubs will be valuable resources for learning where to ride, learning riding skills and finding people to ride with. Start with easier trails and work your way up to hairy singletrack. You'll find that MTB riding is a much more intense workout than an equivalent amount of time riding on pavement. Riding off-road will make you a stronger road rider - and vice versa. You don't need the latest, greatest, lightest and trickest bike and gear to have a ball off-road. Your bike is plenty capable of doing lots of fun stuff.
I would recommmend finding some riding partners or at least find places to ride where other people are riding. This not only for safety, but you can learn much more much faster by watching experienced riders and asking them questions than by posting questions on the internet.
And by all means, don't worry about mileage and schedules and goals and such. Just go play in the dirt until you are tired and then do a little more.
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Old 08-25-06, 07:27 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Stapfam
Pastorebob- Please save us.
Save you guys from what? Actually I enjoy reading about your off road pursuits. I had my own sort of off road adventure this week.

My daughter and her team are having preseason Soccer practice (Football for stapfam) quite a distance from the house. So I take my bike and ride new roads for about two hours and then haul the 7 girls back home. On Tuesday I took the blue '79 Schwinn Traveler. I turned down a road that I thought would take me in about a 20 mile circle back to the practice field. In about two miles the road turned to dirt. I decided I could handle it. About another mile the road was marked "Class 4," and turned into a single lane. "No problem," I thought to my self. After about another 2 miles the road was marked "Class 9, NOT MAINTAINED, DANGEROUS, PASS AT OWN RISK!" By this point I couldn't turn back. Well, it was basically a goat path through the NH wilderness for the next 3 miles and I had to cart the Schwinn quite a bit on the shoulder. On Wednesday for Soccer practice, I decided I had so much fun on Tuesday, I loaded up the green '03 Cannondale and did it all over again!

Gary, have fun, but heed everyone's advice and start slow and be careful.
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Old 08-25-06, 07:39 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Digital Gee
Great advice, everybody! I'm going to start simple as has been suggested, and see what happens. I'm excited about having a whole new venue to explore -- it seems so silly to have overlooked this before.
I'm with you, G! I got a Specialized Rockhopper today. Some paths that were too rough & muddy even for my "hybrid" road bike are now open to me. I think this is going to be FUN!!
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Old 08-25-06, 07:41 PM   #10
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Calif., riding trails? Watch out for Mountain Lions!
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Old 08-25-06, 07:42 PM   #11
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Calif., riding trails? Watch out for Mountain Lions!
I keep seeing those signs advising of lions...yet have never run across one. It does happen though. Now if I could only talk my brother out of his Rockhopper...I would give it a try as well!
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Old 08-26-06, 02:20 AM   #12
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Calif., riding trails? Watch out for Mountain Lions!
I've heard many horror stories about mountain lions turning left in front of you as you go through one of their intersections...
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Old 08-26-06, 03:13 AM   #13
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I've heard many horror stories about mountain lions turning left in front of you as you go through one of their intersections...
In NH, those dang Moose do the same thing! They believe they blasted own the road. They could care less about cyclists.
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Old 08-26-06, 04:38 AM   #14
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Wow! You will do ANYTHING to avoid buying that new roadie! Seriously, have fun. I often hop on the old Trek 800 to do a loop around the Hopedale Pond single track.
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