I wanted to share with you my first proper experience of mountain biking: this week I attended a business meeting (honest) in the Lake District, Northwest England (Brit riders here will know it well, I am sure, but it was my first visit). One of my newer collegaues is a very keen cyclist (road and mtb) and I suggested we take our bikes and go up a day early (it's a 300 mile drive for me anyway). Niall picked a route of about 18 miles, starting in Troutbeck, and going up and over several passes and into valleys, including Kentmere, Longsleddale and High Borrans (and it is - high, that is) . Niall rides a 2000 Mount Vision, and I have a '97 GT Avalanche with a Manitou X-Vert upfront (I am a big lad ) which sadly due to work has never been 'properly' ridden (I have lived in Suffolk and Cambridge since I bought the bike, and they are like billiard tables by comparison).
The trail took about 5 hours with wash stops, though I think I held Niall back due to my comparative lack of fitness. Also, on the steep descent into Longsleddale, just south of Skeggles Water, I had my first big spill, went through my Ron Hills and put a hole in the elbow of my brand new Gore bike jacket , which slowed me up a bit, since my bashed and bleeding knees were bloody painful (at least I didn't superman).
It was fantastic.
I plan to do some road riding to build up my endurance, particularly when climbing (and maybe shed a few pounds) and I think Niall and I will go do a LOT more of this, since he doesn't get out on his MTB as often as he'd like (poor bugger has kids!)
The following evening we grabbed a short downhill from the top of Kirkstone Pass and Niall let me ride the MV. What can I say - totally awesome on the downhills, though, let's face it, I was way nervous of spilling on it, and therefore took it easy. Also, it had rained the night before, and the trail was treacherous, with lots of sloping wet rock. Did notice the big difference in rear wheel control though, and felt smug about tackling some of the fiercer stuff we'd done the day before on my hardtail, and also the nice progressive feel of the Avid 7 brakes - I think mine must be set up badly, since they felt much more snatchy. That was great though too...and I only fell off once (I see there is a lot of technique for me still to learn, esp. taking corners and picking lines).
Now I know what you all rave about. I can see this becoming a VERY expensive hobby