One of the doctors I work for loaned me a mountain bike. He bought it for his wife a few years ago but she wasn’t into it, so it sat in a basement gathering dust. He offered it to me since both my kids have bikes and I don’t. I went over and picked it up, and all it needed was some air in the tires and it was good as new.
I love trying new activities. One of my biggest complaints about the outdoor industry as a whole is that people are made to feel that they can’t participate unless they have expensive gear right off the bat. I think you can start just about any activity with cheap gear and a positive attitude, and then upgrade later on if you need to. I am currently riding a nice bike that was free, using my daughter’s bike helmet, and wearing regular tennis shoes. I don’t have biking shoes or any special gear other than the bike itself. That’s not stopping me from going out there and giving it a try!
The roads in my town aren’t very biker friendly. I would say metro Atlanta as a whole isn’t very biker friendly. Bike lanes aren’t common here, and many roads don’t have sidewalks. If you choose to bike out on the road with the cars, you’re taking a chance at death, quite frankly. I hear all too often about bikers being hit by cars in my area.
The good news is there’s a very active community of mountain bikers who maintain trails in the suburbs and the north Georgia mountains. Yesterday I checked out Allatoona Creek Park, a trail system on Corps of Engineers property. I used to ride my horse there, back when it first opened, but the mountain bikers have really taken it over, in a good way. They maintain the trails, have excellent signage, and built a bathroom and bike fixing station with air pumps. I have to say, they have done a fantastic job!
As a side note, equestrians and mountain bikers are typically at odds with each other. Mountain bikers get annoyed about having to yield to horses and dodge piles of horse poop on the trail, and equestrians get annoyed about mountain bikers blazing up behind them and startling the horses. I’ve had a couple negative encounters with mountain bikers, but I always try to be polite and stay out of their way when possible, even if I have the right of way. They’re in a hurry and I’m not.
At Allatoona Creek Park, I did a couple beginner segments and one intermediate loop. I have never mountain biked on trails before. I haven’t ridden a bike in years, to be honest, at least not farther than a loop or two around the cul de sac. I wasn’t sure I would even enjoy it. Years ago I biked 18 miles on the Silver Comet Trail and all I remember is how bad my butt hurt afterward.
I’m used to hiking and riding horses. Hiking is slow and mellow. I usually listen to a podcast while I hike. My legs go on autopilot and I get into the zone where I don’t think much about moving. My legs just do their thing. Riding horses is all about the horse. I’m constantly thinking about the horse, things that could potentially spook the horse, how the horse is managing the terrain, whether the horse seems comfortable in the tack, and myriad other concerns that go along with managing a very large animal. I’ll admit that I still have some fear issues when riding too. There is always a thought in the back of my head that I could get dumped, and every ride is an effort to avoid ending up on the ground. Riding for me isn’t stress free or even very relaxing.
I found mountain biking to be a pleasant alternative to hiking and riding. I don’t have to worry about the bike bucking me off, and I get to cover more ground in less time. I liked the intermediate trail more than I thought I would. It’s very mentally engaging. No need for a podcast to entertain me! I did the Rusty Bucket loop, only a little over a mile, and I had to pay attention the whole time. Some of the trees were so close together, I wondered if my handlebars would fit between them. The trail has a lot of little hills and sharp curves. Even though I was really concentrating on the terrain and working pretty hard, I found myself smiling.
It was more of a cardio workout as well. I don’t get out of breath very often when I’m hiking, except on steep hills. I was breathing pretty hard at some points yesterday, because even though I’m active, I don’t do much true cardio. Biking was a nice way to mix it up, work different muscles and get my lungs pumping.
I don’t see myself getting super into mountain biking, mostly because the horses take up so much of my time, but I really enjoyed myself yesterday and I’d like to keep trying new trails and adding mountain biking to my repertoire of outdoor activities.
My son wants to go next time and, since he likes to go fast and furious, I could see him getting really into it. Whatever it takes to get the kids outside!