Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Dark Side of Mountain Biking

From here (creative commons).
The Generally Accepted Truth
What a mountain biker hates the most about being a mountain biker is not being able to mountain bike.  That may seem like a no-brainer, or that statement might not make any sense at all.  But to a mountain biker it makes perfect sense.

Mountain biking is an incredible rewarding and fulfilling sport. It is a gateway to many beneficial effects: entertainment, relaxation, physical fitness, camaraderie, an appreciation of nature, and more. But as a true rider knows all too well, this sport has a dark side.  That nasty backlash occurs when the rider can't get out and ride.  When all of these amazing benefits inherent in the sport suddenly disappear, depression and withdrawal symptoms appear out of nowhere turning the once go-lucky mountain biker into an apathetic wreck of a man. 

"Depression and withdrawal, isn't that a bit much?"

No, it's right on the money because mountain bikers are addicts. It is absolutely true, we're all addicted.  Now, with a regular fix, most of us can continue to live normal lives.  It's like a smoker who survives in society, but only because of their frequent breaks from work to light up a cig.  Or an alcoholic, who gets buzzed every night (and more on the weekends) but still manages to hold down a good job and maintain decent relationships.

At times, we singletrack addicts can set aside our sport of choice for the greater good of family, friends and God.  We even know that riding is not nearly the most important thing in this life, and it actually is not even our main priority.  Yet somehow we are all still addicted, because when the repetition of dirt-trail and rocky-obstacles is removed, the dark side of mountain biking emerges. The depression sets in.

I Begin to Extrapolate
I know that if I didn't ride for long enough, these dark times would eventually fade--I would make it through the withdrawal stage--and that other pastimes and sports would jump in to fill the gaps, providing the things that I need to live a well-balanced life.  But then it occurred to me: if mountain biking is good and wholesome as long as I'm actively doing it, and only dark and sinister when I desist for one reason or another, the best course of action must obviously be just to not stop mountain biking.

And so I will continue to ride, basking in the warmth of the sun and living a good, balanced life. But something inevitably happens to cause the frequent riding to subside, and mountain biking will show its dirty dark side yet again.

Your Turn: Is there a time when you could not ride for an extended period, and you experienced mountain biking's dark side? Please share about it in the comment section below!


Mark May 27, 2010 at 1:35 AM  

I know I am addicted and when I can't get my fix I try to supplement with a fixed gear ride or a rail trail ride, baring that, there is always masturbation to take my mind off riding.

Greg Heil May 27, 2010 at 8:36 AM  

Haha, the M word.

I've been doing some hiking, that helps a little bit, but I generally hate hiking because I just analyze the trail as if I were going to be riding a bike through whatever section we're walking.

Been doing a lot of writing too, that seems to help, but I'm getting sick of writing about a sport that I can't participate in.

Christopher May 27, 2010 at 11:10 AM  

I remember a time when I couldn't go for a ride. I burst a bursa sack in my elbow and it swelled to the size of a bunch of bananas, seriously. I couldn't do anything physical because of the throbbing in my elbow. That took 6 drainings, 2 steroid packs, antibiotics and 5 weeks to heal. You can bet I was in a deep depression. But I managed and it was like it never happened once I could get back on the trails.

Greg Heil May 27, 2010 at 5:22 PM  

Dude Christopher, that's intense! I imagine it was horrible at the time! But isn't it weird how the pain of injuries or the nastiness of being sick fades quickly in our memories once we're all better?

I had mono for about a month last summer, and I was miserable. But now, the memories of the nastiness have faded so much.

Guess that's a good thing!

PS thanks for sharing!

Daniel May 29, 2010 at 2:59 AM  

Nice, I like your line of thinking here.
Twice last winter the Tomac was broke and I was waiting for parts to be shipped from the factory. One part actually took about 10 days, was hell!
Now I am back in Alaska and in a rural area without any real biking trails. As my new boss was explaining my position and asking if I had any obligations that would limit the schedule he could give me, I pointed across the street to my bike in the back of the truck. Told him I would require a 3 day weekend every so often so I could catch a boat to Anchorage to get in some real riding.

Greg Heil May 29, 2010 at 2:08 PM  

Great story about the job, glad to hear you've got your priorities in order! ;) Although living somewhere without any good trails nearby is definitely going to be tough!

Mechanical setbacks are so frustrating! I can definitely relate there!

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Greg Heil is the Editor in Chief for He's been writing and publishing online since before blogging existed.

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Mountain biking, plain and simple. Trail reviews, ride reports, and philosophical musings induced by delirium from grinding up way too many vertical feet.

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