Stop Riding Your Bike So Much! (Mountain, Road, BMX, Dirt Jump)

Don’t pull a Gene! Balance is the key to a happy life, but it is a constant battle for most of us. We become nearly obsessed with one or two things (a hobby and/or our career) and neglect important areas of our lives. I see this a lot with mountain bikers, especially those who race. Training so hard all they do is work, train and sleep compromising all other aspects of their lives so they can win that Cat 3 race on Sunday.

I am the poster child for someone who gets so carried away with a hobby that it consumes them and compromises their life. From 1986 until 1992 my life revolved around snowboarding, the next 10-15 years mountain biking.

My first love/obsession was snowboarding and it was my life for five years. To try and reach the top I left family, friends and a wonderful girlfriend on the East Coast to move to Colorado and train with the best coaches. Which ended up back firing on me as leaving these people behind put more pressure on me to succeed and left my “support group” back home in Virginia. I no longer had my mother telling me how wonderful I was everyday. I didn’t have friends to hang out with and talk about things other than snowboarding (at one house a group of us lived in back east we had one rule, no talking about snowboarding in the house!), didn’t have friends to help and didn’t have friends to help me. Trust me, you gain a lot of confidence by spending time with your family and friends.

Then I discovered mountain bike racing, my second obsession which has lasted 20 years! Since the day I decided that I was going to become a pro racer I have practically dedicated my life to this sport!  I remember thinking how “giving” I was to give my “girlfriend” two whole nights with me in a week! In quotes because she later said, “I wasn’t your girlfriend, I was just the girl you hooked up with once or twice a week when you were too tired to train or work.” ouch! To feed my habit I didn’t work from early April until October so I could travel to all the races (by living in my van all summer) and worked two jobs in the winter to pay off my credit card from the summer. I honestly thought I was generous when I devoted two whole nights to her in a week! The last 7 years have been all about BetterRide with my family, friends and social life taking a backseat again.

The moral to this story is to keep things in perspective and remember, mountain biking is just your hobby! If you miss a day of training to help a friend or do poorly in race/group ride because you stayed up a little too late catching a band or going to a family function with your love, so what? It is just a bike ride/race, you aren’t saving lives.

If you notice, I never quite made it to the top in snowboarding or mountain biking. One of the biggest reasons was my lack of balance. If you look at the best in the world they have balance! Steve Peat has a lot of fun, still lives near where he grew up, hangs out with old friends and has a wife and kids, the same can be said for Eric Carter. Lars Tribus has a great career away from cycling, has a family and still manages to be a very competitive professional racer (2011 World Masters Champion). As do some of the best moms and dads in the world. Many of our students are quite successful in their careers yet manage their time so they can spend time with their family, ride, travel and enjoy many hobbies.

As for me, 2012 will be all about balance! I have already re-started my yoga practice and I am making time for a social life and my family. I am riding less but enjoying it more!

I hope you already have balance in your life or will  strive for balance starting today.

Create a happy, balanced life,


6 replies
  1. Jon
    Jon says:

    Great story Gene. I can relate to being obsessed with a hobby or sport. For me it used to be track and soccer, and now it’s mountain biking and triathlons. I learned my lesson quickly and now prefer riding with family and friends over racing all the time. It’s a good feeling to slow down, mentally anyway :), enjoy riding and show them the ropes. Speaking of showing them the ropes…I’m mostly self-taught and really want to attend one of your clinics so I can learn the fundamentals and correct any bad habits. The length of the classes has prevented me from attending since I don’t want to be away from my family 3 days in a row. Have you ever thought about splitting up course? i.e. Allowing riders to take part 1 on it’s own and parts 2 & 3 on a later date? I’d be willing to pay the full price up front in exchange for the flexibility.

    I live in Southern California in case you can recommend other instructors or clinics.

    • Gene
      Gene says:

      Hi Jon and Chris,

      The reason we do three day camps is that is the minimum amount of time to teach what we need to teach. The whole is worth much more than the sum of the parts, everything really starts to come together on the third day for our students. We do have 2 day camps but they are a bit more per day as our costs go up a lot.

      Thanks for your suggestions, we are always trying to learn and improve. Would you be willing to pay double the amount for “Allowing riders to take part 1 on it’s own and parts 2 & 3 on a later date?” We have tired 3 day camps spread out over 3 weekends and it just doesn’t work, everyone has a conflict one weekend and our costs more than double (our coach has to travel 3 times, our administration costs sky rocket as we answer phone calls from people wanting to change a date, etc.). The best way to do it would be to take a 6 day camp as there is so much to learn and practice! As you probably know, finding 21 hours of the best instruction in a sport for $600-$700 is unheard of. In golf, motorcycling, skiing, etc. the costs are much higher and often you aren’t even getting the best coaching in your town, much less the best coaching the sport.

      I hope this has helped you understand us a little more and I hope to see you in a camp soon.



  2. chris
    chris says:

    This article hit home for me, too. i think it affects a lot of us in this situation. it really puts things in perspective. sometimes we need a good slap in the head to wake up and be reminded of whats really important in life.

    on a side note, i like jon’s suggestion. i’m also in so cal (and have riden with jon from time to time). I know you used to offer more 2 days clinics but i’ve only seen the 3 day clinics post as of late.

  3. Brete
    Brete says:

    Another wisdom, Gene, is, “Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.” In other words, Steve Peat, et. al., have their own issues with balance, family, finances and life. Even though champions may appear to have it all together, in one big Happy Meal, they rarely do in actuality.

    In a nutshell, you are an inspiration all your own and are just they way you should be … perfectly imperfect. Me too. 😉

  4. Phil Marsh
    Phil Marsh says:

    Mountain biking is the third sport obsession in my life but now it seems that work and family are taking even more of my time and making it harder to ride. I have to constantly remind myself that mountain biking is not the most important thing in the world. It’s important but as you said, only as part of that balance. To copy something that I heard from someone in another sport but applies well to biking…for our wheel to roll true all the spokes in our life need to carry equal weight.

  5. Jon
    Jon says:

    Thanks for the reply Gene. I totally understand the business reasons behind your camp structure but was hoping there was something I was missing that might help me out. My wife is expecting our 2nd child in early May and I’m already planning on being gone for a week to go to the Olympics in London. I can’t justify going out of state for 3 days to ride my bike even though it would be awesome. 🙁 I’ve seen that you offer a camp in San Diego and recently added one in Orange County. I live in Orange County so that would be my best chance at attending. I’ll run it by my wife…after Valentine’s Day. 🙂 Do you know where in OC you’d be riding?


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