Check out this video of BetterRide Alumnus Joey Schusler ripping trails and having fun in Columbia!
My mountain bike hydration pack is full on long rides, not just with water. In addition to the usual multi tool, spare tube, first aid kit, jacket and patch kit these items can make a ride ending mishap a minor inconvenience.
1. A head lamp (w/fresh batteries), when someone is injured or you have a mechanical darkness can come fast. A head lamp was one thing sorry missed when a friend got severely injured last year. Having a light would of helped us care for him and signal help when they finally arrived around 10 pm (he wrecked around 5 pm).
2. Your cell phone! Just because you friend is carrying his doesn’t mean you don’t need yours. Where our friend wrecked AT&T phones had no reception but Verizon did (my Verizon however was in my car). Having my phone would of gotten help there hours earlier.
3. Food, three tasty, calorie pack Tram Bars and a GU with caffeine to get me home! Spending the night outdoors and/or carrying a friend back is exhausting, some extra food can really help.
4. A shock pump, if your shock or fork runs out of air this can make getting home a lot more fun.
5. A lighter! It was fall when our friend was injured and having a lighter allowed us to start a fire. This kept all of us warm and helped the rescue team find us.
6. Duct tape! If duct tape can’t fix it it ain’t broke! From helping boot a mountain bike tire to taping a broken frame together (to limb it home) duct tape can be a big help. (Notice I wrapped a bunch around my tire pump)
7. Money! Money can buy you a tube, bribe someone for a ride, buy food and a dollar bill can be used to “boot” a small slice in your tire sidewall.
8. A Fedex or Priority Mail envelope. Ever notice how tough these are?! Great for booting a big slice in a sidewall or combining with duct tape to hold something together.
9. A real chain breaker instead of the one on your multi-tool. Much easier to use and a much better success rate.
10. A leather-man tool! From holding loose bolts to sawing your arm off (see the movie 128 hours) nothing beats a leather-man.
11. Chain lube, stream crossings, rain and mud can make your bike unrideable. A small bottle of chain lube can save you.
12. A derailleur hanger for your current bike (that old derailleur hanger won’t help you).
13. A cloth for cleaning your glasses or chain
This is by no means everything you may need. Always bring more water and clothing than you think you will need on long mtb rides.
Mountain Bike Destinations, Great Fall/Winter/Spring
As someone who spends 12 months a year traveling the world coaching mountain biking, mountain biking and racing I have my favorite spots! I will start with the continental United States and deep winter (Mid-December through Feb.). When 90% of the country is freezing there are a few spots I love to ride in.
The number 1 spot is actually Phoenix, AZ! Before you judge let me tell you about mountain biking in Phoenix, it is incredible. Phoenix is by far the best big city in the country for mountain biking. In Phoenix (not off in distant suburbs) are two great riding areas and one pretty decent mountain biking area. When you add in the suburbs, Scottsdale, Mesa, Cave Creek, Glendale and Black Canyon you could ride for over a month and never repeat a trail (but that would be lame because the trails are so good you will want to repeat them). They don’t have daylight savings time in Arizona so the sun sets a 5:30 on the shortest days of the year and the winter weather is amazing, warm (mid 60’s are the average high temps in the coldest month of the year, January) and sunny. If it does rain it just makes for better riding as the rain makes the mountain bike trails tacky and fast.
We will start with South Mountain. At over 16,000 acres (for comparison Vail Resort is the largest single mountain ski resort in the US at 5,289 acres) and over a thousand vertical feet it has great trails for advanced beginners to pros. South Mountain is my favorite place to ride in Phoenix as it has some of the rockiest, most challenging trails in the country that always keep me on my toes. They claim 51 miles of trails but I bet there are double that if you include the super challenging ones like Old Man Trail. Despite being in the city of Phoenix South Mountain is never that crowded as Phoenix does seem to the most outdoorsy city (this mountain would be mobbed if it was in Denver or Salt Lake City). South Mountain also has great views in all directions and cool cacti everywhere.
Next is the Dreamy Draw/Trail 100/Camel Back/Phoenix Mountain Preserve area (locals will use any of those 4 names to describe the area). Although not as big as South Mountain the terrain is pretty similar with fun, flowy, flatter trails and very steep and technical trails. A very fun and underrated area to ride.
Right between Phoenix and Tempe is Papago Park which doesn’t have the elevation or size of the other parks but has some fun flowy trails scattered about as well as a little free-ride jump area.
For great camping and fun advanced beginner/intermediate trails check out McDowell Park. There is $6 day use fee but the trail head has a shower! The main mountain bike focus trails are short loops with a lot of fun corners and dips. Not as challenging as South Mountain but very fun if you crank the speed up a bit. They also have trails that can be linked to form epic rides including the punishing Quadruple Bypass ride that some sadistic locals enjoy.
North of Phoenix off of I-17 is the Black Canyon Trail which has several trail heads and will one day go from Flagstaff to Tucson. It has quite a few fun sections all not far from I-17.
My number 2 Spot for deep winter mountain biking is a tie between Tucson, AZ and Sedona, AZ. Tuscon has warmer weather and better night life while Sedona has a lifetime of great trails and incredible scenery but colder weather (usually about 10 degrees colder than Phoenix or Tucson). Both Tuscon and Sedona are also less than 2 hours from Phoenix making it easy to hit all three in a week.
My number 3 spot for deep winter mountain biking in the continental US is Boulder City, NV. Boulder City has the famous Bootleg Canyon mountain bike park (known for it’s challenging downhill trails but it also has some fantastic cross country trails). Visit the most well stocked bike shop I have ever seen, All Mountain Cyclery for advice on trails to ride and any upgrades you are seeking. It is also 20 miles from the Las Vegas airport and 30ish miles from the great “Cottonwood Trails” Southwest of Vegas.
For late fall and late winter riding (Mid-November through December and mid-February through April) all of the above are great with Sedona and Boulder City warming up quite a bit.
Other favorite late fall and late winter destinations are Austin, TX, Albuquerque, NM, Saint George/Hurricane, UT and most of California.
Austin has friendly people, great music and really good trails. No huge elevation gains or losses but fun flowy trails at Walnut Creek (with a great pump track), one of the most technical trails I ever ridden at City Park and fun trails you can ride right from downtown in the Green Belt. Some famous road racer lives in Austin too!
Albuquerque has trail options in many different environments. Check out White Mesa for cool desert canyon singletrack and Sandia Peak for high alpine wooded singletrack. Be sure to stop in Bike Works for local trail advice.
Saint George/Hurricane, UT is home to the famous Gooseberry Mesa Trail as well as many less famous but very fun trails. Great high desert riding from singletrack to Red Bull Rampage jumps and drops. Say hi to Quinten and DJ at Over The Edge in Hurricane and they can update you on trail conditions and recommend rides.
Although the late winter can be the rainy season in California there are good trails from San Diego all the way to Oregon there. Do some research online before heading out to California. My favorite areas inland San Diego (Nobel Canyon area), the Laguna Hills, the Santa Monica Mountains, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz (I haven’t explored much North of their yet).
I have purposely left out a lot of great trails and areas near those above as we live in a big, beautiful country, go out and explore! If you have a favorite winter spot or two tell us about them!
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