It’s Not Too Late For A Bikepacking Trip This Winter!

There are plenty of areas where one can enjoy the winter landscape in all its glory — but the best are all far above sea level. The easiest way to get to those places is to bike there. The pristine winter wonderland above the clouds is a sight to behold. Those who have ventured so far will often describe it as whimsical, peaceful or, sometimes, creepy. No matter what your experience, it’s likely you’ll find solitude.

But you can’t just get up and go if you’ve never gone before.

Bikepacking requires using every square inch of space on your bicycle for storing gear, a task which becomes monumentally more difficult in winter. Why? Because you need warmer gear, and warmer gear is heavier and takes up more space.

Almost always, you’ll need a sleeping bag rated down to zero degrees. Whereas lower rated bags can weigh two or three pounds, these warmer bags will probably weigh at least six. 

And then you need a fourth-season tent. These tents are sturdier and will hold up to harsh mountain winds in winter — or even under a bit of snow. They’re better insulated, but not by much. They’ll add another few pounds.

Heat lost to the ground is the most important problem to consider, which means you need a sleeping pad with a high “r” value. The higher the value, the thicker and heavier the pad. We recommend a foam pad coupled with an air mat. The latter can be placed directly in your sleeping bag. For added comfort, you can purchase a lightweight sleeping bag liner or two to increase the sleeping bag temperature rating another five or ten degrees.

Then you need to consider clothes. You won’t want to bring too many. Usually a daytime pair and a nighttime pair is enough. Insulated boots and a pair of wool socks will do well. Save the thicker socks for bed, because they can cut off circulation and make you colder while you ride.

Wear a polyester thermal set as your base layer if you need it. If you don’t need it, store it in your nighttime bag with your dedicated nighttime pair. Doubling up always helps. You’ll want a thick pair of wind-resistant pants, a cotton shirt, and a merino wool hoodie as your mid-layer. You may or may not need another layer for your legs, but it’s up to you.

A thin pair of gloves can be doubled up with a thicker pair of weather-resistant gloves.

You need two more things: a puffy coat (how much you spend matters) and a rain shell for when it gets wet. We recommend wearing a balaclava and ski goggles to protect your face from frostbite.

How To Gain Muscle For Mountain Biking And Bikepacking

Mountain biking and bikepacking are not activities for the faint of heart. They require a lot of preparation, time, and effort — not to mention the vast amount of endurance needed to sustain a bout of exercise. That is why it is so important to find the right exercises to gain muscle and stamina, especially if you plan to learn a few mountain biking tricks as well. Here are a few of the best exercises you can do to gain muscle for mountain biking right now.

  1. Biking. Sounds dumb, right? Mountain biking has a lot in common with similarly strenuous activities — like long-distance backpacking for example. And when people ask how you get into shape for these activities, the answer is most often simple: don’t bother. There isn’t really an activity or exercise that will truly prepare you for mountain biking except long-distance biking. You can gain muscle through doing.
  2. Running. For excruciating activities like mountain biking or bikepacking, one of the best things you can do is gain cardiovascular muscle — because while there is no single, tried and true method of preparing for what you’re about to do, you should make sure you won’t drop dead while you’re doing it. That means getting into slightly better overall shape before you leave.
  3. Core. Yoga is a great way to get a full body exercise, but core muscles are very important for maintaining balance while you’re biking. Practice the plank position frequently, but complement it with squat repetitions to build some muscles in your quads and glutes. Another position involves a side plank using an elastic band just above the knees to do repetitions of leg lifts while resting the body’s weight on your forearm and foot. This will help build up your obliques and hips.
  4. General. Lunges will build your leg and core muscles. One-legged push-ups will build your core, arms, and teach you how to balance. Weight training will build bone density and increase muscle strength. Walking will keep your muscles mobile and relaxed during rest periods.

    A stability ball is a great prop for core-building workouts. Exercises using stability balls also have a number of other important benefits, especially for aging adults. Some research suggests that they can help with lower back pain, and increase muscle mass in the back, glutes, and abs. They are especially useful tools during physical therapy after an accident or injury. If you were hurt while mountain biking, then ask your doctors about the potential benefits!

Bikepacking 101: What Is It And What Are Bikepacking Best Practices?

If you’re an avid mountain biker, you’ve probably at one point in time wondered what it would be like to head off one day — and then not come back. We all want to run away once in a while, and bikepacking is basically the counterpart to backpacking, an activity that tens of thousands of outdoor enthusiasts have always loved and cherished. These activities are a way to make life if little simple if only for a little while.

First, you’ll want to find a route good for your level of experience outdoors. You might be an expert mountain biker, but have you ever spent a few nights out in the woods? That’s the real question. Find a long route that caters to your level of experience mountain biking. If you’ve never backpacked or bikepacked before, then make sure that route isn’t too far away from civilization. 

Other hikers, backpackers, or bikepackers should populate this trail. If your bike breaks down, you should be able to easily walk or hike to town, or at least to a road where you can pick up an easy hitch.

What kind of supplies do you need?

High-calorie but low-weight food is important. Peanut butter, instant potatoes, pop-tarts, and candy are all hiking staples. Do some research and decide what’s best for you. A couple pounds a day is the basic rule of thumb. Bring more water than you believe you could need on the trail, and make sure you know where to get more. Don’t forget extra water containers and a water filter. The Sawyer brand of filtration is popular.

Overnight excursions mean you’ll also need to bring along a sleeping bag and tent. Make sure these items are as lightweight as possible, but also ensure they’re rated for the weather you might encounter. Clothing options are equally as important. You’ll want lightweight clothes — nothing cotton — that will keep you cool during the day and then something warm for the night. Bring along a rain jacket to keep you dry when it’s wet.

One important aspect of bikepacking that you have to worry about is maintenance. You don’t get that when you backpack. When bikepacking you’ll need items like extra chains or bolts, multitools, bike pump, bike lock, helmet, etc. On top of tools, you’ll want at least a couple extra tubes and tires. These are heavy but they can be a lifesaver — and at least they’re attached to your bike and not your back.

There are a lot of other considerations to be made. Start here:

 

Why Is Spain Such A Wonder For Mountain Biking Enthusiasts?

The trails in Spain are some of the most sought-after in the world, especially for those who love to travel via mountain bike. And who wouldn’t? The surge of adrenaline is like nothing else, especially when you couple the thrill-seeker’s sensation with the invigorating rush of wind you feel during each wild ride. It takes a lot of skill, control, and lightning-fast reflexes to make mountain biking a viable long-term hobby, but those who do will certainly learn to enjoy the most challenging trails that Spain offers.

But why Spain?

First of all, our country has something that the rest of Europe doesn’t: the highest average altitude in the entire region. For example the Sierra de los Filabres mountain range soars above 2,000 meters, which grants would-be riders some fantastic views. Depending on when you go, you might even run into snow! One thing is for certain, though: you’ll love the varied terrain to find on your way.

Spain also presents riders with some of the best trail conditions anywhere in the world, with maintainers working to keep them safe and clear of debris year-round. The routes vary in their difficulty; some stretch dozens, hundreds, even thousands of kilometers.

Because mountain biking is such a popular sport in Spain, riders will find many vacation packages geared toward making those trips all the more fun by designing them to reduce the amount of thinking you have to do. Those who offer these organized trips handle some of the food, lodging, and provide many options for routes worthy of your time. Whatever you need is exactly what you get. Personalized requests matter in Spain.

Another popular location is the Malaga mountain range out near the Mediterranean Sea. The trail offers easy access to River Guadalmedina, which makes longer outings a lot easier if you’re willing to bring some extra gear along. While out for a ride, you might see hikers as well. Those who explore this region are in for some of the best views that Spain has to offer — including the Sierra Nevada, Sierra de Loja, Alhama de Granada, and even a few of the ocean.

Many of these biking routes are still unmarked, but guess what: we have no intention of changing that. It’s exactly what some riders are looking for, especially since these locations tend to ward off ever-increasing populations of people as the sport’s popularity grows. Some of us like a quiet ride, and there are many available in the mountains of Spain. Then again, other trails are very well marked for those who don’t mind the extra company. Some of us who are just beginning might even need it.

What Should You Pack To Eat When Mountain Biking The North Atlantic Basque Coast In Spain?

Mountain Biking packages along the Basque Coast adjoining Spain and France are some of the most sought after, especially since the care given to these trails is top-notch. Bikers can expect to find trips that include accommodations, breakfasts, guides, transfers, photos, etc. What’s better, most of these packages are for small groups of six or seven people, which means a lot of personal support when you need it the most.

But what should you bring to eat on your next mountain biking trip to the Basque Coast? Usually, the answer is as much as possible! What you pack depends on your own personal tastes, of course, but you’ll want to be practical about how much you carry. More weight equals less control over the bike, and that can lead to disaster for those of us who are less experienced. That means it pays to be smart in planning ahead.

For those of you who are avid backpackers, you’ll be familiar with most of these lightweight foods:

  • You won’t have any problem drinking water, but you might want to add some flavor, vitamins or electrolytes to each refill. Propel or Mio are great options.
  • Believe it or not, saltines have a great calorie to weight ratio — but only pack them if you can spare the room, because they definitely do take up space. Bread or bagels are other good options.
  • Pop Tarts or Clif Bars are great for a morning calorie boost.
  • Peanut butter M&Ms. Any variety of this candy is great, but you’ll want the extra sugar, fat, and protein. 
  • Tuna pouches will give you some additional lightweight nutrients, but beware: you’ll get tired of them fast.
  • Bananas or berries if you have the option to resupply daily. 
  • PB&J sandwiches if you have the option to resupply daily — or any sandwich, really. You’ll want variety after a while.
  • Beef jerky, salami, pepperoni, and other meats that won’t go bad in your pack.
  • Babybel cheeses will keep well in your pack.
  • Fritos will give you lots of calories and will help replenish the salt you lose in sweat.

If you’re out overnight, then you’ll want to add to the list. Whether you bring a lightweight camping stove is up to you, but if you do then be sure to better your menu with foods you can cook quickly. Knorrs rice or pasta pouches can be great for a quick snack, but you’ll tire of them quickly. Instant potatoes are another great choice, and they can be prepared cold or combined with cheese and meat. Add olive oil to any meal for omega 3s!

What To Do If You Want To Start Mountain Biking

Mountain biking can be scary, dangerous, and time-consuming. It’s not for the faint of heart, and it probably goes without saying that those who take the time to get into the sport are thrill seekers. They like to live life a little faster, they like the wind washing over their bodies, and they’re not afraid to get back on the horse again after they fall off. So you’re interested in mountain biking, but not sure it’s for you? Here’s what to keep in mind when you’re first starting out.

Be sure you really do want this. The sport is getting more popular with every year, and last year over eight million people tried at least once. With that kind of popularity comes a particular kind of word of mouth. People have the tendency to want to try what they’re friends are doing, but it doesn’t mean they should. Be careful, and think about all the pros and cons before you give it a try.

Mountain biking requires a powerful core. If that isn’t something you’re confident you’ve got, then it’s time to find out. Start with a few yoga workouts, and you’ll get the idea pretty quick.

Find someone to go with you. It’s a dangerous sport, so don’t try it alone. Find others who are at or above your skill level so you have friends you can watch out for, and who will watch out for you.

Beware of how your body rests on the bike. Take a look at pictures and videos to see how experienced riders sit on the bike, and do your best to replicate it before you try anything crazy. You’ll get used to the effort depending on your stance. Start out by taking it easy.

Don’t forget food and water while you’re training on a new path–especially if it’s your first time out. You’re not just riding around on any silly old bike. You’re expending a lot of energy on a very physical sport, and you need to remember to rest and recharge frequently. Get a hydration pack, and make sure you have food nearby or keep a small backpack.

The most important thing of all? Don’t give up. Once you’ve decided to give it a try, don’t dismiss it after you fall the first time or procure the first scrape. Relax, rest, recharge, and then do it again.

There’s A Whole New Way To Mountain “Bike”

Millions of people enjoy the great outdoors and get some exercise in the process. Many take hikes along trails in deserts, forests or in mountainous areas. Others go backpacking, while still others use various bicycles to take rides down streets, trails or off-road.

Mountain bikers are especially prevalent in national forests, state parks and other areas where there are trails and rugged terrain, and taking them deep into these areas can be a fun challenge, but also have its risks in terms of injury with a fall.

Another growing form of outdoor entertainment is the unicycle, which used to be left to circus acts. More and more people have been using unicycles as a form of transportation and in some ways recreation. But can you imagine combining any of the aforementioned outdoor activities with a unicycle? Have you taken a unicycle with you on a camping trip? Have you done some backpacking while riding a unicycle, or having one packed with you?

How about mountain biking? Yes, the same trails, with a unicycle?

Does that unicycle on a mountain trail seem a little too dangerous or extreme?

While many of us may have a hard time wrapping our heads around the idea, a geologist with an excitement streak has started using his unicycle on some mountain trails that he has used his mountain bike on, and that has led to some real challenges – such as a 13-foot drop for example.

Find this hard to imagine? This guy does hear his share of jokes about “missing a wheel” or what have you. But how many of those jokesters are willing to jump on a unicycle and take on the same trials that they take on with their mountain bikes?

Who thinks less than one in 10?

You know how it is – those who joke about something that seems as crazy as mountain unicycle are those who are less likely to actually try it themselves. But for this geologist, he has heard them all and says he has gotten used to the comments and doesn’t let them faze him.

It certainly takes outdoor exercise to a whole new level. Is it enough to generate a new buzz of extreme athletes? Does this count as extreme, or is it just weird? How do you think mountain unicycle compares with extreme skateboarding or bungee jumping in terms of danger and/or excitement? Do you own a unicycle, and would you consider taking it out on a trail with rugged terrain?

Common Mountain Biking Injuries

Mountain biking is one of the most popular forms of outdoor activity and exercise around. Mountain bikes are often durable, excellent in all kinds of terrain and weather, and they can be a great vehicle to heading along forest trails or biking up hills and mountains to get some of that fresh outdoor air.

Like other vehicles, however, there are certain risks to mountain biking, which is why many of us wear helmets, pads, long pants and/or cloves when we go riding. While most places do not have laws requiring the use of a helmet on mountain bikes, injuries on mountain bikes can be quite common, even if most of them are not life-threatening.

However, a couple of the most common mountain biking injuries can put you out of biking commission for a few weeks or longer depending on the severity of the injury. Unfortunately, helmets won’t prevent these injuries from happening. Here is a list of the four most common mountain biking injuries.

1. Just Scraping By.

Mountain bikes go on all kinds of terrain and in various environments, and when you ride past tree branches or a cactus, or you lose balance on some rocks, inevitably you will get skin abrasions along your arms, knees, legs or hands. Most superficial and won’t require more than a bandage and won’t adversely impact your ride – they come with the territory, so to speak.

2. Shouldering the Pain.

Mountain biking can be tough on joints due to rough, uneven terrain. As your arms connect the upper body to the handlebars, much of the shock of going over rough terrain is borne on your shoulders, which is where AC joint pain can occur. The AC joint is where some ligaments could get sprained from wear and tear and weight on the shoulder. A sprain can cause enough pain as to keep you off your bike to rest the joint for a couple week s or a couple months.

3. To the Knee and Back!

Mountain biking is much like traditional bicycling in that while it is low impact, it can be repetitive in motion and joints will have adverse reactions to uneven or rough terrain. The repetition of mountain biking can result in wear on the knees and back, which can cause pain. Cartilage and ligaments wear with consistent repetition, and the muscles of the back can spasm if the back muscles are in the same posture for extended periods. According to several orthopedic doctors, a treatment for knee paid is Unique Dermatology and Wellness PRP Therapy.

4. Carpal Diem.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is usually associated with repeated motions in an office setting like on a keyboard or mouse. But it can also appear in mountain biking if your handlebars are at the wrong height and have undue pressure on your wrists as you ride. That undue pressure is on the nerves of the wrist which can cause tingling and numbness.

Tips for Choosing the Best MTB Tires for You

If you are like the rest of us and have become an adrenaline junkie after a few rides of the ol’ mountain bike trail, you might be looking into taking your ride to the next level. One way to do that is to upgrade your bike. While mountain bikes are generally sold as one unit, there are a number of parts that can be customized. For example, you can customize your bike chain, pedals, handlebars, tires and more. Some of these changes may be largely for cosmetic purposes, but changing your bike’s tires will directly affect the performance of your bike.

For mountain bikes, there are a variety of factors that way into which tires you should be using. There are tires for different seasons, different terrains, and even different ride styles. With a little help from the folks over at REI, we have put together a list of tips for you to consider when purchasing new tires for your mountain bike.

MTB Tire Size and Width

The first step is to identify your tire diameter. Once you have identified the size of your tires, you are going to need to select a certain width. For optimal performance, you are going to want to select a tire width that fits your most common riding terrain. We have listed some examples below.

  • Cross Country: 1.9″ to 2.25″ width range.
  • Trail and All-MTB: 2.25″ to 2.4″ width range.
  • Downhill: Tires up to 2.5″. Meant to absorb impact from drops and rock patches.
  • Fat Bikes: Used for all season trail riding and a width 3.7″ to 5″ or more.

When researching new tires, it is important to keep your riding style in mind. If you are someone that is looking for more traction and tires that will absorb the blow of a drop, wider tires will better suit you.

 MTB Tires by Riding Style

Another factor to consider when purchasing mountain bike tires is your riding style. We have listed a few riding styles below.

  • Cross Country: If you are a cross-country rider, you are going to want lightweight tires that roll fast. Lightweight tires will make it easier for you to climb up and down hills.
  • Trail riding: For trail riding, it is recommended that your purchase an all-around tire.
  • All-Mountain: While you have to ride to the top of the mountain, the focus here is on the ride down. For this riding style, it is suggested that you look for tires that can maintain speed, have traction on turns, and can withstand impacts.
  • Downhill Riding: For downhill riding, you are going to want tires that can take some abuse. Generally, these trails will have a lift that takes you to the top, so the main focus should be on tires that will get you down the hill quickly and withstand impacts from drops.

MTB Tires by Tread

You know those little bumps on your tires? Yea, well, they are called “lugs”, and they have an effect on the performance of your bike. Below, we have a list of the common tread patterns and what they do.

  • Big widely spaced lugs: Best for mud or loose dirt. The wide spaces between lugs will make it easier for the mud or dirt to be released.
  • Small, closely spaced lugs: This type of tread is for more speed. The small lugs offer little resistance and an average grip.
  • Ramped lugs: These lugs are in usually in the center of the tire and offer little rolling resistance.
  • Side lugs: Provide extra grip when going around corners.
  • Transition lugs: Located between the center and side lugs. They are intended to increase grip as you turn around tight corners.
  • Sipes: Little slits on the lugs themselves. Sipes are good for getting more grip on harder surfaces.

Now its Time for you to Buy Some New Tires

So, we have provided you with the beginner’s guide to mountain bike tires. Now it’s time for you to go out and get a pair of your own. Have fun and safe riding!

Tips for Choosing a Mountain Bike

Just like any other investment, a mountain bike can bring you joy or cause you to suffer from buyer’s remorse. Mountain bikes can be expensive. When you are considering purchasing a mountain bike, it is important that you do thorough research to ensure that you are getting your money’s worth. Some things you should take into consideration are:

  • Experience
  • Budget
  • Type of mountain you will be riding
  • How often you will be riding the bike

How do I Choose a Mountain Bike?

Sacredrides is an active blog where mountain bike enthusiasts share the tips and tricks of the trade. They put together a list of tips for choosing a mountain bike. We have summarized them below.

  • Set of a Budget
    • $500 or less: If you are a novice mountain biker and working on a tight budget, this may be the right choice for you. In this price range, the market or mountain bikes is very limited, but you can still find a decent bike. If you are shopping in this price range, look for an entry-level hardtail. You might even be able to find a mid-level hardtail from a previous year. Another recommendation is to avoid a full suspension bike at this price range.
    • $500 – $1,000: At this price range, you should be able to find a nice entry-level hardtail. This is also a good price range to look for used bikes that at one point were more expensive.
    • $1,000 – $1,500: Mountain bikes in this range will use the same frames as more expensive bikes, but they use cheaper parts. If you are purchasing a bike at this level, you can always upgrade the parts as you go. At this price range, you can usually find higher priced bikes on clearance or at the end of the year.
    • $1,500 – $3,500: This is for elite riders. At this range, you can buy a bike that fits your exact needs. You will begin to see carbon fiber models as well as all mountain terrain or full suspension. Most bikes in this range are also considered race ready.
    • $3,500 and up: At this price point you can have your pick of the litter. You may even want to consider buying two different bikes that fit your needs.
  • Type of Riding
    • Three main types of bikes:
      • XC
      • All mountain/trail
      • Downhill
    • If you are more of a casual rider that mainly rides on local trails, you are going to want a trail bike. If you ever go downhill riding, you can rent a bike there.
    • If you mainly ride downhill, it is recommended that you purchase a downhill or freeride bike.
  • Making the Purchase
    • It is recommended that you purchase a bike from a local shop instead of online. Purchasing your bike from the store will allow you to get a feel for the bike when you are using it.
  • Post-Purchase
    • For a new bike, make sure that you inquire about a warranty. Many new bikes come with a warranty. Also, ask the bike shop if they offer a tune up after 30-90 days. After breaking the bike in, components may shift giving the bike a different feel from when you purchased it.
    • For a used bike, be sure to go through the following checklist:
      • Check the frame for cracks
      • Check tires for usage
      • Check cables and brakes for frays
      • Check for any leaks from the suspension
    • If you are not familiar with bikes, you can ask your local bike shop if they will look the bike over for you.

We hope that this list helps you purchase your new mountain bike. Always remember to do research before making an investment. If you make the right choice, a bike can last yours for years and thousands of miles of riding.