10 things I love about mountain biking (and yoga)
You’re probably here for the yoga, and that’s awesome. Because yoga is awesome, and you’re awesome. But mountain biking is also awesome and I’m going to explain why, whilst drawing some comparisons with our shared love of yoga.
It’s physical. It gets you fit, keeps you fit, and gives you an incredible endorphin rush. From a 30-minute trail bash in the woods, to an epic all-day ride in the Scottish highlands, you’ll get your heart rate up, exercise all the muscles in your body (especially your legs on the climbs) and work your lungs hard. Your whole body gets a great workout, and you’ll see the benefit from that in other areas of your life, including your yoga practice.
It’s exciting, challenging, scary, and fun. And it doesn’t get less exciting as you improve either; you simply end up riding bigger stuff, faster. From rolling over rocks and roots as a beginner, to progressing to rock drops a few feet high, and maybe one day hitting the Fort William road gap, there’s excitement and thrills for every level of rider. Just as when you started yoga, and found you could progress from holding a strong warrior 3 pose without falling over, to crow, flying pigeon or handstand, there’s always a next level.
It gets you outdoors. Far, far outdoors. Go for a 6-hour hike, and you might get 10 miles away from your start point. On a mountain bike, you can cover anything from 10 miles to 60 miles or more in a day. That gets you a long, long way from civilisation, and opens up the opportunity for all sorts of adventures, from travelling between bunkhouses and hostels, to bivvy biking (mountain biking whilst carrying essential basic gear for an overnight camp), or sleeping in remote Scottish bothies. You might love practising yoga in the quiet and warmth of your own home, but there’s nothing quite like a yoga practice on a mountain summit to stretch out the exertions of a hard climb…
You can travel all over the world with it. There’s your local forestry commission trail centre, trails all over Wales, Scotland, Spain, France, Canada, and even deepest Peru. There are amazing opportunities to see the world on a mountain bike, and find yourself in parts of the world that are inaccessible to other modes of transport. Maybe you could combine your next rural yoga retreat with a mountain biking excursion?
By necessity, mountain biking is a mindful activity, which is fantastic for your mental health. When you combine the endorphin hit of exercise, with the meditative quality of a long climb, and the peace you find when you summit a mountain, you’ve got some real feel-good material. Throw in the social aspect (see number 6) too, and mountain biking can be a life saver for those struggling with mental health issues. As with yoga, some of the biggest benefits of your practice are the invisible ones.
It’s really social. Even if you go riding by yourself, nearly every rider you see on the trail will greet you with positivity, and should you find yourself broken down with a puncture or mechanical issue, I guarantee not a single rider will pass without offering help. Pre-ride coffee at the cafe, or post-ride cake (or a beer) also offers infinite possibilities to meet other riders, share trail directions, adventure stories, and invitations to future rides. Just like the informal gatherings post-yoga class, we humans are social creatures, especially when we have something in common with each other.
You get to eat cake. Not a single ride should finish without cake. Although you may substitute cake with your treat of choice, whether that’s a bacon sandwich, pie and chips or a banana maca smoothie. You definitely earned it, and the best tasting treat is the one that comes hard-earned, just like the coconut water after a sweaty vinyasa class.
You end up with lots of stories to tell. With liberal dashes of exaggeration and embellishment, but rooted in truth, you’ll soon be regaling your mates (who may well have been on the same ride) about the gnarly drop that you stomped, or the slide you managed to pull back, and the one you didn’t. And if you think that’s a bit different from yoga, then you’d probably be right, but I can’t be the only one who’s told a few tales of yoga classes when I achieved something new!
You can indulge in all the cool kit. There’s the carbon, full-suspension enduro machine costing many thousands, all the colourful riding gear, gloves, shoes, sunglasses, helmets, hydration packs, tools, and of course stickers! Basically there’s an awful lot to splash the cash on if you have it, or just admire in the local bike shop if you don’t. It’s the same with yoga gear, although yoga gear is usually somewhat more affordable, but I definitely get really excited about a new yoga mat or some fancy shorts!
You learn a lot about yourself. Every ride provides you with a bit more learning about your level of self-sufficiency, stamina, and determination, and you also find that your limits are way beyond where you thought they were. Get into mountain biking, and at some point you’ll find yourself on rides where you think you having nothing left in the tank, only to make it another 15 miles or more over hills and through forests, powering and willing your body, your legs and your lungs to keep going. Just as every single yoga practice that you do takes your further along your journey, every single ride is a new experience, a new learning, and a gift to be grateful for.
Hopefully that persuaded you to give mountain biking a go, and if you do venture out on the trail, take care, and enjoy yourself. And say hi if you see me out on the trails. I’ll be the one doing a handstand against a tree.