I bought my first mountain bike in 1994. Actually, it was the first bike I ever bought for myself, having cut my teeth on 10-speed beaters provided by my parents. I rode it off-road for a while in the 1990s, and it sat neglected for most of the 2000s. In 2010, I fixed it up to use for winter commuting, replacing the old, blown air/oil suspension fork with a rigid front fork. However, that pretty much meant the end of the bike’s days as an off-road, single-track bike.
For a while, I didn’t miss mountain biking, until a few years back, when I started hiking to and from work. From where I live, it’s about a 5 mile hike, about 90% of which is in Patapsco Valley State Park. Problem was, it took me 90 minutes each way, and I didn’t have 3 hours to spend commuting every day. As a result, it became a once-a-week thing, and most other days, I took to the roads on my bike, amongst the ever-worsening rush hour traffic.
PVSP is one of the premier mountain biking areas in the region, and during my hikes, I would always see MTB riders. Eventually, I got to thinking that if I bought a new mountain bike, I could use it to commute on the same trails I was hiking. It would be faster, so I could do it more often, which would mean less time spent on congested roads. In late 2019, I finally took the plunge.
It was a bit of a learning curve picking mountain biking back up after 20 years. It’s a completely different skill set from road biking, particularly when riding steep, technical trails like those in PVSP. But, I soon got into a pretty good routine commuting back and forth from work on single track. Then, COVID hit, and as with everything else, it shook up my mountain biking routine. Now that I’m working from home, I’m not using my bikes for commuting any more, and that includes the MTB. There’s less traffic on the roads, making road biking on weekdays (at least temporarily) more palatable than in recent years. It’s also been a very wet year, and the trails have been muddier than usual. All of this has meant less mountain biking this year than I had planned, though I still try to get out once a week or so. I’ll usually try to wait until 48 to 72 hours after it has rained (tough to do this year), and then I’ll ride a 10-to-15-mile loop before work.
One thing I will say about mountain biking is that, while harder to master than road biking, it is fun. There’s nothing like the thrill of a fun, fast descent, and a long ride on a flowy trail brings on a zen feeling that’s kind of like a runner’s high. You don’t really get that on the road, and it’s been a nice outlet this year. I’m glad I bought the bike when I did, and am looking forward to some point in the future when I can use it for commuting again.