7 Reasons why more and more South Africans are getting into mountain biking.
1. BE PART OF A GROWING COMMUNITY
Mountain biking is one of the fastest-growing leisure activities in the country, if not the world, and even the most cursory of Google searches will turn up an amazing amount of online support for new enthusiasts. Read reviews of trails, seek advice from experienced riders and make new friends by plugging into this buzzing community.
2. EASY TO GET INTO
Unlike some other sports, mountain biking is relatively easy to pick up. An entry-level bike and rudimentary safety equipment will not cost you an arm and a leg, and you don’t need — like with football, for example — to scare up an entire ‘team’ of willing friends in order to get active. Maintaining your bike is also fun and manageable (and may soon develop into a hobby in and of itself).
3. GET FIT, STAY HEALTHY
It is recommended to do at least 2-4 hours of light to moderate exercise every week, and mountain biking will provide the kind of varied cardiovascular workout that will keep your doctor happy. Although trails might be bumpy, mountain biking is still easier on your joints than other popular fitness choices such as jogging or squash. It also boasts a huge advantage over road biking, as this exercise is done outdoors, in the fresh air (and not surrounded by CO2-emitting motor vehicles).
4. ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY
It is a stark reality of today’s world that we all need to show greater consideration for the environment in our lifestyle choices. Even when one factors in the carbon footprint of manufacturing a new bike, cycling remains one of the most carbon-friendly leisure activities out there. Indeed, many bikers report that — within 6 months — they graduate from ‘weekend-only’ riding to taking a bike into work, thereby reducing their dependency on cars and other forms of petrol-powered transportation.
South Africa is uniquely blessed with an amazing network of mountain bike trails spread throughout our nine geographically diverse provinces. The Cape Epic route, for example, is one of the few in the world deemed horscategorie (‘beyond categorisation’) by the Union Cycliste Internationale (the sport’s world governing body).
Mountain biking offers you a chance to get out of the city every weekend and spend some time in smaller, quieter, more rural parts of the country, meeting people from different walks of life and soaking up some of South Africa’s immense natural beauty along the way.
6. ZEN AND THE ART OF MOUNTAIN BIKING
Mountain biking is also deeply therapeutic. Being a solo activity that demands intense concentration, focus and awareness on the ‘here and now’, means that mountain biking has the wonderful added benefit of clearing the head and revitalising the mind. Indeed, the internet is awash with accounts of bikers achieving (what they refer to as) “moments of perfect clarity” on the trail, where they catch themselves being “completely present and in the moment”, and where the usual distractions and stresses of everyday life seem to evaporate completely.
7. KEEP IMPROVING
As your stamina and technique improve after a few months on the bike, you can continue to challenge yourself by improving your times, or seeking out ever-tougher trails. There is also ample opportunity to put yourself against other SA mountain bikers in races and contests held throughout the year. The ability to set (and achieve) concrete goals is essential to the success of taking up any new habit or fitness regime, and mountain biking offers a very clear-cut way of keeping track of your physical improvement.