By: randosteve|Posted on: October 14, 2011|Posted in: Gear | 19 comments

Since I turned the big four-oh this past June, I figured I’d change things up a little this summer, go easy on my body and take a break from the pounding trail running puts on the joints, mainly my knees and back. To do that, I bought a new mountain bike (Giant Anthem X29er) early in the summer and have been riding it a lot. It had been about 10-15 years (at least) since I had done any serious mountain biking and this is the first full-suspension bike I’ve owned, but getting back into the sport this summer has been a hoot! The bikes these days are so nice and plush, and the 29er really hauls ass when the trails allow.

In general, I’ve found mountain biking to be a bit easier than trail running, since your body weight is supported by the bike and you can coast and pretty much chill on all the downhills. Technically it seems more challenging, as negotiating rocks, roots and stumps without falling off the bike takes some skill, but studies show that cycling is about 20% easier (looking at calories burned) when compared to running. The fun factor is much higher with mountain biking though, so for me…as a non-competitive athlete, I’m willing to sacrifice that 20% calorie burn and add a bit more pleasure to my workouts and fitness maintenance if it means that my knees and back hold out for a few more years.

It would be great if the weather, snow and trail conditions allowed for one to go directly from mountain biking in to skiing. But, as the weather gets more unsettled in the Fall, the trails get muddier and since there isn’t quite enough snow to really get after it and go skiing in the mountains, one is forced to look elsewhere to get their ya-ya’s out and get the aerobic fix they need. Re-enter…trail running.

I’ve recently probably put in about 10-12 runs so far, some lasting 3-4 hours, and even though I’ve been enjoying riding the bike this year, it’s been nice to get back out and just…run. There is something about running that is soothing and relaxing. I think it is the lack in technicality of it, in that you don’t really have to focus on anything and you can let your mind wander when you run. With mountain biking, I feel like I’m often thinking about how to approach the next obstacle, if I’m in the right gear and where to position my body weight. I feel like running requires much less thought and allows me to think about other things, whether that be what is going on at work, in life or what new skis I should be looking forward to riding this winter.

For the record, I’ve been running mostly on the La Sportiva Quantum so far and I've found the MorphoDynamic mid-sole to offer extremely good cushioning. So much so that it almost feels like you are running on a pillow, really. The low delta between the heel and forefoot takes a little getting used to if you are used to running with shoes that have stacked up heels, but I read it's better for my running technique in the long run. The unique “wavy” outsole holds traction well on most surfaces and the Friction AT rubber sticks to rocks much better than most rubber found on other trail running shoe offerings. I do find that for me, it would be nice to have a little more volume over the instep, width in the fore-foot and maybe some longer laces, but generally, I’ve been happy with the Quantum.

To add to the running shoe quiver, I recently received a pair of next year’s Dynafit Feline Superlights to test out. So far, I’ve been very impressed with this shoe. It fits my foot like a glove, is quite stiff and light, and the extremely aggressive outsole appears to offer heightened traction over loose terrain. The jury is still out on the Aura Activator and whether it's worth the extra few grams and dollars to be included in the construction, but my back has been killing me lately, so we will see if it can help with that over time. Anyway, temps are great for running now and I will see you out on the trail.  Ciao for now!