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, Iâ€™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 meâ€¦as a non-competitive athlete, Iâ€™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 isnâ€™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-yaâ€™s out and get the aerobic fix they need. Re-enterâ€¦trail running.
Iâ€™ve recently probably put in about 10-12 runs so far, some lasting 3-4 hours, and even though Iâ€™ve been enjoying riding the bike this year, itâ€™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 donâ€™t really have to focus on anything and you can let your mind wander when you run. With mountain biking, I feel like Iâ€™m often thinking about how to approach the next obstacle, if Iâ€™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, Iâ€™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 â€œwavyâ€ 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, Iâ€™ve been happy with the Quantum.
To add to the running shoe quiver, I recently received a pair of next yearâ€™s Dynafit Feline Superlights to test out. So far, Iâ€™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.Â Ciao for now!
Now take your same running mentality and apply it to biking. Long, alpine, mtn traverses on a bike with 4-5k downhills at the end are top prize in my book. Good choice on a bike too…
I hear ya steve!!! MT bike assist mountaineering and peak baggin became my favorite sport this summer….easier on the knees, and you can hang out in the mountains till sunset, and then ride out in a blaze of glory.
now take everything you have, and know, throw it in the garbage and get a road bike! you’ll really love it!
ty and mr smoke…all that stuff sounds like fun. so far, i’ve been keeping my rides pretty local, as in out the back door, saving carbon credits for when i throw down for a water ski boat. but it would be nice to get out and explore on the bike more though too. 🙂
i dunno know tat dude…i just don’t see the allure of the road bike, getting buzzed by cars and all. i have a decent road bike too, but it is uncomfortable as hell. i could see riding on a long sweet bike path though. in fact, it would be nice to get my road bike feeling more comfortable so i can combine my workouts/commute and take advantage of the new bike path from jackson to moose next summer.
(again, saving carbon credits for that dang water ski boat. 🙂 )
gimmi a call and ill help fit you a bit. there are all kinds of routes to avoid cars for the workout, you just gotta ask a roadie.
right on bro…i may take you up on that. thanks!
did you hear about reeder’s “ja-to-ja” (as in la-to-ja) ride…in a day?
jackson-cora-union pass-togwotee-jackson…something like 200+ miles and 20 hours?
Nothing like a road bike to get the old heart pumping in a sustained manner. Ride Jackson-Targhee-Jackson, and if that is too easy do it faster! For a quickie ride out to Red Top after work.
A word of caution- if you do a serious amount of biking in the summer, do spend some time in the weight room on the hamstring machine. Ultra strong quads need to be balanced– I found out the hard way one time and couldn’t ski for a month as a result.
Smart man ditching the running. Running is so abusive, at least it was on my body. The only thing I miss about it is the simplicity and lack of gear needed. That said, “speed hiking” uphill is usually just as fast as most peoples “running pace”. And running downhill is just plain stupid anyway.
If personal records are your goal, I find a PR on the up to be far more satisfying than trying to move fast downhill too.
Steve, you should think about nordic skating to mix it up too. Or maybe you already do that?
yeah derek…with running i also like the fact that you can get a great workout in under an hour…so pretty time/cost effective.
i went through a skate skiing phase, even raced in a few races and did pretty good. it was mostly during my rando-racing (and pre rando-racing) days…so i was really fit. in the past few years, i’ve only gotten out on the skate skis once or twice during the season…mostly on the uber-flat track in gtnp on sunny rest days.
I’m going on 50 and a trail runner for 30 years, and my knees, hips and ankles are still strong. The key is balance, consistency, cross-training. NEVER go for surgery – your body will heal itself with smart PT and hard work. And NEVER shy away from running downhill. There is nothing better than trail-running for BC ski conditioning. Biking is great but should be balanced with tr-running. As we get older our bodies need that pounding to maintain bone mass.
And what’s worse? A self righteous Alta Hippie or a S.R. roadie?
Nice bike pick. A great value and performer. Although, why the bikes cost so much dough in this age of mass production stumps me. A Kawasakiâ€™s KLX costs about the same as a Anthem.
RDE’s comment about about the hamstrings is on the money as is Omr’s about surgery (obvious exceptions aside), but running downhill seems like a questionable activity to “NEVER shy away from”. Depends on the hill and the health of your knees.
i usually don’t shy away from the downhill, but i’m also usually feeling it big time in the quads and knees after the big descents.
I rode a Anthems 29er when Fitzy’s had their Giant Demo Day and the bike took to Snow King like a knife to butter. I didn’t get to try anything more challenging. The 29″ wheels give you a chance to keep up with any road bike should you care to.
I don’t get the love affair with the road bike (I own one but it gets 15% of my biking time). Road bikes lack the excitement and flexibility of a great mtn bike. BTW, I think Fitzy’s is getting out of the Giant dealership and going with Scott Bikes due to the move to Victor. They have a few Anthems still on sale.
right on ted…most of the time i ride the trails around the king, so it works out great. and if i’m riding the pathway back to jh after doing a game creek loop, the larger wheels fly like the wind.
i think fitzy’s is f-ed with the move…but i wish them luck.
You will have to hit some some bridges and stunts up in North Vancouver….
Bikes cost ‘so much’ now because even a mid range, XT level bike is more tuned for performance and weight than your KLX. Keeping handlebars, stems, rims etc strong enough to be safe while pushing the weight envelope is no small task and underestimated by many people.
That Giant Anthem’s frame alone goes through many, many steps in production before its even welded. Multiple butting for weight and strength, several different tooling stops on the production line for Hydroforming and mechanical tube shaping and bending.
Then you have the Fox suspension front and back that is made in California. Last time I checked, the USA (specifically California with its very strict environmental protection laws) is not the cheapest place in the world for precision manufacturing and assembly.
Enough internets bs, I think I’ll go for a ride.
Great post Steve! I love mountain biking on the off-season because like you said it’s easier on the joints and it’s a lot more exciting than running. Another great workout that you can do between the transition of summer and fall is swimming if you have access to a local pool. Swimming is really good workout because there is no impact on the joints and it works almost all muscles in your body. Swimming also lacks the technicality of mountain biking as you can glide through the pool and relax your mind.
thanks jedidiah…maybe i will try some laps in the pool this fall.