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The Green Life: Exercise Outdoors: Spin on a Mountain Bike

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June 01, 2012

Exercise Outdoors: Spin on a Mountain Bike

Sierra Mountain Biking TipsNow that summer is on its way, it's time to take your indoor fitness routines outdoors. We'll show you how.

Tip #4: Trade the torture chamber of a spin studio for the heart attack-inducing thrill of mountain biking.

The thought of a screaming spin instructor guiding us through a virtual terrain with techno blasting in our ears makes us wince, especially during the summer. Outdoor exercise provides better views and a better workout — adrenaline rush included.

But like trail running, mountain and trail biking comes with unpredictability, so it's all about safety first, as well as a few other tips:


  1. Borrow or rent gear before buying. Between the more durable frame and souped up suspension, gears, and brakes, mountain bikes can run you at least $600. Plus, you might not even like it. That's why you should have a local bike shop fit you, or borrow one from a friend of similar size and weight. The same goes for most of the gear, including gloves, moisture-wicking socks, jackets and padded shorts. Wear an old fleece and hiking socks before you commit. But don't skimp on a helmet, and don't use a road bike on a trail or mountain.
  2. Find an appropriate trail. Going straight from an indoor stationary bike to downhill biking is crazy. Find a designated bike trail that works for you by visiting your local parks' pages. Beginners will want to choose flat, multi-track routes (which are wider, so can fit more bikes) rather than the more challenging single-tracks. Also, check out the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a non-profit that's created 15,000 miles of scenic, flat trails out of former rail lines throughout the U.S.
  3. Practice in the parking lot. Especially if you're transitioning from indoor biking, the weight distribution and the use of the gears on a mountain bike will seem counterintuitive. Mainly, you'll have to lay off the front brake, keep your weight back and shift gears earlier than you realize. Pedaling around for 20 to 30 minutes in the parking lot before starting on the trail might help prevent the dreaded head-first dive over the handlebars.
  4. Bring a friend and a backpack. Like trail running and open-water swimming, having a friend with you will be more fun and important in case you get lost or hurt. Don't forget to pack a trail map, your ID, cell phone, and extra hydration.
  5. Be cool with mud and watch out for roots, rocks and branches. This is a given as you careen down the trail. Be vigilant, ride slower, expect to get dirty, and you'll have a lot more fun.

For urban bikers: Buy this T-shirt!

--Benita Hussain / Image from iStock/Dušan Kostić

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