Mountain biking really is pretty great. I forget this sometimes, but every time I go, I'm reminded of how much fun I have. Last year I was going to race mountain bikes and began the year by slowly increasing mileage with my friend Ben almost every weekend until I broke my collarbone and that prevented me from mountain biking for the rest of the year. 2009 signaled getting back on that bike a bit more and I squeezed in 10 mountain bike races over the season. (results) Great? No. Terrible? Almost. I did not enjoy mountain bike racing, specifically beginner level cross country racing. Short races of an hour or less, full of 19-21 year old kids with ridiculous cardio abilities that would fall over if a tree looked at them the wrong way. They'd fly by me pedaling, and when technical things showed up on the trails, they would fall right in front of me. My rule of thumb, as many people I ride with know, is to spend more time in the saddle than in the car getting to/from the ride, and these races horribly broke that rule every time, even for the people in the pro category racing the longest distances. I'm glad I tried out that kind of racing, but I won't be doing it again! (This year I also did a full season of track racing, and plan to focus on that next year)
My birthday present to myself this year (in July) was a new hardtail mountain bike, my 2009 Independent Fabrication Steel Deluxe. It replaced my full suspension bike that was a little bit too big (which has now been sold), and it's been picking up the miles. Most Tuesday evenings I'm somewhere in Atlanta on a mountain bike with bright lights, riding secret singletrack throughout the city (example), and if the weather plays nice, I squeeze in a trip somewhere to the mountains on weekends. Jim is always up for something ridiculous if I find a trail with crazy amounts of climbing and long miles and Bob is up for riding whenever he is in town. Jason does a great job keeping up on his very old bike that he turned into a single speed, and he's still very new to mountain biking so every place we go is new to him. So far this year I've ridden a lot, including 17 places that I've never ridden before, and there are still 3 weeks left! Here's a few examples (the ones where I took pictures):
"Discovered" by just wanting to find a place to ride close to my grandparents lakehouse, I've ridden here a few times and the last time dragged along Ben and my brother. It never disappoints!
A fantastic 4 days of riding in New Mexico that I wrote a lot about here. All new places, lots of miles, lots of elevation, and great views.
Jim, Jason, and I descended on North Georgia to ride part of an "awesome" trail network that I'd heard about but never ridden. It certainly wasn't the "best mountain biking in Georgia" but we had a good time, crossed a lot of streams, and rode up some very technical climbs.
Jim and I returned to the scene of my broken collarbone, this time riding down the singletrack instead of me getting taken to the ER in a car from the top of the mountain. Unfortunately, the singletrack wasn't much more fun than getting X-Rays so we won't be returning here. Lots of down trees, unrideable stream crossings, and white-knuckle descents that were a little too technical. Read Jim's account
Jason and I skipped out on the cyclocross season finale hosted by Faster Mustache and went to Tennessee instead. This place lived up to our expectations and we'll definitely go back. Perhaps the most fun was riding trails that snaked through snow accumulation from the day before.
All of these were great, and I'll be doing more things like them next year instead of doing the race thing. I will be racing the Snake Creek Gap 34-mile timetrial in Jan/Feb/March because it's very different from the short XC racing and terrible/awesome in it's own special way. Who want's to get in some epic riding next year? 50mile+ days, 10k+ ft of climbing days, etc!