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Choosing between a Hard-tail and a Full-suspension mountain bike can be a tough decision, and we are going to try to take some of the mystery out of it.
Over the years, we have owned a variety of bikes ranging from 26r hardtails to today’s 27.5 full suspension, all around mountain bikes. Typically the decision that drives what bike I will be riding on any particular day is the type of terrain I will be riding. In Southern California, we have tons of places to ride, and many of them consist of well-maintained fire road (wide, dirt roads that can accommodate emergency vehicles). This type of terrain is generally free of big ruts, boulders, holes, roots or anything else that would complicate the trail. Some examples of places that fit this mold would be Chino Hills State Park, the Santa Ana Mountains, and Crystal Cove State Park, to name a few.
Now, if the trail is going to be more technical, perhaps lots of jumps, drops, and things of that sort, then the full suspension will offer more comfort. Full suspension bikes are designed to be ridden more aggressively, so a trail full of challenges is perfect for full suspension. So far, we have only focused on the comfort that these bikes offer depending on where you ride. But there is more.
A hard-tail is generally more advantageous when it comes to tough climbing and speed on the trail. They are typically lighter because there are fewer components on the bike, and the geometry lends itself to that type of riding. There isn’t any sag underneath you, so hardtails can easily clear rocky and technical terrain without you bottoming out. That is not to say you cant climb or do the same on a dual suspension, but the hardtail does have an edge for prolonged climbing.
When I first started mountain biking, I rode a 26r hard-tail and have now graduated to a 29r hard-tail mountain bike. I have also owned and ridden a 26r full suspension mountain bike for the past 7 years until selling it recently. Several of my friends/ riding buddies have purchased 27.5 full suspension mountain bikes and they can’t seem to wipe the smiles off their faces. I once rented a full suspension 29r and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as well! As an avid rider and ambassador of the sport, I talk and surround myself with different levels of mountain bike riders and they all have something to say about the bike they ride and why they chose it.
My experience and research have shown that the 27.5 full-suspension mountain bike is this bike of choice for your everyday rider who wants an overall experience. This bike has been proven to allow the rider to have a great time descending while having a bigger tire for those climbs.
While the 29r hard-tail is the mountain bike of preference for endure-racing, fire-road climbs, and an affordable option for purchase. Full-suspension bikes typically cost more based on more components and often weighs more as a result. So, before you buy your next bike, decide what type of riding you do. Or, just buy both a full-suspension and hard-tail and have the option for whatever type riding you decide on that day.
Is your dog in shape to ride?Don’t expect your dog to tear up a lengthy and epic ride from the beginning. Like any athlete in training, you have to set small, measurable goals, and build up from there. One of our crew members in Texas takes his Boxer out with him, and it has taken him 6 months to build her up from 1.5 to 6 miles in that period. All breeds are different in terms of conditioning and strength, so be careful and don’t cause undue muscle strains on your pet.
Do you know what trail you want to introduce your dog to in order to get them used to riding along with you?There are several factors to consider when turning your dog loose on a trail. Is the terrain challenging? Are there a lot of equestrians on the trail where the horses can be frightened by other animals? Does trail policy require your pets to be on a leash? A lot of local trails are also habituated by coyotes, mountain lions, bears, and snakes that can be bad news for you and your dog! These are things to consider before you take your pet out there.
Is your dog trained with verbal and physical demands?This is very important because the last thing you want is for Fido to go chasing after other riders or critters. Ensure your dog is obedient and will listen to your commands to ensure the safety of your pet and others
Do you have the gear for your pup?We carry camelbacks and bottles of hydration, so make sure your pet gets plenty to drink as well. Carry a small bowl and water for your dog during these excursions.
Reward your pet for a good rideYour pet will enjoy the experience and quickly adapt to the outdoor fun, but hook them up with a treat afterwards! Some of us like to enjoy a nice cold beer after a ride, so your pet will appreciate the reward for their efforts in accompanying you.
Biking in general is a sport that you can enjoy with family and friends. Personally, some of my best weekends involve taking my wife and kids to the park for an afternoon of riding and good food. As an avid mountain biker, I also enjoy sharing my passion for the sport by meeting up with friends for a good ride, or introducing newbies to the great outdoors. Riding with others has its benefits such as increased camaraderie, learning new riding techniques, meeting new people, and safety. You can’t underscore the latter enough, as mountain biking does carry some risks. I don’t know one rider who has not had a crash at some point, so we know this is an obvious risk that we face. Many of the places we choose to ride are also home to different wildlife, ranging from coyotes, poisonous snakes, mountain lions, bobcats, and bears. These are risks we take for the love of the sport, and gladly face them head on.
Although riding with others is the best practice to keep each other safe, we realize mountain biking is very much an individual sport. The feeling of being high up on a ridge or deep in a canyon, miles from anything and anyone, is exhilarating and empowering. There is nothing like it and all the risks we face will not change any of that. However, when riding alone, it is best to use wisdom and good judgement. For starters, don’t venture into unfamiliar territory alone. You don’t know the terrain and the possibility of getting lost is all too real. If you happen to ride a familiar route on your own, use caution when it comes to managing speed and technical areas. If you end up getting in a serious accident, you want someone who can administer first aid, or at the least, get some help. We ride because it’s thrilling to shred the downhills or make that grueling climb, but it is not worth it if you get seriously injured. Once in a while, we get heartbreaking news about riders who get themselves in dangerous and sometimes fatal situations because they were not properly prepared, or did not use caution. If you plan on riding alone (and even in groups), it is always wise to inform someone of where you are going and when you will be back.
Be safe and ride strong!
Are you RACE READY? The season has begun for racing! Now, don’t think you have to be a pro to race and test your skills against other riders. There are several local organizations that put together racing events for mortal humans like us. Some of the best ones in Southern California are the, “Non Dot Adventures” race series and the weekly races at the, ” Over the Hump” series, just to name a few. As an amateur racer myself, I enjoy the thrill and anticipation of preparing myself for a race. Some of the benefits are obvious. Not only does it improve my fitness levels, but it also improves my riding skills and we get to spend quality time outdoors! The mentality when you race is, “don’t be last”, but it is all in good fun. It doesn’t mean that if you don’t place well you will hang up your biking shoes. It means pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. The mountain biking community is one of embracing energy for the love of a fun and challenging sport!
BikeThisTrail.com is one of the proud sponsors of the, “Non Dot Adventures” race series, which offers 4 races throughout the year, for all levels of riding. Even if you don’t feel like racing, you can get involved as a race day volunteer, or help with trail maintenance work. If you are interested in racing or trail maintenance work, ask your local bike shop or go online and research your area. There are plenty of opportunities to test yourself and your skills so go for it!
Most of the scars on my legs were acquired in my early days of mountain bike riding. Since then, I’ve developed a pretty good set of riding skills however, crashing and falling off our bikes is going to be inevitable at some point. In my years of riding, I have been fortunate not to sustain a serious injury, but scrapes, cuts and bruises are things I will live with. One of our BikethisTrail.com riding buddies is so fearful of getting hurt, that he takes the down-hills with extreme caution. He is the only wage earner in his family so it is important for him to stay healthy so he does not miss work. That’s a pretty good reason if you ask me.
We can mitigate injury by focusing on good technique and not riding beyond our means outside your comfort zone. There are also tons of protective gear to absorb the punishment in case of a crash. One of my least favorite injuries is scrapes directly on the knees. This common injury may not bother many of you, but for me, it almost ruins my ride. That is why I always wear knee protection every time I ride. If the trail calls for technical riding, then I’ll throw on my elbow pads as well, but knee pads have become a part of my regular riding attire, no matter where I’m riding.
The brand Fox has a variety of knee/shin gear, with prices ranging from$ 19.99 and up. At the lowest price point, I like Fox’s Racing Titan Sport knee/shin guards. They have saved my knees numerous times and stayed in functional condition for a good 4-5 years. They feel a little bulky but not to the point where they feel uncomfortable. The protection is worth it though. Eventually the straps became stretched out, but I went and bought me another pair for only $19.99!
In time, I decided I wanted comfort as well as functionality, so I purchased a pair of G-Form Pro X knee pads. These slide up to the knee and I actually forget I’m wearing them! That is how comfortable they are. The pad has this technology where the rubber becomes hard on impact, which is what makes them comfortable. I have experienced one crash with these on and my knees were saved from injury. These pads tend to retail for around $69.99.
You have many choices to choose from when it comes to protective gear, and your local gear retailer can address all of your questions. My knees are a fan of Fox and G-form so I thought I would share my experiences with you.
Many of us are content with riding the local trails available to us, depending on where we live. The BikeThisTrail.com crew is fortunate to be based out of Orange County/Riverside, where the trails and parks are in abundance. We can choose what type of ride we wish to embark on, whether it’s an all-sun exposure ride with miles of climbing, or a shady loop with plenty of single-track to shred. However, not everyone has it as good.
One of my good friends from El Paso, Texas, recently came to visit for the purpose of riding some of So Cal’s finest trails. Not only does he have a great resource in the Bikethistrail.com website, but he also has us, his friends, to show him around. In El Paso, they have the Franklin Mountains, which is a beautiful range with a lot of southwest flavor (desert landscape, cacti, all sun, etc). But aside from this range, the options or variety of trails and parks are very minimal. It is no wonder that many of the local riders long to ride in other areas when they get a chance.
When we go out and check out new terrain, we are basically in the same boat as a lot of riders. We are not familiar with the range, nor do we have a clear idea of what the best loop will be. It takes a few rides to start piecing together a loop that is fun and challenging in order for us to post it on our site. So how do you navigate new terrain? Here are some ideas to help you:
In today’s social media environment, it is easy to hook up with local riders and meet up at trail-heads. Riding with people that are familiar with the terrain is the best way to get informed about a park and navigate safely through new trails. There are a few groups out there that meet on a weekly basis and you can find plenty of options through sites like meetup.com.
Another great resource is your local bike shop. Several of them will host daily or weekly rides, with an experienced rider at the helm. Bike shops such as, “The Path” in Tustin, or “Jensen USA” in Riverside, will often host rides in their local areas. Even if they don’t take their customers out on rides (which is a great way to build relationships with your clientele), you can simply ask them about some of the local areas to explore. You will find that they are more than willing to help and steer you in the right direction. Ask if they have maps of their local terrain as well.
Mountain bikers are a close knit community, so another option is to hook up with riders at the trail-head. Don’t be shy! We have taken plenty of people on rides with us that we met on the trail-head. They are not familiar with the terrain, and wisely ask if they can ride along to enjoy a safer and complete ride. Conversely, we have also hooked up with riders who will show us some of the best trails or loops each park has to offer.
Several parks such as Santiago Oaks, Laguna Wilderness Park, Bonelli Park, Limestone Canyon, or Whiting Ranch, also offer maps of their terrain. These can be accessed through their websites and make for a great resource. Another great resource for maps can also be found in your local book shop. Of course, the internet is a great way to learn about parks and terrain, with Bikethistrail.com, being one of the best resources. We also like Geoladders.com and will use their site to learn about different places to ride.
At the end of the day, it is all about safety first. Riding new terrain or trails can be exciting and refreshing, but the last thing you want to do is go astray and get lost in there. Getting educated on the terrain and trails beforehand is the best practice. We look forward to seeing you out there!
So why do we ride? What is it about our sport that gives us that feeling of anticipation and excitement right before you hit the trail? We all have different reasons for riding of course, but there are definitely a lot of commonalities out there that we share. If you love to mountain bike, then surely you must love the outdoors! Otherwise you can ride a machine in the gym and that would be your workout, but I don’t think a lot of us want that type of riding experience.
There is no feeling like being on top of a ridge or peak and soaking the environment around you. There is no feeling like breathing in clean, crisp, morning air when you hit the trails early.
The beauty of the outdoors makes us appreciate mother nature and turns us into good stewards of the land. Then why are we not taking the time to enjoy it?
I’m sure I don’t speak for everyone, but I can attest to charging a trail or loop non-stop for the entire ride, focusing on my speed and time, and not necessarily the beauty around me. There is nothing wrong with stopping and taking photos of the scenery once in a while!
When I take new riders out with me, we always stop to rest and soak in our surroundings. It is part of the appeal of mountain biking. There is nothing like exercising in the outdoors and enjoying the natural gifts that our earth provides to us.
Take the time to capture the moment, whether it be a selfie, group photo, or a scenic landscape shot.
Enjoy your surroundings and appreciate the privilege we have to be in the great outdoors. Our everyday lives keeps us moving at a fast pace, so use our sport as a way to unwind and re-charge the mental and physical batteries.
Bonelli park in San Dimas is a multi-recreational park that offers camping, boating, hiking, golfing, and of course, mountain biking. It is adjacent to Raging Waters, and it is quickly accessible from any county. It is a great place to go visit on your own, or spend the day with the family as there is something for everyone. There are approximately 9 miles of trail network in our featured loop, most of which circles around the lake and the park. There are also plenty of trails to ride within the center of the park itself if our loop keeps you wanting for more. Be advised that this ride is all sun exposure, and there is plenty of climbing to keep your legs pumping.
San Dimas can be a scorcher in the summer so get there early and bring plenty of hydration to avoid heat related injuries. There are trail maps available on their website, with trail names, but you will notice signs that only state “Bonelli Park“. Follow these and you’ll be fine. The general idea is to loop around the park in a clockwise motion.
Bonelli Park is also a venue for the Kenda Cup XC race, which just took place on March 12th. The Bike this Trail crew was there to check out the event and cheer on the racers! There were tons of racers on hand, and plenty of vendors to keep visitors and participants busy. If you get a chance to attend these races and participate, please do so! There are plenty of races throughout the year such as Non-Dot Adventures or the Over the Hump Series that allows regular Joes like you and I to race against each other! They are a lot of fun, and a great way to show support for our growing sport. The next event will be the US Cup, to be held on April 9th, 2016.Click here for Map
One of the fastest ways to ruin any excursion is to be unprepared in case an issue arises. Most of us have found ourselves in some sort of predicament, simply because we did not take the time anticipate issues, or don’t have the experience to understand what it is that can go wrong. This is so important when it comes to mountain biking. Not only do you have to be concerned with the mechanical aspect of the sport, but also the elements Mother Nature may bring. We are here to assist you in mitigating these risks!
Know where you are riding and let someone know
Our website will help you navigate through the trails we have posted, but obviously there are thousands of trails and loops out there that we don’t have yet. You need to do some sort of research to check out the area you want to ride, especially if it’s your first time. The web is full of resources, but we have found city park websites to be very useful. Google Earth is another resource we like to explore although this won’t tell you what is off limits to people. We also spend time talking to local riders we encounter on the trails and ask for their feedback regarding the local trails. A lot of riders are cool enough to let us ride with them to explore trails unfamiliar to us.
We always recommend riding with someone else, just to be safer, but this does not always happen. At the least, let someone know where you will be riding.
If you own multiple bikes, you have the luxury of choosing a bike that is conducive to the trail you are riding. I own a 26 inch wheel, dual suspension bike, and a hard tail, 29r. If I plan on riding fire road, which is generally well kept and not too rutty, and intend to do a lot of climbing, I opt for the 29r. If the trail is technical, has a lot of bumpy descents, full or rock gardens and so on, then my dual suspension is the way to go. It’s all about comfort when riding!
You have to expect issues when riding so being prepared for a flat tire or broken chain is crucial. Learn to take care of these simple repairs ahead of time so you don’t have to wing it when you are in the middle of the wilderness. These are the essentials:
- Extra inner tubes (make sure they are the correct size). Even if you are tubeless, it’s a good idea to carry them in case you blow out a tire and need a quick fix to get back.
- Air pump
- Extra chain links or chain clips
- Chain (link) tool
- Allen Wrench
There are a lot of choices when it comes to hydration packs. We find them more convenient than a bottle strapped to your bike, but it all comes down to your individual choice. The important thing here is to ensure you have proper hydration when you ride. Failure to do so can result in heat related injuries, so make this priority each time you ride. The amount you take with you will depend on how long you are riding, but play it safe and overcompensate. Of course, you will need a camel pack or back pack to carry your hydration pack.
- Jersey made with quick dry and breathable material. We want to ride comfortably, right?!
- Shorts. Invest in ones that have a seating pad for extra comfort when riding.
- Shoes with non-slippery sole. Athletic shoes are fine if you are pushing the pedals. If clipped in, then you are using biking specific shoes, which can be purchased at your local bike shop. We recommend a shoe with non-slippery sole in case you have to hike a bike.
- Take a windbreaker. Carry it in your pack if it’s too warm to wear. There are many rides where the temperature cools down as you climb higher in elevation and coming back down may be a bit chilly. If you run into issues (like get lost) and you lose sunlight, you’ll be happy you have it.
As much we mountain bikers thrive on being outdoors, we need to understand that we are not the only ones out there. We are typically joined by other bikers, trail runners, equestrians, and hikers. We also need to be mindful of when and where it is appropriate to ride. There are unwritten rules that apply out there that are based on common sense. Let’s discuss a few of these:
Just like driving a car, people on foot have the right of way. If I’m coming up on some hikers, I like to shout out a friendly warning that I’m right behind so I don’t startle anyone. Slow down so accidents don’t occur. A lot of people enjoy listening to music and have earphones on, so you have to make sure you are being heard.
If you come across someone on a horse, please stop and let them go through. A horse can easily be scared if you startle it or come at it at full speed. This is not good for the person riding the horse, or you! Most equestrians are cool and will let you pass.
Downhill or Uphill/Right-of-Way
The general rule is that the person climbing the trail (especially narrow single-track), has the right of way. I know we enjoy bombing down the trails, but we need to understand that people may be working their way up.
Riding After It Rains
For the most part, you want to avoid riding the trails for at least 3 days after a good rain. There are some trails that are made of decomposed granite and dry within hours, but they are the exception if you must ride. The San Juan trails are perfect examples of trails that are great to ride after it rains. Overall though, avoiding the trails is a good practice if we are to be good stewards of our land! After it rains, our bikes can leave tracks in the mud, that eventually become ruts. This is a constant battle with our city maintenance trail crews, as they do their best to keep the trails in good condition. Some parks such as Laguna Canyon Wilderness actually close the gates for several days after it rains to preserve its trails. And when it rains, it is muddy out there! I’ve personally have had to turn back because my tires were so caked with mud and had no traction. It is disappointing, but a lesson that I had to learn the hard way!
This goes without say. It still surprises me to see trash out on our trails though, so not everyone cares about the environment as much as they should. Please don’t add to the problem. If you are able to pick up trash when encountering it, even better. There are several groups out there that organize events to work on and clean up our trails, so that also presents an opportunity to do something positive for our earth.
Some of our favorite places to ride have trails that meander through neighborhoods and cruise alongside homes. Please be respectful and give our neighbors the courtesy they deserve by keeping noise down as you ride through. Practice the Golden Rule, and you will be fine.