How MTB changed my life – Mountain biking often writes the best stories

Original article from enduro-mtb

For so many of us, mountain biking isn’t just a hobby, it’s a way of life. Beyond being just a journey into the wild focused on locations, it’s also a journey into self-discovery. We know, just as well as you do, that mountain biking can change your life, which is why we wanted to share your stories. Here they are:

The best sorts of stories are the realest ones, the ones that are most savagely honest, the rawest ones where you’ve peeled back the layers until you reach the core. Alcohol, rough situations, abusive relationships or general malaise — mountain biking can be a welcome escape and the route into a new life. Almost no one in our editorial office would have predicted the difference that mountain biking would make in their own lives and the path it would propel them down. From an apprentice in a workshop to becoming an elite racer and bike guide, the paramedic who turned bike mechanic in Whistler, a university dropout that went on to set up and manage a 30-strong company, we’ve had our fair share of unforgettable moments and encounters on, off, and thanks to our bikes. But now, we’ve given the microphone to you guys:

MTBs saved my life: From the identity crisis to the arms of the bike family

I hit my lowest point in 2011 after a series of major upheavals. A long-term relationship ended, leading to the loss of a joint friendship group. I finished studying around the same time but instead of finding a stable job, I had to keep my fingers crossed, with disappointment after disappointment. Then my band—who I’d been playing with daily for eight years—fell apart with a massive argument that was only settled with legal intervention. It sparked an identity crisis, full of anxiety about where the future was going and spiralled into depression. How did mountain biking change my life, or rather save it? My sister and her then-boyfriend were getting into bike touring and I tagged along. I’d just bought my first hardtail and I found myself getting outdoors more and more frequently, meeting people, learning things. Every trail was a massive challenge at the start, but I was so motivated to climb the hills and somehow get down in one piece. Friendships began to form, and we planned rides to try new, harder trails, where I was able to push my body and mind and improve my technical skills. Now boozing less, I started looking after my diet. I’d never have imagined taking a trip on my own as a single person, but in 2015 I headed to Italy for my first solo bike trip. It was so liberating that I went back again the following year. Other unforgettable moments include a trip to Saalbach, where we formed a big bunch of riders that I still meet today. I’ll always remember my first bike park experiences: such a friendly and open vibe. The bike scene has always felt like a huge family, accepting me with open arms. I met a great friend there who I’ve now been able to help with the purchase of her new bike thanks to my ever-increasing knowledge of bike stuff. I’ll definitely make sure that more big rides and adventures with great people feature in the future. MTBing saved my life! – Unknown rider

New figure, new wife, new life – It’s never too late to change your life

It all started six years ago. I was 56 and hadn’t even sat on a bike for 30 years. I almost bought a hardtail (that was the extent of the advice is a bike megastore), but fortunately I stumbled across a really decent local bike shop, who convinced me to get a mountain bike with 120 mm travel. Not long before this I’d discovered the ‘Borderline’ trail in Freiburg while out on my hybrid, and that was that: I needed an MTB! I realized that if I took this enduro trail in that moment then neither me nor the bike were likely to survive. Two years later I stepped up from 120 mm of travel to 160 mm — an enduro bike was definitely better suited for the Borderline’s drops and the braking bumps on the Canadian trail in Freiburg. My then girlfriend wasn’t having any of it: ‘So, like, you’re now a proper mountain biker…?’ We broke up soon after, but I had the enduro bike still. After another year I got all the way down the Borderline without a single dab. It still makes me giddy like a kid. When I turned 60 I entered the club championships and was the second-oldest competitor. My life has changed dramatically; everything else I used to do in my free time has since dropped by the wayside and I’m always outside nowadays. I’m doing better than ever before. And I’ve dropped two trouser sizes, even though I’ve actually put on weight — the difference being that it’s now in the right places! 😉 And I also found the perfect wife while slogging up a 1,000 metre climb to the “Schauinsland-Tour”. Life doesn’t get better than this, so everyone, get on your bike and let your life change for the better! – Unknown rider

Small inheritance, major impact

It all began in 1989 when my grandma died. She’d had a long, fulfilling life and left a modest inheritance to my dad, who put it towards buying me a mountain bike: a Koga Miyata. I was 12 when this happened and football was the main sport I did. I spent a lot of time in the mountains with my parents who loved climbing and ski touring. On weekends when they were hiking, I’d join them on my new bike. Three more kids in the village got bikes and we formed a diehard bike crew, riding the overgrown trails around the village and using the school yard as the stage for impressing girls with bunny hops, jumps and riding the stairwells 😉 At the start of the 1990s, XC MTB races were starting to be organized in our area and I began to compete; We discovered I wasn’t totally without talent and managed to get on the podium. This led me to getting an official race license in Switzerland, competing against the likes of Christoph Sauser, Claudio Caluori and Thomas Hochstrasse for the victory. While those guys went onto become notably more successful than I was, I realized that I’d always be pretty mid-field so stopped racing when I was 20. But I stayed local to cycling and started travelling with my bike soon after. I remember a ride in the Indian Himalayas to Ladakh and Zanskar so vividly, where we rode passes that were over 5,000 metres above sea level in the middle of snowstorms, but it was an amazing time. Back when I was racing the technical stuff was where I thrived, and I only really climbed if I knew there was a cool trail waiting at the top. These days I’m a proud dad of two children, who (in case you were wondering) are as bike mad as their dad. There’s no chance my passion is going to die out any time soon. Even though the pandemic has restricted me to all the same local trails ride after ride, much like 30 years ago, I always think back to my grandma and my parents who’ve now passed away but always supported my endeavors on the bike. I think of all the encounters that I’ve had thanks to bikes, as well as the travel, both near and far, and, of course, the nasty crashes and suffering of racing XC. The most amazing things about bikes are the diversity, being outside and moving through the landscape while having fun, and how you get to explore new regions and trails. It makes me as happy today as it did 30 years ago when I get my bike out the garage and say to myself: “Alright, now let’s go and play in the woods.” – Unknown rider

MTBs change everything – and not always as planned!

There’s literally nothing else on earth that gets me as stoked as riding a bike. It has always been the biggest thing in my life and gives me an indescribable sense of freedom. I’ve loved it since I was eight years old: first BMXing, then on an XC or DH bike. After eight years racing for the national XC team, I managed to qualify for the DH World Cup in Val di Sole — the first day of a new era. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite go to script and I had a bad crash in training, broke my 8th vertebrae, setting about a chain of events that changed my life forever. Thanks to my family, my girlfriend, my friends, and sheer willpower, I’m able to ride a bike again. While I’m not as agile as I used to be, I can still take part and that’s what counts. Riding a bike adds the ultimate mobility to my life and I couldn’t live without it. I’m obsessed with how it merges nature, movement, and spending time with friends, and consistently lends itself to creating my happiest memories. Each time you set off for a ride you have the choice of how far, how long, and where you ride. Cycling has shaped my life since I was a kid and it still does today—I’m the team manager of the Tillit Gravity Teams, which is really cool. Performance-wise, I’d rate my win at the German Sprint Championships as a highlight, a race when I was physically and mentally at the top of my game. But away from racing I’ve had such a great time riding, including two weeks spent crossing France with a big group of friends and bedding down in our cars. One of the best ever experiences—and something that really defines our cycling community—is the way that everyone bandied around after my accident. From Loic Bruni to old teammates, the sense of unity was mind blowing. I plan on taking another ‘Portes du Soleil trip’ in the near future with my new bike to replicate a great 2018 trip. I hope that the lift operators play ball – David Horvath

From makeup artist to the party lap queen

I used to live in Malmo, Sweden, which is the third-largest city in the country where I worked as a makeup artist. My brother convinced me to have a go at mountain biking a few times back home; I really enjoyed getting out in the wild, those moments when you forget about the stress of city living and focus purely on making it down a trail. This sparked my interest in mountain biking. After a few years of living in a big city, I was quite bored and went travelling. I lived in Australia for a while but was quite restless there too. I remembered how much I had enjoyed mountain biking and I had heard that New Zealand had its fair share of great riding so I decided to come here. I even got my brother to come and live here for a year as well. I spent the winter in Queenstown and when summer came around, I got a $1000 Giant Glory and tried getting down the Skyline bike park tracks. What amazed me was how the crowd here is so welcoming—this made me go up the bike park quite a lot that summer and I really got hooked! When winter came back around, I wasn’t keen on being cold all the time, so I spent the summer riding bikes in Northern Sweden, then came back to Queenstown for another summer. That was followed by a season in the Alps and then back here again; I have been here since. If it wasn’t for mountain biking, I wouldn’t live in the best place in the world and have all these great friends around me. MTBing has made me really active and social and a more confident person. It has also made me hungry to travel and see the world (to ride other trails, hah!) and I can’t wait for the borders to be open so we can travel and ride trails all around the world and meet cool new people to make friends with. – Emma Oloffsen

Riding a bike is everything – laying underfloor heating during the week and racing pro at the weekend

My previous life had nothing to do with bikes. It was consumed by fashion, trends, advertising, styling, piercings, tattoos, smoking, drinking, starving myself, and partying with skaters. Huntington Beach where we lived had a mega long boardwalk and I wanted a bike to cruise around with the cool Cali people. A friend worked at GT, so hooked me up with a sweet deal on a hardtail and that was the start of everything bike-related in my life. Every time I rode on that boardwalk, I felt better and wanted to keep going, further and further every time until one day I ended up in front of the Sheep Hills dirt jumps watching a girl absolutely killing it out there. I was in awe of her and wanted to learn everything about everything. We became best friends and she taught me all there was to know about riding bikes, dragging me up to Big Bear in the mountains every weekend for riding and eventually racing. I entered my first XC and DH race one weekend and won both, but it was the DH that left me buzzin’ like I’ve never buzzed before. I was completely hooked and bikes started consuming my life. I was obsessed. Sea Otter 2002 was my first ever Pro DH race and my first World Cup was also in 2002 in Telluride, Colorado and I was totally starstruck to see all my “heroes” in real life, never mind the fact that there was a massive road gap, I had to get over which petrified me. I barely practised; I stood frozen on the track next to the road gap, just in awe watching everyone and everything. Between 2002 and 2009 we raced and rode everything and everywhere we could get to: working the shittiest jobs to make ends meet, saving up enough money to race the Norba Nationals series along with select World Cups and the World Champs each year and then worked the rest of the year to pay off all the racing debt. It was the best of times. I worked as a waitress, in retail stores, bikes shops, catering companies, customer service, libraries, sanded planks on a build site, installed underfloor heating, made and sold T-shirts and hoodies at markets—you name it, I was willing to do anything and everything to race my bike.

It was that sense of freedom that got me hooked. I loved that you could get pretty far away from everything in a relatively short time. I loved feeling the wind in my face and I loved the simple movement of making circles with my legs which just kept me moving forward. It is still this same feeling that gets me out on my bike to this day. Nothing has changed. I love exploring and seeing what’s around the next corner. Anytime I’m surrounded by nature, whether it’s the forest, mountains or oceans, is a favourite moment to me. When nature puts everything into perspective, you feel really small and insignificant. When all your senses are on heightened alert and you’re in the zone navigating your way down a technical trail and then getting that feeling of exhilaration when you’ve made it to the bottom in one piece, that’s a pretty special moment and something you can’t explain to people who don’t ride. It’s just that feeling. That rush of endorphins, the way it just makes you feel alive, and then the après-ride beer, food and post-ride stories are all pretty good moments too. – Anka Martin

Pure happiness

I wasn’t really the sporty type when I got into bike riding. I hadn’t even touched a bike for ages. I was working at a new company as a student and a guy I met talked to me several times and I can remember the exact moment when he looked at me and said: ‘you look like you can mountain bike.’ I had no idea what he meant so he showed me Danny Macaskill’s ‘wee days’ clip and I fell in love with it. Soon afterwards he took me to the local trails and I sat on my very old 26” Ghost hardtail and rushed down a trail with roots. He turned around in surprise and said: “See, I said that you looked like someone who knew how to handle a bike!”

I was about 22 when this happened, and I’d come out of a long-term relationship; I was pretty depressed and going to therapy. But as I rode down this trail, I really felt like I was free, free from worries, from pain, just finding myself, and being true to myself. In mountain biking—at least, this is true for the people I know—nobody judges each other, everybody just has fun. That connection I felt on that day is still around today and I sense it with everyone I ride and that’s what I love about it. I guess, it’s hard to pin down as one single moment; it’s all the moments and the feeling you get when you accomplish something new and everyone is stoked for you too. And the other way around too—when I teach someone something and they are so grateful and happy, that makes me really happy. Giving and receiving happiness is unbeatable. I’ve already cried on numerous occasions from bike-induced happiness (true, I am quite sensitive). But besides finding myself, I’ve also found so many new friends. I run a group of almost 50 women in my area and we organize rides and training camps. Biking gave me the opportunity and showed me a purpose: unite people, especially women, together to ride. Soon I’m hoping to get a coaching license. Particularly during the past year of the pandemic, I’ve learned to appreciate how every moment on the bike is not something you can take for granted. – unknown Rider

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