There are plenty of factors involved in planning a mountain biking vacation, including accommodations, things to do, transportation, and food options to name a few.
All of these small planning factors and more can affect the overall dynamic of your trip, hailing its success or causing its downfall. To make your vacation a success, let’s talk about some of the things you need to think about in order to fully enjoy a mountain bike trip.
This is the bread and butter of any mountain bike trip. If you’re not riding the perfect steed, you are not going to enjoy your trip as much as you could have. But, what is the right bike? It depends on a few things, including the trails you plan to ride, your experience, and the bike available to you.
If you are riding on smooth and flowing cross-country trails, you may be best off riding a light hardtail or shorter-travel full-suspension model. For super rocky technical trails, you probably will be happiest on full-suspension — but the balance of descending and climbing may determine whether you would be inclined towards shorter or longer travel.
Beyond suspension, there are a number of other factors to consider. These include riding the proper bike size, the quality and age of the bike, and if you’ll have to be constantly dealing with mechanics.
Mountain biking and camping are like peanut butter and jelly; they’re just better together. By many measures, a successful mountain bike trip depends as much on kicking back in camp with friends as it does on hitting the “perfect” trails. For this reason, make sure to dial in your camp when you do your planning.
Get your camping location on as much dirt as possible. It’s always better to be able to roll out of bed and ride right to the trails.
Make sure you have enough comfy camping chairs for everyone, pack extra firewood, plan hearty meals, and be sure to adequately stock your cooler with enough of everyone’s favorite refreshments. Tents and sleeping setups are important to get right too. It’s pretty difficult to have a good time when you’re exhausted because you were too cold or too uncomfortable the night before.
Some people like to go hard every day on their mountain bike trip, but just remember: riding mountain bikes is not just about the effort. It’s also about the surroundings. It often pays to plan your rides with a shorter/easier day early in the trip and build to something longer and more challenging. Then, when your legs are properly worn out, wrap up the trip with a ride that’s on the easier end of the spectrum.
Look for routes that not only showcase the best trail in the area, but also offer opportunities to see some of the better views while stopping for a mid-ride snack or lunch.
Local bike shops (aka the LBS) and online resources like MTBproject or TrailForks are great resources for planning a mountain bike trip in an area you are not yet familiar with. Sometimes it pays to be conservative about the level of challenge or distance you want to take on while on a trip where you’re riding multiple days. If you push it harder than you are accustomed to, there’s a good likelihood you won’t enjoy the experience.
Food may be the easiest way to ruin a mountain bike trip. If you are riding multiple days in a row, you need to eat a lot. Plan, shop, and pack plenty of food for some awesome camp dinners to eat around the fire with you friends and keep you moving on the next day’s rides.
You can do a lot with a propane two-burner stove — steaks, stir-fry, pasta, brats, the options are endless. Make sure to think of every meal; don’t think you can gloss over breakfast with granola bars or have a light lunch and rely only on trailmix, gels, or mid-ride beers. That’s not going to enough to keep you going. Plan for pancakes and bacon and pack a lunch of leftovers. You will be glad you did.
There are plenty of different types of mountain bike trips. You might be looking for a mix of dirt roads and singletrack with accessible front-country camping, or the objective might be all about running as many descents as possible over a given period of time. Or, you might even want to go bikepacking for the first time. No matter what your preferred style of mountain bike trip, the points outlined here are going to mean the difference between getting through a trip and enjoying it properly. So slow down, plan it out, and remember the ride is about more than just the miles.