When you think about mountain biking in its purest form, singletrack biking comes to mind. This is when you’re riding on a trail that’s just big enough for a bike, with those paths that look like just one wheel has ridden through repeatedly. There’s no better way to get more in touch with nature on a mountain bike than singletrack riding, but there can be some drawbacks to this old-school method of riding.
Before you set out to the mountains or forests to try your hand at singletrack riding, there are some things that you need to know. Here are the pros and cons of singletrack mountain biking:
Great Test For Advanced Riders
Perhaps the best test of anybody’s abilities with a mountain bike is to take it onto a singletrack trail. Because of the attention that bikers need while riding on singletrack, it’s the ultimate physical and mental test out there. You’ll also have to keep a good flow to make sure that you’re not in anybody’s way, meaning that you’re being pushed by the best singletrack bikers out there, as well.
Singletrack riders are all in agreement about one thing, and that’s keeping the ecosystem of the trails intact. The International Mountain Bicycling Association calls these the “rules of the trail” and they are very specific about maintaining nature while also being able to ride through it. The rule in place is called “leave no trace,” which means that only certain tires should be used to not disrupt the soil, and standing water has to be ridden through or walked around so as to not create a new bike path. Of course, littering is strictly forbidden, too.
While mountain biking itself is a tremendous workout, singletrack biking takes it up a notch. Not only do the elevation changes combine both cardio and strength training, but you’ll also be getting off of the bike more times than you think. That’s because there are some natural obstacles for singletrack trails, so you’ll be hopping off to pick up your bike every now and then when a log or standing water gets in the way.
Sharing = Slowdowns
There isn’t room for two-way traffic on singletrack, and even one-way singletrack can get clogged up. These are shared trails, so you’ll have plenty of people coming from the other direction, causing congestion where someone will have to stand to the side and let the other pass. Even when people are going the same way as you, an inexperienced biker can go extra slow, causing a jam in the flow of bike traffic.
Because the trails are so narrow for singletrack, you’re going to be rubbing elbows with a lot of hazards to your left and right. Trees, of course, are the most inherent danger for any singletrack rider. There are also loose branches, bushes that can catch your handlebars, rocks, and much more. Even for more hilly or mountainous terrains, there might not be much leeway to either side that can cause a serious fall.
Bad Place For Breakdowns
Singletrack tends to take you on trails that are a little more remote and don’t leave much walking room outside of the trail itself. Because of this, a mechanical issue with a bicycle can be devastating. If you blow a tire or steering becomes an issue of any kind, you’ll have to carry your bike on the trail the rest of the way. This means you’ll be on the lookout for other bikers so that you can avoid getting hit all while lugging around a broken bicycle.
Now you know a little bit about what to expect when going singletrack biking for the first time. If you’re still up for the challenge, it’s a great way to meet new people and make the most out of your biking experience.