cycling, MTB, Australia, Joe Ward
Mountain biking's real strength lies at the grass roots and its variety of formats (AAP)

There couldn't be a better time to kick off a blog about mountain biking than right now and thus I enter the trail head of the well worn single track that is a cycling blog.

Unlike that guy you ride with who's always telling you you're either doing it wrong or absolutely need that new wheel size, carbon doodad or less chainrings, I'd prefer to highlight all the awesome stuff that's happening in mountain biking.

My brilliant yet sometimes blinkered colleague Mike Tomalaris said on Cycling Central last week that he felt that MTB was in decline.

And while it's true that rider numbers in the "as traditional as it gets in MTB" discipline of Olympic format Cross Country (XCO) are pretty low these days, his guest Sid Taberlay made the point that there's still plenty of people racing mountain bikes, it's just that the scope and diversity of events has massively increased over the past decade since the 'glory days' of MTB.

There are more people than ever out racing on any given weekend. They can be found at events types such as marathon, gravity enduro, XC eliminator, multi-lap endurance, downhill and (mostly at club level now) Cross Country.

MTB has also morphed into a team sport with 8, 12, and 24-hour team relay events such as the Singletrack Mind Series or Mont 24-Hour that was also featured on Cycling Central last week. It's racing but it's also very social and most of all fun.

While mountain biking has been around since the 70's, it's still the relatively new kid on the block in terms of cycling disciplines and carries some pain in terms of gaining respect, but it also brings freedom from tradition which sometimes burdens the older disciplines.

MTB has continued to push the boundaries of what is possible technologically (disc brakes, suspension, tubeless tyres), physically (see the movie 24 Solo) and even the very nature of the racing with new types of races constantly evolving.

The advent this year of the Enduro World Series is a great case in point as it closely mirrors what's happening on your local trails and what's rolling out of bike shops.

As bikes become increasingly lighter and suspension designs become evermore refined, the five to six inch travel trail bike is now the weapon of choice for the weekend warrior.

It's a bike that's good at everything, though you're not going to win an XCO on it, but it's really good at doing what most people love, carving singletrack and downhills while making the climbs bearable and that's what Enduro is in essence. Very much a cause and effect scenario where the bike has defined the discipline.

Other than riding your bike in often amazing locations, I find mountain biking addictive due to the mix of technology, skills, all-round fitness and the prospect of seeing the sport continue to evolve and push the boundaries into the future.



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