kingdomexperiences

Have You Ever Heard of LNT?

By Alex Greco

In my last blog post I wrote about the environmental impacts of mountain biking and the importance of outdoor recreation and environmental conservation. I did not mention the specific actions that you can take as a mountain biker to protect and conserve your trails. Individual actions go a long way.

Every time you hit the trails remember the leave no trace principles. The leave no trace principles are a set of guidelines in the outdoors that help preserve the places we recreate in.  For mountain biking there are six principles to follow:

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
    -Avoid times of high use and plan rides with smaller groups
    -Check with local bike shops, local cycling groups, and websites for updates on trail conditions and information

  • Travel on Durable Surfaces
    -Respect trail closures
    -Avoiding skidding and riding in wet conditions, this erodes and widens the trail
    -Stay on established trails

  • Dispose of Waste Properly
    -Pack it in, pack it out
    -If you see waste on the trail pick it up

-Keep one pocket in your pack for food and wrappers, and keep it zipped

-Try to use the bathroom before you ride

  • Leave What You Find

-Leave only tread marks and take only pictures
-Leave plants, rocks, and other natural objects in the forest. This is an important LNT principle because we want to preserve the past and limit human interference on these fragile lands

  • Respect Wildlife
    -Observe wildlife from a distance and try not to approach
    -Don’t feed wildlife
    -Control your dos. Dogs are awesome, although they are fun riding partners they can potentially impact wildlife

  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors
    -Be aware of areas where hikers and equestrians are allowed
    -Be considerate to everyone on the trail, yield when necessary
    -When riding in groups make sure to keep your volume low, hooting and hollering is fine and fun, but try and respect other riders on trail.

Another popular set of guidelines was established by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA). Although this list is similar to the LNT principles above, it’s good to have multiple options. Here are the IMBA guidelines:

  • Respect the Landscape
  • Share the Trail
  • Ride Open and Legal Trails
  • Ride in Control
  • Plan Ahead
  • Mind the Animals

Photo:

Benjamin Voros@vorosbenisopBenjamin

The Future of Mountain biking – The Importance of Recreation and Conservation

By Alex Greco

Flying through the trees, crossing over rivers, jumping off rocks, mountain biking enables a combination of senses and a consciousness with nature. It allows you to easily experience and connect with the natural world. With the all of the good from mountain biking, unfortunately riding can potentially lead to negative impacts to trail systems and to the environment. However, the interactions and experiences gained through riding can have a positive influence on environmental appreciation.

Mountain biking is growing in popularity. An increase in participation is important for the future success of the sport. At the same time it’s important to keep in mind that trail systems need to be sustainably maintained to keep up with trail use. Popular trail systems are seeing negative impacts to trails and their surrounding environments. There are numerous impacts that can occur, the most prominent that I have witnessed has been trail erosion and widening. Some may underestimate the overall effect that mountain biking can have, there are varying opinions on the seriousness of the issue. But the truth is that many mountain bike trails are located on fragile lands, these places are increasingly becoming endangered. So any impact has to be taken seriously, we have to protect what we have left so we can enjoy these places well into the future.

Not only is it important to to conserve and protect these places but it’s pivotal to get outside, explore, and interact with them. This matters because recreating in these spaces forms a sense of appreciation which ultimately leads to conservation efforts. For awhile now I have been interested in this topic. For my college capstone course I conducted a research project to determine the relationship between people’s perceptions and actions related to their environmental impact of mountain biking. Roughly 100 participants took an online survey which asked varying questions on their perspectives. I received very interesting results and information. The majority of participants showed concern for trail conditions, while participants with more experience mountain biking showed that alleviating the impacts were important to them.

I think that overall mountain biking can be good for the environment. Although there is potential of creating negative impacts from recreating in these places, I believe outdoor recreation is truly important to creating a connection and to establish long term environmental protection. Over time what really protects land is creating a connection with it, and if we aren’t out mountain biking, connections aren’t being made. What we have to do is use our trails responsibly and sustainably. Because there is a positive relationship between mountain biking experience and environmental appreciation, it’s very important to promote this aspect in order keep this sport growing, and to conserve and maintain our trails for future generations.

Real Food VS Sports Nutrition Products

By Dr. Cassie Maximenko

Athletes ask me all the time “what do you think of XYZ product?” and my answer is almost always “Well, that depends…”

Sports nutrition products come in all different forms with many different claims and purposes.  So when is the right time to consume something from a package versus real food?

I think the first thing to look at is the circumstances around your consumption of any food.  Timing is a big part of that decision. If you’re looking to eat something mere minutes before hitting the trail…a home made sandwich is not likely going to be the right choice.  Your gut requires energy, blood flow and rest to properly digest complex foods like a sandwich. Two hours prior to hitting the trail, that could be a great choice however minutes prior there are faster absorbing options that won’t ruin your trail sesh.

So, in the minutes before heading out for a workout the only thing your gut will really be able to process is something extremely simple like an energy gel, chews or an electrolyte drink with some added calories.  You really want to avoid things with fiber, protein and fat immediately before exercise because these things slow down digestion. This means it will be sloshing around in your stomach and you won’t be absorbing those valuable nutrients, particularly sugar and electrolytes.  Your gut may even protest by cramping or worse, sending that food right back up where it came from.

These are also excellent choices during high intensity workouts for the same reasons listed above.  If you’re sending all of your blood to your muscles and your heart rate and breathing rate are elevated, it will be very hard for your gut to process real solid food.  So yes, there is a time and place for sports nutrition products!

So when can we enjoy real food?  I always recommend eating something real before exercise if timing allows.  Ideally 2 hours before is the closest to a workout that you’d want to consume a meal but you can get away with something small about an hour out from start time.  You can also carry real food for lower intensity and/or longer rides. If I’m going to ride for 2 or more hours, there’s a good chance the intensity will not be so high that I can’t digest real food.  So what do you eat? Here’s a recipe for my favorite, a pumpkin oatmeal bar that combines a variety of nutrients, is easy to make and packs away in a jersey pocket for mid-ride snacking!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 c instant oats (I use Gluten free but you don’t have to!)

1/2 c almond or peanut butter

1 c canned pumpkin

1 egg

1/2 banana mashed

1 Tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp Nutmeg

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 c Raisins or other dried fruit

Optional: sprinkle in some unsweetened shredded coconut.

Combine all ingredients into a large bowl and mix well until combined.  

Spray an 8” x 8” pan with cooking spray (preferably coconut oil) and press mix into pan.

Bake at 350 degrees until cooked through the center, about 20 min. They can be modified into “cookies” by taking out the baking soda and forming them into bite size cookies on a baking sheet.

Once cooked, allow to cool a few minutes before cutting into 9-12 bars.  After cutting, allow them to cool completely before removing from the pan.  

The bars will last about 1 week in the fridge or 2 months if frozen.  I generally eat 1 bar per hour on long, low intensity rides or hikes.

No time to bake?  Other handy options are dried fruit like apricots, a nut butter and jelly sandwich, a small baked potato (not kidding, cut it in half and sprinkle some salt on that sucker!).  You can also make “rice cakes” which are composed of fresh cooked sticky rice pressed into a pan in a thin layer and then spread a layer of your favorite filling like some jam or mini chocolate chips and a sprinkle of salt, then top with another thin layer of rice and press.  Once cooled these can be cut into little cakes, yum!

Variety is certainly key to prevent flavor fatigue and if you plan to do a race it’s very helpful to test your exact race-day strategy while training to make sure it agrees with your palate and your gut.  

Happy pedaling everyone!

Dr Cassie Maximenko, also known as “Dr Max”, is a Chiropractic Physician at Dembski Chiropractic in Southbury, CT.  She has been practicing there for over 8 years and has Masters degrees in Sports Health Care and Nutrition. As a physician, Dr Max focuses on treating the whole person not just the pain so she also offers nutritional counseling for a variety of issues and for sports performance.


She is involved in the cycling community as a professional cyclist, primarily competing in Cyclocross events across the country and coaches a local kids mountain bike team through the Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program.  Dr. Max also coaches a small group of adult athletes through her small coaching business, TriMax-Training.  From beginner triathletes to professional level cyclists, she works with anyone looking to improve their performance and attain any goal big or small.

Malaga Venture

By Chris Mehlman

When I decided to take a year off between high school and college to focus on racing, I knew that I wanted to try to spend some time in a warmer climate to train over the winter. After a lot of time researching places to go, I realized that, surprisingly, the US wasn’t necessarily the cheapest or easiest option for a 2-month trip. Thanks to some friends, I was able to get connected with a group of American and Canadian road racers who go to Malaga in the south of Spain every winter. Being able to explore a new culture on my bike and get the necessary winter training in before a big season of racing was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I booked a plane ticket, packed my bikes, and headed off on an adventure!

Spanish culture took some getting used to, but once I settled in, I did not want to leave. I’m usually an early-to-bed, relatively early-to-rise type of person, but the Spanish lifestyle shifts everything later. Restaurants often don’t open until 8:30 or 9 PM, and things don’t really get going in the morning until 10AM. For a relatively high-strung, regimented person like me, this schedule helped make Spanish culture feel much more laid back and less rushed than the American lifestyle. It was a much need change in pace.
I was able to use my bike to explore and further interact with the culture in a way that I could not have on a tour bus or in a car. Beyond the city limits lay miles of empty paved roads winding their way into the mountains, and endless dirt tracks. Within a 15 minute ride from our apartment in the city center, I was on dirt heading up (and up and up) into the Montés de Malaga Natural Park. Most of the trails were wide, but there was a section of the park filled with technical singletrack descents and populated by guys in full face helmets riding 160mm travel bikes. The park itself, as the name suggests, was very hilly. From the base to the top some 3000 feet above the city was about an hour long climb when riding hard, and there was little flat riding to be found anywhere in the park. The trails felt like they were hundreds of miles from the city, even though there were areas of the park which almost looked directly down on the maze of streets below. Despite not feeling the same adrenaline and flow that one gets riding singletrack like the kind found in the US, spending my long rides exploring new dirt paths, seeing abandoned farm houses and goat pastures and fountains just made me want to ride my bike more and more. Even though my hard workouts were very challenging, having a amazing view waiting at the top or doing my efforts on a new sections of road or trail made it all worth it and helped keep me motivated. The abundance of pastry shops also helped on those days!

One of the most exciting parts of the trip was exploring the bike culture in Spain. Mountain biking there is not exactly the same as what we consider it to be here. At least in the Malaga area, people seem to either be lycra-clad XC riders or racers on light hardtails or full suspension bikes, or they seem to be full-on enduro-loving riders who happily take a fire road to the top to ride or race down technical singletrack. The XC riding could almost be classified as what we would now call “gravel” (albeit a tiny bit more technical). There were few trail bikes and the terrain and trails didn’t really suit that style of riding. Another thing I had to adjust to was the number of e-bikes on the trails. While they are a controversial topic here in the US, they seem to be more widely accepted in Spain, and with the amount of climbing involved in every ride, riders use them to help access the fun descents or just hang with their XC-racing friends. The road riding scene is also much bigger there than here. On every ride I went on, regardless of the day of week, I was constantly passing large groups of cyclists. Just as café stops are a thing among roadies, they are even more important in Spain, and with the number of cafés that dot the roadside near the Montés de Malaga park, I also often found groups of mountain bikers congregated for a snack or a hearty lunch. Since these establishments were accustomed to cyclists, they were great places to fill up bottles mid-ride.  I often topped off my bottles at the cafés or one of the seemingly infinite supply of eateries in the city for lunch in the sun after my ride. Drivers were also used to encountering many cyclists, and usually respected bikes much more than here in the US.

I found that the easiest way to immerse myself in the bike culture was to spend time at the local shop (Recyclo Bike Shop and Café). Through them, I was able to find a local MTB race, get a ride from one of the organizers at another local shop, and experience just how special the riding community is in Malaga. The race was held in a small village outside Malaga, and while races are often more of a nuisance for locals in the US, the entire village came out to this race. It was a major event for such a small town, with over 400 racers. I went into it not knowing what to expect, and discovered the hard way that races are run very differently there than in the US. You haven’t suffered on the bike until you’ve ridden a 30 minute climb in the middle of a 1 lap XC race. The few hours after the race were a massive party, complete with a delicious stew made with a myriad of animals parts I was not accustomed to. Everyone in town was very welcoming of the race. Through this experience, I became good friends with a local racer and shop mechanic, and we ended up riding together and are still in touch.

I would never have made any of these connections or discovered the secret gems I did without my bike. While Malaga is a popular place for tourists and cruise ship passengers, I felt incredibly lucky to have the freedom to ride my bike, explore, and not be tied down to the traditional tourist circus. Wherever you travel to next, consider making riding a part of your trip. Whether is is just taking a rental bike for a spin or doing a full on bike-packing trip, you won’t regret it.

Finding motivation when the going gets tough

By Chris Mehlman

Riding your bike is always supposed to be enjoyable, right? While many of us don’t want to admit it, there are some days when it’s tough to get out the door. Those Instagram-worthy bluebird days filled with hero dirt and friends are what we all envision and love, but some days, we just don’t get that idealistic version of riding.

In my training for XC racing, I honestly have quite a few days like this. Sometimes, I feel weak to admit it, but there are days when I’m tired and sore or when my only options are to ride on the road in the mid-30s and pouring rain or on the trainer when the last thing I want to do is pedal. Today, when I woke up, I realized that my MTB workout was going to have to done be on the road because of heavy rain which was worsening the already extremely muddy trails. These are the days when what is usually my stress-reliever can actually stress me out. Finding motivation in these situations can be tough, but in almost every case, I benefit either mentally or physically from getting out and riding.

The most important thing is to give yourself something to look forward to at the end of the ride. For me, when it’s cold and rainy, this is usually a nice hot shower, and during a hard workout, it’s a treat like ice cream or a cookie after the ride. I also remind myself of how satisfied I will be after riding knowing I pushed my limits mentally and physically.

Personally, I am incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to take a year off of school before college to focus on racing, so the first thing I remind myself of if I’m having a tough time getting out the door is that I GET to do this. I have the opportunity to focus on training and ride every day. While most people aren’t in this situation, it’s still helpful to remind yourself that you were given the opportunity to get out on a bike with a good set of legs and lungs and roads or trails that are safe to ride. Even if it is pouring rain, think of it as an opportunity, not an obstacle.

If I’m having a tough workout and I need motivation to finish the last set of intervals or push through the last few miles, I remind myself of why I got into riding. Even for non-racers, it can be easy to lose sight of why you first started riding if you are having a bad day. I remind myself of the feeling of freedom that riding brings, and the endorphins that I feel when I pedal. A junior development MTB program from Colorado likes to label this #NFTF — Never Forget The Feeling. Maybe, you can find a little of that feeling in a tough moment in order to help keep yourself motivated.

Lastly, I like to convince myself that the ride will be an adventure no matter what, and that I should just buckle and and see how it pans out. Riding is meant to be an adventure, and even if it’s a cold, wet road ride you can have fun if you just let go. There were a couple of days this past winter when I went for rides in a serious snow storms and those rides ended up being some of the most memorable adventures I’ve had.

Regardless of whether you’re a recreational rider or racer, it’s always OK to feel like you don’t want to ride. Not every ride is going to be made of perfect “smiles for miles” conditions. If you can use some of these techniques to help you get out and push through, you will almost certainly end your ride feeling satisfied.  

Photo: David Hellmann@davidhellmann