I like pedaling. I like climbing. I like long climbs. I even like long technical lung-busting climbs.
And then I moved to the Pacific Northwest. For years prior I was a XC singlespeed guy ... long rides through the desert, undulating terrain, and the only consistent verticality seemed to be when going up. In other words, climbing was simply part of it. That was it. End of story.
And then a number of years ago I moved to the NW and discovered quickly about gravity, flow trails, berms, table tops, and ... shuttling. I remember my first shuttled experience. There were 3 of us and 2 SUVs. The "floater" sat with one driver on the way to the trail and with the other on the way back. We drove a total of at least 2.5 - 3 hours round trip not including the shuttling. I was dumbfounded.
This is stupid, I thought and fumed.
We seemingly spent more time simply driving and moving vehicles and loading and unloading bikes than we did on the trail. Our longest descent was maybe 15 minutes. Then we'd spend the next 45 minutes getting the other vehicle, loading bikes, driving back up, unloading, stretching again, chatting, and then we'd descend again. I vividly remember thinking ... wait, I'm just coasting down hill over and over again. I'm not even tired!!!
Was this the best use of my time?
Last weekend I rode out at Sandy Ridge again. These are some of the best downhill runs that our neck of the woods has to offer. There are no shuttled runs at Sandy Ridge (except a couple times a year at a NWTA-sponsored shuttle day). You have to earn your turns. There's a 3+ mile climb on a closed-off paved road that takes you to the top of the trail system before you get to point your bike back down the trail.
So which is better? Climbing vs shuttling? Well, that's a stupid question (even though I asked it). Meaning, both are great and have their place. I think that's what makes mountain biking so amazing and truly diverse. Each ride and each trail requires different skill levels as well as cardio levels. Sure, we can smack the easy button and only ride shuttled trails, but the fun part is getting out and enjoying all that there is to offer including lift-assisted trails that we all love.
Although we may cry foul at the bike industry for constantly changing standards the good news is the with each technological leap it means we're closer and closer to needing only one bike ... one quiver killer ... one bike to rule them all. We get to have our cake and eat it too. We can zip up trails like were on a XC bike and then bomb down like we're holding on for dear life on a DH rig.
So to answer again the question posed in the title of this article ... do you have to earn your turns? Sometimes seems like a good enough answer. Besides, the more shuttled runs you do the more chance you have to drink even more coffee.
Photos by Deanna Campbell