Should I Ride Alone?

Words Dave Tolnai
Date Aug 24, 2015

Dear uncle Dave,

After watching a few world cup and other downhill racing, I happened to notice quite a few riders peddling mid air whilst clearing large jumps. Does this shave time, or balance them in the air? Or is it a nervous twitch of wanting to go faster but being stuck in the air momentarily?

Peddling grounded

Dear Peg:

In a sense, it feels like pedalling in the air might be equivalent to pushing yourself in a wheelbarrow. But a faster spinning wheel does actually provide some forward momentum when it hits the ground. How do I know this? Because I once watched somebody crash their scooter into a fence when they dropped it off the center stand with the rear wheel spinning. Well. I saw the aftermath of a knocked over fence and a dumped scooter and was very nearly able to re-create the event with some non-scientific tests that I conducted after-the-fact. Based on that, pedalling in the air makes you way faster.

Uncle Dave

Uncle Dave,

I got into mountain bikes with the help of a friend of mine who taught me how to ride a bike when I was 16. Since then it became quite the passion, and 2 years ago I ended up buying an all mountain hardtail and noticed some serious improvement in my skills since then and I got the urge to buy a more serious bike with full suspension and start some enduro racing.

The thing is, I live in an area that doesn’t have many trails, not even a good one, but I used to ride in more “enduro like” trails with my friend every weekend, until he got an injury and can’t ride so often now, and now I am kind of afraid to go ride alone in those trails, since I could have some sort of accident by myself.

Should I keep riding the easier trails in my area, or just overcome my fears and adventure in more serious trails by myself?

Best regards,
Scared to be alone

Dear Scab:

Through a combination of scheduling conflicts, anti-social tendencies and people being jerks, I end up riding a fair amount on my own. I’ve never spent much time worrying about having an accident, injuring myself and being unable to remove my carcass from the woods. But I also operate dremel tools in close proximity to my face without eye protection, so I’m not a super great source for personal safety advice.

On a slightly tangential note, in the last few weeks I’ve had some things come up in my professional life that relate to this as well. It can be summarized as “if you put a lot of energy into creating fantastical worst case scenarios, it’s possible to talk yourself into/out of just about anything.”

So yes, disaster can strike and you should be prepared for any eventuality. But how often do you crash? And injure yourself? To such a serious extent that you are unable to get yourself out of the woods without the aid of a helicopter? Probably not all that often, right? So, do you want to limit your enjoyment of the sport that you love because you’re afraid that something that very seldom happens might happen? That seems a bit silly. You need to worry less.

Of course, there’s not worrying about things and there’s not being stupid about it. Here’s some thoughts on riding alone in a non-stupid manner (ignoring all the more common ones…cellphone…food and water…let somebody know where you are…etc. Although, I never tell anybody where I’m going. I figure the fine folks in the North Vancouver Parking Enforcement Branch will let my family know where I am once they’ve run out of windshield space for new tickets):

  1. Buy some tools, a pump and a spare tube and learn what each of those objects is used for. Bring them on each and every ride.
  2. It’s probably best not to explore new/remote areas on your own. You should probably wait for your lazy buddy to get healthy before doing that.
  3. Is it something that you ride and clean 90% of the time?  If so, don’t worry about it. But if you’re at all apprehensive about riding a particular section of trail, maybe wait until you have a buddy along. Or at the very least, prop your phone up against a nearby rock and have Siri primed and ready to make the 911 call for you. She’s very efficient.
  4. Try not to be the last person off the mountain. If it’s late in the day and the trail doesn’t see much traffic, maybe you should ride something else. The last thing you want is to injure yourself and get mauled by wolves over the course of a long, dark and lonely evening.
  5. Listening to music while you ride can make you less approachable, but it is not a foolproof way to keep people away. Other keys to limiting social interactions are:
    • Avoid eye contact
    • Minimize time spent near trailheads and intersections
    • Never ride new, exciting, flashy or rare equipment – it only invites questions

And incidentally, you didn’t learn how to ride a bike until you were 16? Wow. You deserve a prize for that.

Uncle Dave

Scab – yours is letter of the week. And you picked a good week.


This is one of those weeks when the prizing is extra special. A set of Race Face Atlas Cinch cranks. They come in a host of vivid colours and they can be configured any way you’d like; one by to two by or two by and bash. Hell – you could probably even go old school triple. Whichever you choose you’ll be happy you went with Atlas Cinch Cranks.


Do you choose more mellow trails when you ride solo?

Trending on NSMB


Jeremy Mikesell  - Aug. 26, 2015, 11:10 a.m.

After concussing myself and forgetting a few hours of my life while commuting home alone I started worrying more about riding alone. Not enough to stop doing it but enough to find an neat app for my phone that will send out a SMS with the current GPS location if the phone stops moving for a minute or so. You know like you are unconscious laying in the woods. Thankfully i have never had to use it. GaurdiApp for Android:


Mike Traslin  - Aug. 25, 2015, 11:02 a.m.

Wow. Beauty. My Uncle Peter Traslin (RIP) quietly built some of the original molds out of wood. (Wood Pattern Maker.)


JimBob  - Aug. 25, 2015, 10:21 a.m.

Dear Lord! I've been waiting for those new Atlas Cinch Cranks ever since I saw them talked about at Sea Otter.

Dave, when on Earth are they coming out? (Or just shoot me a free pair if you're so inclined).


Dirk  - Aug. 25, 2015, 12:03 p.m.

Pete is the prize man. Uncle Dave is just chained to a desk in the corner and forced to answer questions.


Andy Eunson  - Aug. 25, 2015, 6:15 a.m.

Motocrossers blip the throttle or touch the rear brake to change the attitude of the bike in the air. I think a little throttle or pedalling will drop the front of the bike so you don't land a jump tail heavy. I think.


Poo Stance  - Aug. 25, 2015, 5:13 p.m.

Brake will change bike in the air. My brah who once won some moto events in Can-uh-duh said you need to be on the throttle in the air on an MX bike when the ass end isnt parralell to landing else you'll crash upon landing. Since I'm a ghey mtn stunt cyclist I have no idea of the truth of this. Blinky pedals in the air because he is a cunt! Need more proof see: Gwin, Gee, Greg, Ratboy, Loic


Naveed Nasir  - Aug. 25, 2015, 1:51 a.m.

My theory on riding alone or in a group: some riders ride to escape (ride alone) and some ride to embrace the social aspect of the sport (ride in groups)


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