My days of running for pleasure and exercise ended when I
moved to the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. I had been
living in the relatively flat Willamette River Valley where
there were miles of level bark running trails. Now in the
Gorge, I encountered rocky, steep trails that were torture
to my hips and knees. It was time to find a replacement for
The Gorge of the Columbia River is a recreation mecca
that’s especially attractive to mountain bike riders and
windsurfers. Swimming doesn’t appeal to me, so I decided
to check out mountain biking. In the end, that was among
the best decisions I’ve made, but I began with caution.
For one thing, I didn’t know if my interest would last.
That’s why I started by getting a low-end bike (that had
some serious weight problems) It was a clunker, looking
back on it now. I also held back on investing in some of
the biking ‘gear’. It’s not that I’m cheap – it’s just
that much of it seemed to be for hip-ness instead of
However, after using a few of the items, I understood that
while the gear might make you look ‘cool’, it also really
does help you function better. Here are 7 of my favorite
pieces that I didn’t think I’d care about (back in my post-
runner/pre-biker days) and now I wouldn’t dream of being
1. Padded shorts. If you mountain bike, road bike, or
both, make the investment in having these. Purely and
simply, your ride will be more comfortable.
2. Well-vented helmet. You’ve got to buy a helmet anyway,
right? If you don’t wear one you’re crazy. Spend the
extra bucks to get one made of the super-strong material
that affords lots of vents to help keep you from over-
heating. And in the case of helmets, you get what you pay
for: the higher-end helmets are easier to adjust for a
3. Pedals and shoes with cleats (clipless). After a bit
of a learning curve on how to release quickly and be able
to lock-in going up hill, clipless becomes as automatic as
shifting gears. You especially notice the benefits when
you’re road-biking; you’re gaining on the entire stroke
instead of only the downward push.
4. Hydration pack (a backpack with a water-bladder -
Camelbak brand is an example). My first one was a gift, or
I might never have tried one. Now I love having 100 ounces
of water easily available, instead of that goofy move where
you have to reach down and get the water bottle out of the
rack, lift your head to drink – losing sight of the trail,
and then fumbling the water bottle back into the rack. No
wonder I hardly ever drank enough during rides and ended up
slightly dehydrated every time. I also appreciate that the
pack holds my keys, cell phone, energy bar, and rain jacket.
A suggestion: You’ll still want to keep a full water
bottle on your bike. It’s good defense against dogs that
chase you. Get good at your aim and you can land a squirt
without missing a stroke. It’s very satisfying, and the dog
will run away.
5. Safety goggles – yellow. Of course, you should have
protection for your eyes, but I wondered about the
necessity of yellow or orange lenses. Seemed like poser-
gear when I began to see them around. Then I used a pair.
What difference in visibility! The yellow lenses really do
brighten up shady trails and they help you a lot during
overcast or lower-light times of day.
6. Half-finger gloves. The palms are padded, so that
feels nice on long rides. The best part is what they do
for you on wipe-outs, which are bound to happen. I’ve
gotten lots of scraped knees, but my hands always come out
7. The Bike. Once I realized that biking was not only a
great alternative to running for the sake of my joints, but
it was more fun in general, I gave the clunker away. Then
I invested in a good bike – lightweight frame and
components, with suspension. It’s a pure delight to ride
on a well-made machine.
Kathryn Mosely has written extensively on subjects related
to cycling and fitness. She contributes to News from Acer Bike, the
best on-line biking information resource. Be sure to see
all of Kathryn’s articles at: http://www.acerbike.com/arch/