When you find a sport you love, you hopefully can find a way to stick with it for a lifetime. That’s what Ahwatukee resident Mike Dale has found with mountain biking – a sport he’s participated in for more than 30 years.
As the head coach of the Desert Vista Mountain Bike team, which welcomes local youth to experience the sport, Dale hopes that his enthusiasm for mountain biking helps to inspire kids and their families to gear up and hit the trails. With a New Year upon us, and many of us looking for ways to stay active, he shares that mountain biking can be a great way to get exercise, see nature, and enjoy a one-of-a-kind community.
“Ahwatukee, and Arizona in general, is an amazing place to get started mountain biking,” Dale says. “Even in the summer, when the temperatures get hot, you can go on early morning rides. And of course, January is actually the perfect time of year to ride.”
Expert tips for beginners
For those just starting out mountain biking, Dale says the first place to start is a quality local bike shop that will help new riders to get fit with the proper equipment and make meaningful connections into the mountain biking community. Some local shops he recommends include Emigos Bike Shop, Bike Masters, and Global Bikes.
In addition to connecting with a quality bike shop, he suggests that new cyclists find a local riding group. “You can often connect with neighborhood riding groups at a local bike shop,” he explains. “There are many riding teams and groups in the area that welcome new mountain bikers of all ages and skill levels.”
One local team geared toward adult riders is Team Vitesse, which Dale helped lead before his role with the Desert Vista Mountain Bike team. “I loved my team with my peers, but I wanted to give back and encourage more kids on bikes for life,” he says.
Once you have the proper gear and community, he recommends learning base control, working on bike handling skills, and starting out on beginner trails. “As you ride more, your confidence builds,” Dale says. “But you have to get out there first.”
Like most fitness activities, experts recommend that new bikers start off slow and check in with your physician or medical professional to make sure you’re able to pursue the sport.
The benefits of mountain biking
The health benefits of mountain biking are many, including being amazing cardiovascular exercise, building stronger muscles, creating quicker reaction times, stress relief, exposure to nature, and being easy on joints – making it a sport that riders of all ages can enjoy.
In addition to the fitness benefits, a unique aspect of mountain biking, Dale says, is the community you become a part of when you connect with other mountain bikers locally.
“I’ve been doing this sport for more than three decades,” Dale shares. “It’s a great way to enjoy a fitness activity, make friends, and forget the day-to-day stresses of life.”
popular mountain biking trails
· Pima Canyon Trailhead, located at South Mountain. Relatively easy with a lot of offshoot trails to choose from depending on your comfort level.
· Warpaint Loop, located at South Mountain. Easy route, 2.2 miles, but popular so you’re likely to encounter many people.
· Pyramid Trail, located at South Mountain. This trail is considered moderate and is recommended for more experienced riders.
· Desert Classic Trail, located at South Mountain.
· Black Canyon Trail, spanning 80 miles from Phoenix to the Prescott National Forest. Provides a variety of biking opportunities at different levels.
· Desert Classic Trail, located at South Mountain. Moderately challenging, this is a popular trail for mountain bikers year-round.