Confessions of a Mountain Bike Zealot

I don’t know why but last night I was thinking back over the past several years and I realized just how much mountain biking has shaped my life. When I got my first mountain bike I was living in Santa Barbara, CA and was in a bad spot. I relatively new in town, didn’t have too many friends that weren’t associated with my psycho ex-girlfriend and I remember dreading the weekends because I simply did not know what I was going to do with myself.

I bought that first mountain bike because I wanted something to ride to work on. I was working for a company that certified personal trainers and made decent money for a 23 year old bachelor sharing a 1 bedroom apartment with a community college student so I decided to drop a few hundred bucks and get a decent bike (a Marin Nail Trail). While I spent the first few weeks just riding around town I knew that this was something I was going to enjoy and found myself going on some long rides exploring the back roads on the weekends.

I don’t know what exactly inspired me to do it but I eventually took my bike and road up a fire road. When I got to the top I was out of breath, my legs burned and I had a huge grin on my face. When I turned the bike around and started heading back down I was hooked for life – mountain biking was the best thing ever!

That first mountain bike was my “in” to a whole new world. I soon met a guy who was nice enough to take me around and show me that there were far more than just fire roads in those mountains behind Santa Barbara. He was my first riding buddy and some of my best friends since then have been because of our connection to the love of the trail.

I met my soon-to-be wife not long after getting that first bike and the funny thing is that mountain biking help me decide she was the one. I let her borrow original hardtail (I had since upgraded to a full suspension rig) and we were riding around a local park that had some rocks you could ride up and off of. She tried to catch some air off of one and went down in a heap. I remember thinking “great, she’ll never want to do this again” but instead heard her laughing. She had a bloody elbow and dirt all over her and thought it was all pretty funny. I pretty much decided right then and there that she was the one.

After leaving Santa Barbara I moved to Encinitas, CA and got a job as a trainer in a local LA Fitness (which totally sucked). I wanted to know more about bikes so I bugged a local bike shop owner, ol’ Fred at Leucadia Cyclery, to let me come in on my days off and work at the shop for store credit. So I worked 4 days a week training, 2 days in the shop and rode as much as possible in between.

When I lived in Hawaii I ran some mountain bike tours and managed a local bike shop (Bicycle John’s in Lihue on Kauai). I even ran a mobile bike shop out of my X Terra for about a year after I had a falling out with the owner of the shop.

When I lived in Texas I converted my backyard into a riding playground because there was very little in the way of decent riding in the Tyler area. I decided to move to Fruita based on little more than the outstanding riding in the area. I had no job lined up, quit a decent paying job managing a gym and just packed up and moved here, knowing that I would just make it work so I could have access to all this riding.

All the while I was also working on creating ways to enhance my own riding through strength training. While it started with something I was just doing for myself, it evolved to the point that I started MTB Strength Training Systems and have been obsessed with trying to spread the word about how much strength training has to offer every rider in the world.

Over the last few years I’ve had the chance to work with riders like Aaron Gwin (current DH World Champ and former client) and Ross Schnell (single speed world champ) . I have guys like Gene Hamilton and Lee McCormack come to me for training advice and get to write for Decline Magazine and Pinkbike.com. All of this because of that first mountain bike I bought all those years ago in Santa Barbara.

Again, I’m not sure exactly why I’m telling you all of this but I do know one thing for certain… mountain biking is more than a hobby or a past time for me…it is a way of life and an obsession. It has shaped my life like nothing else has and will continue to do so for as long as I can throw a leg over a top tube. I guess I just wanted to explain why I come across as a mountain biking zealot from time to time…because I am!

-James Wilson-

Social Comments:

WordPress Comments:

  1. Simon says:

    Nice post James. Inspirational! I need to get out on my bike more…

    Reply • October 21 at 10:24 am
  2. Jay P says:

    Thanks for sharing your personal story. I’m young right now (21) and hope that mountain biking shapes my future as much as it has shaped yours. One day I dream of running my own bed and breakfast tucked away on a mountain somewhere (probably Colorado) dedicated to mountain biking in the summer and snowboarding in the winter, where I could ride all day, every day.

    Reply • October 21 at 11:37 am
  3. Brad says:

    Right on, congrats you really help me with your articles in Decline and elsewhere.

    Reply • October 21 at 2:31 pm
  4. Agustin Farias says:

    Great post. Thanks for sharing your story James, I simpathazie quite a lot with it.

    I still remember my first bike when I was no more than 8 years old. The sensation of liberty, speed, and been able to ride all around the neighbourhood and into parks by myself was addictive.

    Fast forward to today, and even though I have riden bikes on an off since them (both road and mtn), I just recently got hooked more seriously into Mtn Bike Riding. I move to Phoenix 5 years ago and i’m about to turn 40 next year, call it mid life crisis and the realization that I don’t want to end up in a couch at 60 unable to move, but today I cannot wait to go out on the trail riding when the weather is right and my kids, wife and work allows me.

    I actually started racing XC local events last year and I’m loving the addrenaline rush and competive atmosphere. I do it just for fun and to stay fit, and have to say that I discovered your site and Strenght training programs after meeting and have done a clinic with Gene Hamiliton. I really like your programs because they are very focused on improving Mtn biking and very well balance. So keep doing it…


    Reply • October 21 at 3:57 pm
  5. Lon H. says:

    It is hard to explain to most folks, what it feels like to work like a dog all week, endure hours of meetings and unpleasantries and still feel like everything will be just great as soon as I jump on my mountain bike. I’ll only ever be a weeknd warrior, but I get it. Just an amazing experience to ride along, explore, work hard and conquer trail sections for the first time. Thanks for your continuing words of encouragement and understanding, James. I can’t ride or work out every day, but I look forward to working out and riding for the rest of my days!

    Reply • October 21 at 4:30 pm
  6. Chris says:

    Hey James

    why don’t you contact Dirt Magazine? I have been spreading the word over here in Scotland but folk are sceptical about this and esp when they see me with a protein shake. They assume its EPO or something.
    I am originally from New Zealand and like the statees we have a much more progressive approach to getting whate we want out of our sports/hobbies. The UK scene could do with a column from you.


    Reply • October 22 at 1:15 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Great thought, I’ll see if I can get them something next week and see if they would be interested in seeing some more training related stuff from me. Thanks for all your support, it will take a little while for people to catch on but once they start to see the results more will jump on the band wagon.

      Reply • October 23 at 8:23 am

Add a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *


Follow MTB Strength Training Systems:
James Wilson
Author and Professional
Mountain Bike Coach
James Wilson