Backroad Ramblings: Ride Dirty for Your Health

June 28, 2011
Jason Giacchino
Jason Giacchino
Contributing Editor| Articles|RSS

A freelancer and published novelist Jason is currently the editor in chief of Mountain Bike Tales digital magazine and holds a State University of New York degree in applied science with a minor in journalism. When not hunched over a computer monitor, he can be found playing outside in the suburbs of Buffalo, New York.

Dont worry folks. While this rider may look like hes on the verge of passing out  hes just had a dose of one of natures best medicines - dirt!
Don’t worry folks. While this rider may look like he’s on the verge of passing out, he’s just had a dose of one of nature’s best medicines – dirt!

When I’m not too busy gawking at the latest bike brochures, magazines and websites, I can be found sniffing around scientific journals in an attempt to sound particularly well-versed at parties. Of course, that’s only one of the many reasons I take pride in catching up on mankind’s collective attempt to explain the universe around him – not the least of which involves providing a greater understanding of the complicated processes (both mechanical and biological) taking place while riding.

Recently I found myself perusing studies that claimed a reconnection with nature wasn’t only enjoyable in this day of electronic dependency, but also provided all sorts of lasting benefits from creativity to increased spatial orientation (in other words, a better sense of direction).

Ever a candidate for increased creativity, I continued reading on with great interest; after all, I do spend a vast majority of my time in remote regions of the forest with motorcycles, ATVs and mountain bikes. Could spending even more time playing in the woods eventually allow me to toss out my GPS in favor of navigating with only my position relative to the starry sky? Would my columns become even more entertaining and take half as long to write with a steady diet of grubs and pond water?

Who knows? What I found next put the screws to any further experiments I was considering. Apparently a few researchers at Sage College in nearby (and by nearby I mean 8-hours by car, even longer without my GPS) Troy, NY have concluded that a common bacterium found in soil may be the secret ingredient to becoming smarter just by being outside.

Instead of blazing trails up front  spend some time at the back of the pack to soak up those extra health benefits.
Instead of blazing trails up front, spend some time at the back of the pack to soak up those extra health benefits.

This bacteria strain, Mycobacterium vaccae as it likes to be called, was given to mice in a controlled setting and low and behold, they were able to navigate mazes twice as fast as those mice living a bacteria-free life. Turns out that this stuff is pretty much unavoidable in the woods, and whatever mammal happens to be meandering around out there is going to be inhaling and ingesting it whether they intend to or not. Now I don’t know about you, but after being at the back of the pack at countless enduros, trail rides and MX events throughout the year, inhaling and ingesting soil is something I’ve come to absolutely master.

Is it possible that there is unlimited computing power to be had by merely playing follow-the-leader in the dirt? Apparently, the effects of this bacterium are only good for a few weeks after contact, then zombification that’s been linked with Facebook and iPod addiction begin taking over once again. The good news is there’s no limit to how much Mycobacterium vaccae a person can take. Get back out there and let the little buggers infiltrate your bloodstream. While the study did suggest it’s generally frowned upon to go outside and actively eat a soil sample or to snort dirt as if trying to reenact a scene from Scarface, I’m pleased to report that there’s a strong chance you’ve already been getting your recommended dosage each and every time you ride off-road. The following are some helpful guidelines to confirm whether you’re doing it correctly:

Have you ever returned from a long day of riding only to discover your teeth feel rubbery to your tongue, but gritty when ground against each other?

The group had to spend a little down time waiting for a radiator patch job to dry. Man oh man  Watson is such a glory-hound. Here he is leading J.C. through a whoop section. Poor kid was stuck eating everyones dust throughout this whole trip.

Have you ever taken off your riding gear and had a plume of dust rise up in the laundry room that looked like a miniature nuclear mushroom cloud?

Have you ever removed your goggles and found that you looked like an inversed raccoon?

Have you ever blown dirt out of your nostrils several days post-ride?

Has your wife ever forced you to get sprayed down by the garden hose before even allowing you to enter the house?

Have you ever left a perfect silhouette by merely laying on a white sheet?

Have you ever thrown away a piece of riding gear because simply buying new would be far less of a hassle than trying to get it clean?

Have you ever turned on the shower after a particularly hardy ride and had water that looked like chocolate milk roll off you and into the drain?

If you are unable to answer yes to at least one of the above questions, it turns out you’re spending far too much time up front, and hence denying yourself a golden opportunity to experience one of nature’s best kept secrets. Do yourself a favor next time and let someone else lead for a while. If this stuff can make a laboratory mouse navigate a maze twice as fast, just think of what it can do for you at parties.