Any serious cyclist can answer this question, judging from what I've been reading online and hearing in person.  The answer of course is n+1, where n is the number of bikes you own right now.  I love my Kona Sutra, and have put several hundred miles on it over the last couple months.  My latest upgrade had been a set of clipless pedals and shoes, courtesy of REI scratch and dent.  Then my buddy Aaron took me to Lebanon Hills on a recent weekend, and let me ride his brothers mountain bike...

We did the beginner and intermediate loop (and a couple sections of the black stuff, holy crap!) and it was exhilarating, terrifying, exhausting, and addictive.  My hands ached afterward from the death grip I'd had on the handlebars, and although I didn't crash (except for once on the skills course trying to get fancy), I was sore all over when we finished.  I was also craving more!

It didn't take me long, looking online, discovering, realizing how many trails were right here in the Twin Cities, and right near various areas I already visit regularly for work.  I got the itch to get a mountain bike, and I got it bad.  Craigslist, a local bike selling group on Facebook, and checking out various closeouts and sales at local bike shops.  I knew my budget was going to be limited, but figured I didn't need the top-of-the-line, since it was pretty clear my skills would have a long ways to go before I caught up to any half-decent bike.  I ended up finding a great deal on a Novara Matador, a 29" mountain bike at REI.  I tried it out on the little trail there at the store, swiped the credit card, and headed straight down to the Minnesota River, to try it out on some trails in the River Bottoms area.

The River Bottoms border the Minnesota River, and it's an area that floods frequently, so it could be more than a little sandy in places.  The fall colors were in full swing though, and between the trees and river it was just a beautiful place.  I managed about 4.5 miles before getting fed up with the deep deep sand, and returned to the car to go find another trail (Strava here).

The handy MTBproject app informed me there was another trail only about 10 minutes away, so I headed to Terrace Oaks East Park, to try out some more man-made singletrack.  Terrace Oaks seemed quite a bit tighter than most of Lebanon Hills, but I managed pretty well, at least until I decided to try out the smaller "advanced" loop.  I figured I could just go around anything that looked TOO gnarly, and I'd just take it slow and at least get a look at what sort of features made up the harder stuff.  That plan went just fine until the last 30 feet or so, where there was a large staircase like thing made of railroad ties and rock fill.  I approached nice and slow, and dropped down the first step, applying the brakes as I did (don't want to get going too fast now!).  As my front wheel took the next drop, I don't know if I accidentally mashed the brakes or what, but I took a header over the handlebars, flying over the steps and into a bush and small tree!  All told it took me less than an hour to crash after buying the bike.  Luckily, I was only scratched up, and the bike was fine, so I finished my ride and headed home (Strava here).

So far I've also checked out the trails at Theodore Wirth Park, and plan to check out Elm Creek and Battle Creek in the next couple of weeks.  I also need to revisit Lebanon Hills on my own bike now!  There's plenty of options for next year too, with the downhill runs at Spirit Mountain in Duluth, and the scuba diving AND mountain biking mecca at Cuyuna Lakes about 2 hours north of the cities.  I'm psyched about adding yet another hobby to my quiver.  It definitely feels like something I should have been doing for ages now, even more so than road biking/touring.  Do you mountain bike?  Where are your favorite trails?  If you're in the Twin Cities, any hidden gems I should check out?

I think I'm done buying bikes for a while now.  As much as I'd love a fat bike for winter, they are WAY out of my price range for now.  Maybe next year!  Winter will hopefully see me getting on cross country skis for the first time, and trying out skijoring with Dozer!