The extreme sport of mountain biking is comprised of many things. For some, the thrill of riding just inches from deadly drop-offs is enough to keep them coming back. For others, it is just a hobby which provides nice scenery and a chance to get away. Finally, some riders use this sport as a source of exercise and fitness. Regardless of your reasons, mountain biking is dangerous and using the proper cautionary measures can save your life.
Two Types of Mountain Biking
In general, there are two ways you can mountain bike. You can participate in cross-country and down hill courses. Keep reading because there is a huge difference between the two.
Down hill racing consists of speed, tricky turns, and the occasional scary jump or two. When you are descending, you do so as fast as possible. These usually range from 5-10 minutes and courses are structured to suit different style riders. For example, obstacles like roots and logs are taken out of the beginner courses whereas those same items would flood the pro courses.
Cross-country riding is a whole different realm. Races like these can range anywhere from 1-6 hours and the trails are slightly easier (usually). You definitely need much more endurance to participate in these races though. Recreational riders are more likely to participate in cross-country biking than down hill racing.
Just like any sport, there is a certain amount of etiquette involved. These are not concrete “rules” but if you don’t follow them you could find yourself having tons of haters in the mountain biking community. With that said…
Never modify a trail if you weren’t the one who built it. It was designed that way for a reason and changing could not only make the locals very mad at you, but it could also be potential dangerous.
- Don’t stand by and allow newer riders to test advanced trials. Speak up. 99% of trails don’t have any people regulating them, so it’s your job to keep them safe for other riders.
- Avoid walking down steep hills. As a general rule of thumb: if you don’t have the skill to ride down then you shouldn’t be on them! Going down by foot is dangerous for several reasons. For one, other riders flying by could hit you. Secondly, its very easy to twist an ankle and/or break something.
- If you notice that a ramp has intentionally been removed, don’t decide to take the initiative and put it back (or rebuild it). Chances are it was taken out for a reason; probably because it involved too much danger or too many riders were hurting themselves on it. For your safety and theirs, don’t’ rebuild or put up ramps which have been taken down.
Don’t be rude to hikers. Although most mountain biking trails don’t allow people to hike them, some do. Occasionally you’ll find people walking. Be nice- some riders are mean to hikers to discourage them from interfering with their runs. Not cool.
Group Mountain Biking
Always remember this rule when group riding: YOU are responsible for the person behind you. It is your job to make sure that the rider behind you can see the upcoming turns. Help them out during every intersections. Likewise, the person in front of you should be helping your ride out. If not, have a talk with that rider to let them know what’s going on (some aren’t aware of this guideline).
What to Bring
Here are some items you should always have with you when biking…they can potentially save your life:
– Water: First and foremost, hydration is your number one concern. Make sure you bring enough fluids to last you throughout the entire ride.
– Camera: This isn’t supposed to be all work and no fun, right? Occasionally, you’ll run into some beautiful scenery and you will want to snap a photo. Always have a camera handy because you never know what you will find.
– MP3 Player: It can be boring mountain biking by yourself. At least give yourself some upbeat tunes to listen to.
– Cell Phones: I shouldn’t even have to tell you this. However, you would be surprised by how many riders leave without a cell phone. Also note, try to get one with great a great range of service should you get injured and are by yourself.
– Parts: Finally, bring spare parts. You don’t have to go overboard however, bring simple tools (spoke wrench, Allen wrench, zip ties, etc.) and some spare bolts and screws too. Remember, you can never be too careful!
Tips for New Riders
As a new mountain biker thrill seeker, you may not know what to do for your first ride. That’s okay…nobody expects you to. Here are some things to consider if you are a new rider…
- Choose a trail level you are comfortable with. Don’t let more experience riders convince you to tackle something beyond your skill level. If it doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it
- Pedals are always a major issue during the learning process. Always be sure, or at least try to use flat pedals.
- As you become more skilled, you’ll have a sense of what’s ahead. Anticipate what is ahead of you. If you see a hill approaching, then attack it. Get it in the right gear and pedal aggressively before entering the peak. If you followed a somewhat good technique, you’ll be up in the air. Not bad, huh?
- When going downhill, get used to shifting into the higher gears. This is the technical aspect of training and should help you ride much, much faster.
- Don’t shift simply because you are nervous. Keep your composure- you are well prepared. If you ease off of the pressure, you will notice that your bikes will last much longer.