Since its debut at the Atlanta Games in 1996, mountain biking has been a popular Olympic sport. It involves tough terrain races packed with high climbs, difficult track conditions and wide paths for increased passing opportunities. With around 36 nations expected to take part in the London 2012 Olympics and a racecourse standing at 4.7km long, this is a high endurance event and a sport based on both mental and physical toughness.
Creative Commons Photo by Tom Grundy
Calling All Adrenaline Junkies
Of course, whether you`re an elite athlete or an amateur enthusiast, mountain biking takes nerve and determination and has earned its reputation as a heart pumping extreme sport. Unlike the relatively sedate pace that can be found in other types of bike races, mountain biking is a fast and non-stop solo race with no support vehicles or teams ready to step in.
Mountain biking is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Tough inclines and fast descents are all part and parcel of the course. The question is – is it really a sport that anyone can do? With many growing up with mountain bikes and many more enjoying the thrill of off-road and dirt track biking experiences, it`s easy to assume it will all just come naturally.
Creative Commons Photo by Steve Juvertson
However, as with any sport, it is important to start sensibly and safely. If you are unused to exercise or have any pre-existing medical conditions, it is wise to consult a doctor before starting to train or push your body hard. Once you are ready to start it is recommended that all beginners stay at a comfortable pace and work up slowly to a higher level.
You can build up your stamina and ability level by pushing the distance you do, the difficulty of the run you ride, or the length of time you ride. Remember that you aren`t racing anyone in training and if you feel faint, dizzy or very short of breath, stop and if it doesn`t subside, seek help.
Another useful tip is to ride with someone. Not only is this good if you need to get help for any reason, but it is also a lot of fun. Challenging each other will make a ride more productive and goals easier to achieve.
Having covered all the safety issues you can start to feel the exhilaration and adrenaline rush of riding at speed. Join a club that specialises in mountain biking and you`ll meet new friends and get the chance to swap stories and advice. Whilst some people choose to ride alone, many ride at the weekends in groups, picking a well-known route and finishing with a bite to eat or a drink before heading home.
If you`re considering giving this extreme sport a go, it is easy to borrow or rent a bike from a friend or hire shop. However, it`s equally simple to buy a cheaper bike and sell it as you trade up to a better model once you get the hang of things. Some of the best advice and tips about what to buy and where to buy from can be found online at websites such as bikes.org.uk. With a little research and the right equipment you too can enjoy this exhilarating outdoor sport.