An Introduction to Mountain Biking
Firstly you don’t need mountains where you live to enjoy a mountain bike. If you’re a bicycle enthusiast, but have only tried cycling on the road, then it’s high time you gave mountain biking a try.
By mountain biking, we’re talking about more than heading down an actual mountain or indeed a big hill, although most people do think high altitude cycling when they hear the phrase “Mountain biking.”
If you have never seen one (where have you been?) Mountain bikes are very lightweight bicycles with fat chunky tyres and front suspension so that it will ride over cross country and rough terrain.
Buying a Mountain Bike
A mountain bike or mountain bicycle is abbreviated to MTB, you might even see ATB which means ‘all-terrain bicycle’. (It stops the ‘we don’t live near mountains’ argument).
Anyway it is a bicycle specifically designed for off-road riding. They have to be sturdy, hence the chunky tyres and suspension in order that they withstand the rugged rough off-road use, behind mindful that of natural obstacles such as ditches, tree stumps and even rocks.
The wheels with rims are generally 559mm (ISO sizes), still commonly referred to as a “26-incher”. The chunky tyres or ‘knobby’ as some call them are designed for good traction on rough terrain and to absorb the constant shock. Front wheel suspension is now the norm, all post year 2000 will have front suspension and full front and rear suspension is become increasingly popular.
You might encounter certain mountain bikes that have been fitted with extended ends on the handlebars this addition is to provide extra leverage for hill-climbing.
As mountain bikes have evolved the options list has grown. Gears for example make light of climbing hills and up to 30 speeds are available. Disc brakes are certainly more popular than the old fashioned cantilever or indeed ‘V’ brakes.
Common styles of mountain bikes
Common styles of mountain bikes include Cross Country, All Mountain and Dirt Jumping, however another expert would say there are; downhill riding, free riding, and cross country.
Which will suit you best, I would strongly suggest you try each style before you buy. Do not test drive a mountain bike down a residential street, get into the terrain and put it through its paces.
If you can’t thoroughly test drive a mountain bike, don’t buy it. Hire each style over different weekends.
If there is a mountain biking club in your area, drop in, you’ll certainly be made welcome. As your local bike shop for information about clubs, they might even be members. Club members might also get discounts.
Practice makes perfect
If there is one type of bike that will help anyone get in shape it is mountain biking.
Set yourself targets in terms of distance to ride each day. It is worth remembering that a ten minute ride up a steep hill is excellent if you don’t have the time to ride an hour or so every day. Free wheeling downhill doesn’t count!
Uphill cycling will increase your stamina and strengthen your leg muscles.
Two important things; one, check with your doctor to ensure you are fit enough. Two, start slowly with beginner trails and work on your skills for a while. Don’t jump on a bike to battle the toughest trail and throw yourself down it. It will hurt!
Mountain Bike Jumping
Staying safe on Mountain Bikes
All riders fall, those that deny falling just mean they haven’t fallen yet. Accept that it is going to happen to you. With this in mind, the most important piece of equipment you need to buy, after your bike, is a good quality helmet. Don’t buy a second hand helmet, no matter how shiny it looks – if you don’t know it’s history, your safety is at risk.
The next item on your list is a pair of goggles or safety eye protection. Then you need to buy elbow and knee pads as well as good shoes.
Always carry some money and your mobile phone and make sure you have identification on you at all times.
Enjoy your mountain bike!