A Mountain Biking Primer

The first requirement for a would be mountain biker is to obtain a bicycle. Some mountain bicycles are traditional in that they feature thick rugged tires. These bikes are ideal for off road rough terrain biking. There are also mountain bikes that feature thinner less rugged tires. These bikes are really hybrids between mountain bikes and touring bikes. The advantage these bikes offer is they weigh less than traditional mountain bikes. If you are planning on biking on paved roads or paved bike trails or even on trails with light obstacles such as roots or rocks these bikes (hybrids) may be ideal for you.

For the technical mountain biker who enjoys riding over rocks, tree roots, and other natural hazards the thicker tired mountain bike will offer a safer more satisfying riding experience. As a fledgling mountain biker you should not as a general rule choose the most expensive mountain bike available. As a general rule what you are paying for is either an enhanced ride through the use of front and rear shock absorbers mounted over the front wheel and under the seat of the bicycle or a bike frame constructed of the very latest space age medals and so lighter than traditional mountain bikes. The only times I can see spending extra for an more expensive mountain bike is if you suffer from arthritis, have had a carpal tunnel or other operation such that an enhanced shock absorbing system will benefit you. Also if you enter mountain biking races than a more lightweight mountain biking frame will benefit you.

Right after selecting a mountain bicycle, I suggest you select a bicycle helmet. No one should engage in the sport of mountain biking without a helmet. Many states have passed laws requiring that both children and adults wear helmets when they ride bicycles. The natural hazards inherent in the sport of mountain biking make proper headgear a necessity. Most bike helmets today are made at least in part of hardened Styrofoam with plastic outsides and are very light in weight. Inside the biking helmet there is usually stamped the safety results that independent testing organizations have obtained in testing the helmet. These should be examined carefully.

In addition to needing a mountain bike and a helmet you will need to transport your bike to where you wish to ride. To do this, you will need a bike rack. There are 3 major types of bike racks available. These are roof racks, trunk racks, and bicycle hitches. A roof rack fits tightly on your car’s roof. The bikes are clamped tightly to the rack. A roof rack has the advantage of allowing the trunk of your vehicle to be readily accessible. This can be an important advantage on vacation trips. The two most prevalent manufacturers of roof racks seem to be Thule and Yakima. I have also seen racks with Sears Roebuck and Volvo trademarks attached to cars also. One major disadvantages of a roof rack is that carrying your bikes on top of your vehicle adds height to the vehicle. You need to be very conscious of this when you are using your vehicle with bikes attached on top and about to pass through a tunnel, park your car in a parking facility with a low roof, or even park your car in your own garage. I am ashamed to admit that I have forgotten that my bikes were attached to my roof rack as I entered my own garage on more than one occasion with expensive consequences of my absent mindedness!

Some other possible disadvantages of using roof racks are that lifting your bikes up to fasten them to the roof rack puts extra strain on your back and may cause back injuries. Another disadvantage of roof racks, is especially with today’s sport utility vehicles, you may need to carry a step stool in your vehicle when you are cycling in order to lift the bikes high enough to fasten them to your vehicle. A trunk rack as the name implies, has clamps which fasten tightly to the trunk of your car. Trunk racks are clamped to the trunk of your car before you begin your biking trip and are removed after its completion.

Trunk racks may be ideal when you are carrying bicycles for young children that are not heavy or large. As the size and weight of the bikes increases. the added size and weight may bend or dent your trunk and impede accessibility to it with a trunk rack. A hitch rack is attached to the rear of your vehicle on a more or less permanent basis. The bikes are fastened using heavy rubber clamps. A hitch rack offers the advantage of not increasing the height of your vehicle or denting your trunk. Hitch racks do increase the length of your vehicle and restrict visibility in back of your vehicle. Furthermore, a hitch rack with bikes attached makes the motion detector on my Ford Explorer useless. With all of that said, I myself use a hitch rack.

Another piece of equipment that is a necessity for mountain biking are water bottle racks. Regardless of the season, it is important to have an ample supply of water with you when you are mountain biking. Water bottle racks come in a few styles and can be easily attached to your bicycle. If you will be cycling for more than a few hours, you should take food with you as well. Food for lunch or snacks can be carried safely in many types of bike bags which can be fastened by means of velcro straps or bungies (single or double width elastic straps). If taking food in a bike bag is likely to be a part of your mountain biking experience, you should ask your bike store to attach a sturdy rack to your bike to which you can attach a thermal bag to carry your food in.

I also suggest carrying a few other things with you when you ride. A universal bike tool to allow you to raise or lower your seat, an extra inner tube for your tires, and a small bike air pump can all come in handy, help you meet your little biking emergencies, and increase your enjoyment of the sport of mountain biking.

Accessories For Your Mountain Bike

There is a massive range of accessories available for mountain bikes and it is possible to spend as much as you did on the bike. But a lot of the accessories are gimmicks and are not needed for typical mountain biking. There are, however, some mountain bike accessories that are essential.

Helmet

This is the most obvious accessory for mountain biking. It is advisable for any cyclist to wear a helmet and it is particularly important if you are going to be mountain biking. It is common to fall off your bike when mountain biking off road and the surface can be unforgiving. A good solid helmet is necessary to protect you head from any impact with the ground, trees or rocks.

Cycle Shorts

Mountain biking on rough bumpy roads is very hard on the body. It is very common for cyclists to have a sore bottom after a hard days mountain biking. A good pair of cycle shorts will help absorb some of the impact.

Gloves

For the same reason as above, gloves are an important part of your mountain bike kit. A lot of people overlook gloves, but they do absorb a significant amount of the shock that travels up through the handlebars. Gloves with gel padding are the best ones to buy for mountain biking.

Other Clothing

If you are going to be out in the countryside for a day, or even half a day, make sure you protect yourself from the weather. A lightweight waterproof jacket is needed in case of rain. An outer layer is a good idea on hot sunny days to protect your skin from the harmful sunrays.

Repair kit

Mountain bikes are prone to breaking down when you least expect it. A basic repair kit is a great mountain bike accessory to own and can be a real lifesaver. This should contain a puncher repair kit, allen key, screw driver (to adjust the front and rear derailleur) and a pump. Other equipment includes a spoke tool, spanners and a bottom bracket tool. Of course, a lubricant is essential!

Cleaning equipment

Mountain biking can be a dirty sport and bikes tend to not like dirt! So the right cleaning equipment is required to keep your mountain bike in good working order. It is possible to buy stray that will degrease your gears. A small brush is often necessary to remove the stubborn dirt.

Bike bottles and cages

Make sure you carry plenty of liquid when mountain biking. You should buy a cage to hold a water bottle. If it will fit, two cages is a good idea so that you can carry extra liquid.

Cycle lights

If you are going to do any cycling at night, you will need lights. There is no point taking the risk, as it is easy for cars to not see you.

Lock

If you are going to leave your mountain bike unattended for any length of time, then you will need a lock. Of course this depends on where you live, but in most places, bikes are stolen on a frequent basis. You can get locks that come with a guarantee against breaking.

Summary

Mountain biking is a fantastic form of exercise and can be enjoyed by most people. With the right mountain bike and accessories, you will have the time of your life.

How I Got Into Mountain Biking

It was a humid Saturday morning as I had one foot clipped into my mountain bike while there must have been thirty of us lined up onto the starting line of this 15 mile mountain bike race. As I stood there I glanced over at the other competitors, some of whom had what looked like a ball of fire in their eyes while others had ripped leg muscles. They all sat onto their bikes, some of witch were carbon fiber bikes, hard tail and full suspension bikes and even a few 29ers. Here I am with only a year of experience riding on single track trails with my Trek full suspension mountain bike as I tried to keep myself pumped up for what could potentially be a very grueling race. Before the gunshot was heard, I kept my hands relaxed on the handle bar grips, only letting go to make sure my gloves were on tight, my helmet was adjusted properly and I took a few sips from the Camelbak hydration system that was strapped to me. Once the gun went off and was heard all over the mountain bike park, we were all in a dash to leave the starting line while clipping in and jockeying for position like a herd of wild animals as we made our way from the open field and into the single track trails. As I kept changing gears, looking around at the riders in front of me and thinking about what I would encounter during the race, I had a thought in the back of my mind.

I thought about what led me to buy a mountain bike, how long would it take before I would become confident enough to ride through rugged terrain, switchback trails and steep hills. Could this new sport help me out in the other endurance sports that I compete in?

With the background of a distance runner, and a triathlete, mountain biking would definitely benefit me. A little more than a year and a half before this race, a friend convinced me to buy an inexpensive hard tail mountain bike to participate in group rides in the winter time where we would be doing a lot hill repeats on a twenty mile loop on pavement. These workouts would keep us in shape through the winter so we would all be better off for the upcoming triathlon season. Once springtime rolled around and I wanted to get into ridding on single track trails that offer switchbacks, rugged terrain and steep hills, I realized that the bike that I currently had was inadequate for this type of ridding. So then I found myself buying a Trek full suspension mountain bike. The more I rode my new bike at the local mountain bike parks, the more I appreciated having an intermediate level bike. He way the dual suspension was forgiving on the terrain of the trails along with how well the tires gave me enough traction through the different trail conditions were just a couple of key features that I began to appreciate about this bike. As I rode my mountain bike on the easy and intermediate trails, I not only realized that I was turning into a better mountain biker, I noticed something else along the way. When I was not making my way though the local mountain bike parks, I was out on the road on my triathlon bike. What I found out about mountain biking is that it forces you to become very good at being able to handle your bike in all different situations. It is that same requirement in mountain biking that made me more confident when riding on road, especially through a village where there are a lot of cars, traffic lights, potholes and other various problems that a cyclist has to be aware of. At the time, while I was still becoming acclimated to this bike that I had bought, I knew that sometime in the future I would like to try a mountain bike race. I also knew that I would have to become a much better mountain biker at this new discipline before I try to do it at a competitive level. I soon found myself waking up very early on a September morning to join a of friends on what was going to be a sixty mile ride on our bikes. We would ride the first thirty five miles on a flat trail and then stop for breakfast and then the fun would really begin. Then twenty five miles of singe track trails and see who could endure the most pain. As the leaves fell off the trees and the snow blanketed the ground, there was yet another opportunity for me. Mountain biking on the snow packed trails while breathing the dry air and trying not to let my tires lose their grip in the snow. Eventually in the middle of the summer, I found myself on vacation visiting a friend in Massachusetts near the New Hampshire border and we mountain biked at various parks in the area. My friend and I rode in parks that offered an endless amount of rocks, boulders, roots, logs, man made bridges over creeks and even a few mosquitoes! At this time I was confident enough in my bike handling that I had registered for my first mountain bike race.

Now here I was in the first of four laps in this grueling mountain bike race while I was thinking about how I got into the sport instead of thinking about the race itself. I was quickly getting exhausted while I tried to keep up with the more experienced athletes in this race. With beads of sweat already dripping down my face and realizing that my mental toughness was slowly fading away, this discipline was beginning to feel a lot harder than distance running and competing in triathlons. I found myself on trails that meandered through the park as well as steep climbs, a few rollers, roots, logs, some rocks and then an open field to have a chance to gain speed. Overall I didn’t finish as well as I wanted to, but I plan to compete in more mountain bike races in the future. With the various mountain bike parks around the country, this is a very rewarding sport for a beginner to get into as well as an experienced mountain biker. Both types of mountain bikers will still reap the benefits and enjoyment, while continuously trying to push themselves past their comfort zone.

This is how I got into the sport of mountain biking. This is a sport where I have not only learned a lot about the sport itself, but also about myself as an athlete. I’m sure after reading this you are ready to go out and buy a bike or if you already have a mountain bike, dust it off and take it out to the trails.

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