Mountain Biking

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Imagine biking on a mountain trail, wind on your face, rugged terrain all around and no paved road in sight. No wonder bikers across the world say that mountain biking offers thrills (and spills) that no other form of biking does. It is an exciting and challenging sport that anyone who can ride a cycle and has a sense of adventure, can take up. For a history of mountain biking, visit [1].


Contents

[edit] Mountain Biking Gear

If you want to really enjoy mountain biking, it is important for you to have the right equipment – bike, helmet, appropriate clothing and accessories.

The type of Bike you buy is, obviously, important. Try several for fit and feel before settling on one. Biking enthusiasts usually recommend buying a true mountain bike, not a hybrid one (one way to tell is that true mountain bikes should come with fat, knobby tires). Here are some other things to bear in mind when choosing a bike --

  • If a mountain bike is right for you, there will at least two to four inches between the top of the frame and your crotch. Any less room might give you a painful time on the road…ouch!
  • When you reach the handlebars, you should be able to bend at a 45 degree angle without feeling cramped.
  • The saddle should be high enough so your legs get almost fully extended when the pedal is at its lowest position.
  • For a smoother ride, get a bike with a front and rear suspension. This makes the ride a lot more comfortable and decreases fatigue. Even if you buy a bike without suspension, it is always a good idea to get one in which suspension may be added later.

For more details, go to [2]. To learn more about the difference between a mountain bike and an ordinary one, go to [3].

The one thing you can count on doing on your all terrain bike, is falling off it. Which makes a good helmet the second most important item on your wishlist. Here are tips on how to choose the right one –

  • Try a few to get the right fit.
  • Get one with plenty of air vents, or you will run the risk of frying your head on those hot days when you are going uphill!
  • It makes sense to look for a helmet with a sun visor to keep the glare out of the eyes.

When you are buying a shirt to wear biking, remember that you might want one which unzips down the front to let some air in when you work up a good sweat. Pockets on the back come in handy for storage. New fabrics which wick sweat away moisture are great. And get the loud neon colours – they look cool and can be spotted from a distance on trails so fellow riders can see you coming.

Good shorts provide support to the thighs and protect against saddle rash on the thighs. Most bikers wear traditional black racing pants made usually Nylon/Lycra mesh. Just ensure they have a good liner for saddle protection. Or else, they could just end up being a pain in the …you got the picture.

Last, when looking for shoes, look for comfort (obviously) and cleats that click into the pedal. Veteran bikers say that these increase the biking experience ten fold, as the feet get locked in so they can't slip off the pedal.


[edit] How to do it

You obviously ride a cycle if you are reading this article, but remember, for mountain biking the posture you adopt is very important. Here are some tips for maintaining correct posture --

  • Relax your elbows, keep them bent at about 90 degrees.
  • Grip the bar firmly…if you see your knuckles turning white – you’re probably nervous and gripping too tight.
  • Do not bend your back – keep it straight at about 45 degrees from the ground surface.
  • Do not put all your weight on the seat. Get off your butt and try to transfer some weight to the pedals by standing on them.
  • Remember to keep your pedals level when not pedaling.


[edit] The Skills Mountain Bikers Need

Mountain biking is all about balance, both left-right as well as front-back. Try shifting your weight for better traction – if for instance your back tire is slipping, shift more weight to the back, while if your front tire is rising up, move to the front to get your bike to settle down.

Climbing steep inclines requires both lung power and skill of the wheel. Don’t use very high gears while on an incline, it increases the chances of injury.

Bear in mind whilst descending, that you need to be as far back on your seat as you can. Brake well before you need to turn, you could easily spin out of control otherwise. Slow down to a safe speed, then accelerate out of corners. Also, if in doubt about the terrain or your ability, don’t be a hero – just get off the bike and walk.

For more tips on descent techniques, go to [4]

Braking efficiently and safely is a skill all mountain bikers need to learn. Use both brakes simultaneously – if you use just the back brake, the bike will skid. While skidding might look cool, it damages the trail and doesn’t slow you down efficiently.

The gears on your bike are to help you maintain an optimum pace. Pick the gear which enables you to keep to a speed of 60 and 90 rpm. Lower gears are easier to spin on hills, so try shifting to a lower gear when on a steep hill. For more on how to position yourself on your mountain bike, go to [5]

[edit] Pitfalls on Mountain Biking Trails

  • Steep inclines, sharp drops and narrow trails that one invariably finds on the more difficult trails, are certainly not for the faint hearted. Try to focus on the trail alone, not at what lies on either side of it.
  • Mud and especially wet mud, is one of the worst things to ride on. Your bike will cause deep grooves which may result in erosion. Also the chances of slipping in it, or losing one’s control of the bike, are high. Don’t try and ride around it, though for this causes mountain trails to widen. If it is deep, walk. If it is shallow, pull up lightly on the bars, and either maintain speed or pedal through. Read about how to navigate through mud here -- [6].
  • When you encounter a sandy patch, try using a higher gear for better traction.
  • Rocks, holes, and bumps are part and parcel of mountain trails but terrible for your rear and back. Move your weight back so the front wheel rises up a little when going over rocks. If it gets too uncomfortable or risky, walk.
  • Water and water crossings are dangerous. You don’t know what hidden pitfalls lie beneath the water. Also, your cycle’s passage will cause sedimentation of the stream. If you have no option but to cross a stream, keep your speed steady, gear low and hold your handlebars lighty.
  • Watch out for dangerous conditions on or around the trail -- open mine shafts, cliffs, slippery or loose rock surfaces, etc. Never veer off the trail.

[edit] Biking Rules

The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), the international mountain biking organization, has set the following rules of the trail –

  • Ride on open trails only – avoid trespassing on private land, respect trail and road closures and obtain permits and authorizations as may be required.
  • Leave no trace – As with all forms of Eco Tourism, mountain bikers need to be sensitive to the trails they are on. Mountain trails often pass through ecologically sensitive areas. Cyclists may cause significant damage if they skid their tires too often, or if they ride through muddy trails.
  • Control your bicycle! Mountain biking accidents can be quite severe, so make sure you obey speed laws. Alert other trail users well before you approach them and slow down or even stop when they pass. Be especially careful when turning corners. If an equestrian is approaching you, stop and get off your bike.
  • Yield to Uphill Bike Traffic – that fellow huffing and puffing his way uphill always has the right of way. Stop and let him pass. Remember – you can get going easily, he can't! Read more about trail etiquette here -- http://www.compassmonkey.com/skills/backpacking-skills/etiquette-sharing-the-trail/
  • Never spook animals – some misguided bikers think it is a lark to sound their bell behind a peacefully grazing animal. But that can be foolhardy as well as silly – a scared animal is a huge danger to you as well as to others on the trail. Give animals extra room and time to adjust to you.

[edit] What to Carry on a Biking Trip

You want to travel as light as possible on your bike, but there are some essentials that must find space in your backpack.

  • Lots of water -- Cycling can make you feel parched pretty soon, and the breeze may actually make your sweat and fluid loss to go unnoticed. Be sure to carry plenty of water with you when you ride, and make it a habit to sip some fluid every 15 minutes.
  • Snacks – dry fruit, granola bars, energy snacks and other low volume-high energy snacks are good.
  • First Aid Kit – Carry antiseptic cream, pain killers, muscle relaxant gels or sprays and bandages at the very minimum.
  • Basic Tool Kit – this should contain allen wrenches, screwdrivers, and, preferably, a chain breaker tool. Also carry a spare tube and a patch kit for punctures. Other tools you could carry are tire levers to remove and put back tires easily and extra chain links in case the chain breaks.
  • Cell phone or satellite phone, especially if you ride alone.

Hot Tip: invest in panniers to hold your stuff. You could make your bike carry more if you used bungee cords to tie things to your carrying rack. Do not use backpacks as they strain the back.


[edit] Some Good Sites For Locating Cycling Destinations

http://www.imba.org.uk/index.php?page=Map_Challenge_Trails

http://www.thecyclepeople.com/holidaydetails.asp?id=220

http://www.travel-quest.co.uk/tqcycling.htm


[edit] Mountain Bicycle Manufacturers

  • Firefox bikes [7]
  • Reviews and ratings of mountain bikes available worldwide[8]

[edit] References

See some mountain biking videos on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVAccWTrnIQ and http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8850381243227981208

http://www.romp.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=Sections&file=index&req=viewarticle&artid=3

http://faqs.org/faqs/bicycles-faq/mountain-bikes/

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