Mountain biking is a sport which has come incredibly popular with people of all ages and all walks of life. It is a fun past-time that can bring families together and represents a great way to meet new people and friends sharing a similar passion. It can also be a great form of exercise, help to relieve stress and at the same time offer up some fantastic changes of scenery away from the hustle and bustle of cities and towns.
For all its’ positives however, mountain biking can also to some degree prove hazardous and mistakes can lead to injuries from cuts and bruises through to fractures. When considering beginning mountain biking as a hobby it is important to choose the correct bike as well the protective equipment needed to keep you – and others – as safe as possible when riding.
Types Of Bikes
Bear in mind that not all bikes are built the same, and there are several different kinds of bikes for different purposes. Here are a few of the more common ones to help understand the difference.
Road bikes are generally used in town and city environments and are at their best on smooth, flat surfaces. Lighter than most other types of cycle they can be used to ride paved trails although they won’t return the most comfortable ride and the stresses and strains put on the bike’s frame and components can compromise their lifespan.
Touring bikes are a more robust incarnation of a road bike, offering the same purposes and benefits but designed to stand up to more punishment and are more comfortable on longer rides. Since they are more sturdy they can bear more weight and make for good commuter cycles for those who like to cycle to or from work.
Fitness bikes fit between the gap of road and touring bike, offering many of the benefits of both types. Generally lighter than a touring bike but more robust than a road bike, fitness bikes often have a less punishing handlebar position making them ideal for casual rides where the terrain isn’t too rough or uneven.
Mountain bikes are designed primarily to take the demands of off-road trails in their stride. While they can be used for commuting, their weight makes them less efficient but they come into their own when taken into the wilderness where they are designed to take all the punishment you can throw at them. Thicker tires on a mountain bike aid stability and grip on rough and muddy terrain much better than thinner tires found on a touring or road bike.
There are other types of bikes which are designed for more specific purposes, but these four listed have proven to be the most popular.
Tips to Choosing A Mountain Bike
With so much choice it can be a daunting task to decide which mountain bike to purchase. Budgets can vary massively between brands so it is a good idea to do some research and work out how much you want to spend and what you can afford.
Mountain bikes tend to come in three varieties with most offering some type of shock absorption. Bikes with front suspension are also known as ‘hardtail bikes’; while ‘full-suspension bikes’ utilize shock absorption on both front and back of the cycle.
Rigid mountain bikes, meanwhile, carry no suspension at all so the type of bike required will depend on the types of trail you want to be riding.
Make sure you’re comfortable on the bike and choose the right size for your height. Getting the correct size of bike will aid both comfort and efficiency in the saddle. Remember that different bike brands may differ also in the size of their frames.
Consider the positions of the handlebars and saddle and check their adjustability for comfort and purpose. Will the saddle get in the way, for example, when trying to balance the bike going down a steep muddy bank or when you’re striving for more speed?
Can the handlebars be raised or lowered, or tilted to gain the best and comfortable control of the bike depending on the terrain? How many gears will you need to power up and down hills and muddy trails?
It can always be useful to consult with a bike expert who can help with making an informed choice as there’s so much to consider.
Types Of And Choosing Safety Gear
Of course, once the bike has been chosen it is time to turn to safety equipment in order to keep yourself – and others – protected when going out on the bike.
No self-respecting mountain biker would go out without a cycle helmet to protect their head in the event of a fall from the bike. There are many different helmets out there ranging in size and weight, styles and purpose so make sure to get the correct size and type to allow for maximum protection.
Knee And Elbow Pads
Knee and elbow pads can protect vulnerable parts of the body during falls by absorbing and cushioning impacts. But it isn’t only falls you should be worried about and some narrower trails might have overhanging vegetation and branches which you could easily collide with.
Elbows especially are tricky to fully protect and keep covered; some cheaper pads have a bad habit of moving away from the area they are supposed to protect or are too hard and inflexible to the point they become uncomfortable to wear.
Knee and elbow pads should be light enough and flexible to afford the best possible protection without compromising style, comfort or affecting their ability to do what they are supposed to do. They should also cover a sufficient amount of the upper and lower arm so they remain in place where they should.
As you can see, there are numerous arguments for getting elbow pads. If you’re unsure which specs to look for, you may want to check out these useful tips to get the right ones for you: https://outdoorsly.org/best-mountain-bike-elbow-pads/
Other safety gear includes a good pair of gloves to help maintain grip and control of the bike even when the hands are sweating or when conditions are wet or muddy. It can be difficult and dangerous trying to control and steer a bike when not in complete control.
Ankle supports can help protect the ankles from stray debris and ground level hazards such as nettles or stray stones while offering support for cyclists who have suffered injury to the ankles in the past.
Consider finally clothing while mountain biking; you’ll want to be dressed appropriately with a good mix of heavier clothing to keep you warm and comfortable during your ride, but also not too heavy to the point you’re expending more effort just to propel yourself forward.
Also, if you get wet some materials will retain more water than others which will add unnecessary weight.
Mountain bikers can avail of a wide range of lightweight tops and bottoms designed to aid performance and comfort while also offering protection in key areas such as thighs, shoulders, chest and back so they’ll not only look the part but feel prepared for whatever nature can throw at them.