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Mountain Biking Basics
As you are most likely aware, biking can take on many forms, from the sleek and thin lined racing bikes, touring bikes, fat tired beach cruisers, hybrid cross designs, trickster bikes, to your stout mountain bikes equipped with shocks. There's a certain feeling with biking that's unlike any other sport. Wind rushing through your hair, zipping around the neighborhood. For most, biking also holds a strong image of childhood, innocence, family and going for a ride in the neighborhood. Even as adults, going for a bike ride still brings out that mischievous child in us. And for the truly mischievous child, there is mountain biking.
The beauty of the sport, as one rider put it, was that your whole body is riding. Your mind is alert ready for sudden changes in the trial requiring quick adjustments. Mountain biking is more aggressive than off roading, which is more like a stroll in the woods.
Mountain biking is also a sport that will leave you totally spent. It is a great work out. Eat a good meal before you go. Bring lots of water, drinking it often throughout the ride. Take eye and head protection very seriously. There can be flying rocks as well as bodies. After your first day out, you'll wonder why they make 24 speed mountain bikes. You'll only use the two lowest speeds, and you'll be wishing for an even lower speed.
You obviously need a bike to go mountain biking. If you don't have a bike to use, you should start off by renting a bike. There are a lot of styles and the price tags vary greatly. You can spend from 300 to 5,000+ U.S. dollars on a bike. If you're only a casual rider, you may be perfectly happy with a low-end mountain bike.
Even for the first day out, you must have your helmet and eye protection. Gloves are also very useful. You also must bring water. Depending on how long you're going for you may need to bring two bottles of water. If you haven't already seen them, bike shops carry special water bottles and bottle holders for your bike. Regular tennis shoes should be fine in the beginning. Bring a change of clothes. Even for short rides you'll work up a sweat.
Three miles is a short ride and around 20 miles is a long ride. Of course the intensity of the terrain will have a big impact on how far you actually ride. If its steep and difficult terrain even a 3-mile ride can be "long". Mountain biking takes an incredible amount of physical strength and endurance, so build up to it slowly.
The key to this sport is being prepared. That means food, water, first aid kit, and equipment to make repairs on the trail. It's not uncommon to get a flat. You'll need to know how to change the tire, have a spare tube, tools, and a pump. All of which can easily be carried on the bike. This stuff should be standard equipment.
If you fall for the sport, it's hard not to become a gear junkie. It won't take long before you'll be eyeing shocks for the front tire. They take a little getting used to, but you'll find they're worth it. Your next equipment purchase will be clip-less pedals. These pedals make all the difference, maximizing your power and control. All clip-less pedals require cycling shoes that attach to the pedals.
As you're investing in new gear, you should also be familiarizing yourself with your new equipment. Regular maintenance and daily adjustments to your bike are necessary. You should know how to take the entire bike apart, and be able to replace any worn parts. Being a bike mechanic goes along with the territory, and is truly part of the biking culture. Most bike shops will offer courses.
Once you've mastered the basics techniques, it may be time for a riding clinic or camp. These clinics focus on technical skills and difficult maneuvers. They're usually offered as a weekend or weeklong event, and can make for a healthy and fun vacation.
Flying By The Seat Of Your Pants
When you really start pushing the limits of mountain biking, top of the line equipment will make a big difference. You'll want the best equipment available. Because this is still a young sport, the advances to equipment and material are frequent. Rear suspension systems, disc brakes, and space age materials are now being used. Especially at this level, it's imperative to keep your equipment is the best possible condition.
- Don't ride alone. You can get hurt, lost, or just have an equipment break down. If you're unable to ride or walk back, you'll need your partner to go for help.
- Be careful of your front break going down hill. This is lesson number one. After the front tire leaves the ground, if you have the front break on when you touch down, the stopped tire will cause the back of the bike to lift off the ground and flip the bike.
- There is such a thing as path or trail etiquette for mountain bikers. Don't ride full speed past anyone. Pull over when you see someone coming. If there is a horseback rider or hiker, stop and let them pass. Don't try to ride or edge by. Practicing trail etiquette will ensure that mountain bikers can share trails.
- When riding keep your arms shoulder length apart so that your chest area is open and breathing isn't constricted.
- Mix your water with some fruit juice like apple, nothing too acidic. The sugar will help maintain your energy level.
- Bring quick energy bars. This is the sport for PowerBarsTM
- Make sure you drink and eat before you feel thirsty or tired. If you start to feel thirsty, your body may already be dehydrated.
- Bring a small bike kit with a spare tire tub and tools to change the tire.
- Your helmet must fit well and not slide around.
- Wear non-shattering eye protection.
- Bring a first aid kit.
- Be careful of hunting season. If you're riding during the hunting season wear bright clothing and make sure you aren't riding in a designated hunting area.