Freeride mountain biking is considered a close relative to dirt jumping and downhill mountain biking. Today, it is the most popular discipline of mountain biking. It takes place on steep trails, similar to downhill riding. However, the focus is placed on performing seemingly impossible tricks, such as 360-degree spins, backwards summersaults, and other mind-blowing jumps.
What Started Freeride Mountain Biking?
Snowboarders get credit for coining the term “freeriding.”
Essentially, it means to ride on natural terrain without a course laid out or rules in mind. In mountain biking, it describes a creative line of trail riding that includes amplitude, control, speed, and style.
Modified downhill mountain bikes were originally used for freeride mountain biking. Today, the sport has become so popular that there are targeted bikes, and many ski areas add bike racks to their chairlifts for lift-accessed mountain biking. A few notable riders of the sport include Hans Rey, Andrew Shandro, and Jeff Lenosky.
Freeriding vs. Downhilling
When you watch freeriding for the first time it is easy to see that the sport was inspired by BMX mountain biking. It is also quite obvious why it is often compared to downhilling, but downhilling and freeride mountain biking do have their differences.
The focus of a downhill rider is to clear a steep slope in as little time as possible. Freeriding covers a much broader realm of activity. For example, a freerider may ride a narrow plank, jump off a cliff, or jump to another structure below.
The emphasis in freeriding is placed on achieving stylish riding stances and performing airborne tricks.
Distinguishing Features of Freeride Bikes
When compared to downhill mountain bikes, those used for freeriding are small, lighter, and have less suspension.
Control your weight and you control your bike.
Using your weight efficiently will make it easier to navigate steep slopes while freeride biking. If you lean back too far you may lose momentum. However, you don't want to lean forward too much or you could tip due to the angle.
Weight control comes with practice.
Additionally, freeride mountain bikes tend to have shorter wheelbases and steeper head angles. This allows the rider to take more of an upright position, which is ideal for performing tricks.
The frame and fork are the primary differences between bikes used for the two activities.
- Frame - Aluminum and/or steel are usually used to manufacture bikes used for freeride mountain biking. They almost always feature a rear suspension system. Most manufacturers stick to a single-pivot or other similar simplistic suspension to provide uninterrupted suspension travel. Some also feature an oversized head tube standard to accommodate long-travel, single crown forks.
- Forks - Single crown forks have experienced a significant increase in popularity. This enables a narrower steering diameter to nail a tailwhip, barspin, or other intricate airborne stunt.
What is the North Shore?
If you are newly interested in freeride mountain biking, you have probably heard or read mention of the North Shore.
Well, although you can find great freeride trails all over, the North Shore in Vancouver, British Colombia is accredited as the birth place for this activity.
The North Shore refers to Cypress Mountain, Mount Seymour, and Mt. Fromme, the three mountains across the Burrard Inlet. These mountains have some of the first trails to have teeter totters, skinny bridges, and other manmade obstacles added to them.
The corners are tight and there are plenty of jumps. If you are ever looking to take a road trip to tackle technical freeride mountain biking trails, the North Shore should be at the top of your list.
This discipline of mountain biking is ideal for the rider who tends to find cross country biking restricting or gets bored with regular park trails. There is nothing quite as exhilarating as navigating a trail with curved walls, suspended catwalks, and teeter totters. Just remember that like with all forms of extreme mountain biking, safety is a concern. Purchase a quality bike and recommended cycling clothing, a helmet, and other protective gear.