The sport of mountain biking allows you to get off the beaten path. You can explore everything from country back roads to narrow trails that coil through forests, fields, and mountains. From downhill biking or freeride biking on a mountain descent to cross country exploration on a bike that may or may not have a suspension, the possibilities are endless.
Who Can Enjoy Mountain Biking?
Mountain biking is often associated with the younger generation, but people of all ages actually enjoy the activity.
Riders have been exploring the road less traveled since 1896 when Buffalo Soldiers made the most of this transportation option from Missoula, Montana to Yellowstone and back again.
However, the sport did not really experience a growth in popularity until the late 1970s. These bicycles first became popular when Joe Breeze, Tom Ritchey, Gary Fisher, and Charlie Kelly worked together to design a wider frame that would be more accommodating to a wider tire. Since then, the design of these bikes has continued to evolve. Improved technical advantages paired to the fearlessness of riders have opened up new opportunities for the population as a whole.
The Sport is Born
As mentioned, the Buffalo Soldiers are typically accredited for the birth of mountain biking. Led by a Caucasian lieutenant, the soldiers traversed through mountainous terrain to determine if this means of travel was suitable to get through the mountains. However, some argue that their journey is not the true birth of the sport.
Cyclo-cross was used as a sport to stay fit in the winter by road racing cyclists. In the 1940s, cyclo-cross had become so popular that by 1950, riders competed for the first World Championship. In 1955, off-road cyclists from the UK established a riding fellowship. By 1979, Geoff Apps, an experienced trail rider had built a custom made bicycle that was lightweight, but durable enough to withstand muddy and wet off-road conditions.
Mountain Biking Today
Today, these bikes continue to advance, as manufacturers constantly introduce new and more effective features. Modern mountain bikes do not just look cool; they are created to hold their composure on dangerous terrain and demanding rides. Although steel is used in many traditional bikes, mountain varieties are typically crafted of aluminum and other similar heavy duty materials. Riders can even install thoughtful features, such as cyclometers to improve and perfect their skills.
Variations of the Sport
Mountain biking is a blanket term that covers several variations of the sport. A few popular styles include:
Did you know...?
Did you know that the environment can be harmed through irresponsible mountain biking practices?
Delicate eco-systems can be disrupted and destroyed by riders who stray from the designated trail. Be responsible on your mountain bike to ensure future generations will be able to enjoy the bike trails you love riding today.
- All-mountain - Also known as "Enduro," these rides climb and descend a variety of terrain. "Super-D" is the most common variation. The climbs are typically a little less technical than the descents.
- Cross-country - Riders ride from one point to another through a variety of terrain. Some routes feature a loop.
- Downhill - Adrenaline junkies tend to favor this treacherous variation. Riders are generally taken to a point of descent via auto or ski lift, and they navigate a steep decline at very high speeds. These courses often include large jumps.
- Dirt Jumping - Catching air from jumping over dirt mounds is the focus in this variation. These bikes are often a little smaller and more maneuverable.
Various Types of Mountain Bikes
Take a look at these various types of mountain bikes:
Additional variations include four-cross, urban BMX, trail biking and bicycle touring.
Mountain Biking: Sport vs. Cross Country
In its simplest form this variation of biking is done off paved roads. This type of cross country bicycling can be done by riders of any skill level on forest paths, muddy creek beds, gravel single track trails, etc.
There is a large variety of mountain bikes that can be used for a cross-country ride. Most riders tend to favor lighter bikes because the terrain often demands climbing steep embankments.
Those looking for a more comfortable ride will look for a bike with front suspension. Some may choose a bike that also has rear suspension. In addition to increased comfort the suspension helps keep the wheels on the ground.
Currently, I am riding a Santa Cruz Superlight. I have to say that after riding a hard tail mountain bike the dual suspension on this one provides a surprisingly plush ride on rough terrain.
Equipment For Mountain Biking
Buying a good bicycle helmet should be a priority on your list. It is imperative that your head be protected. Additional equipment recommendations include:
- First Aid Kit
- Bicycle repair kit
- Biking sunglasses
- Cycling clothes
- Bicycling gloves
- Cycling nutrition (snacks)
- Bicycle hydration (water and other beverages)
Mountain Biking Safety
Unlike taking a casual spin through your neighborhood, rides on a mountain bike tend to be significantly longer. It is essential that you are prepared for emergencies. Making sure you have a cell phone with a charged battery is a good place to start. Here are more helpful bicycle safety tips.
Mountain Biking Nutrition
Since these rides are longer, and you are exerting a lot of energy, it is crucial that you pack enough to drink and eat on your journey. In fact, pack more than what you need, in case your ride is extended. Do not make the mistake of relying solely on the energy bursts supplied by sports drinks. You need solid food for sustained energy.
When your body is deprived of food it needs, "bonking" is generally resulted. Side effects can include nausea, extreme mood swings, shaky muscles, and fatigue. Read these articles about cycling and health to learn more.
Where to Buy Mountain Bikes?
If you are interested in buying mountain bikes, you can always buy them at your local bicycle store, however there is another alternative: you can buy mountain bikes at one of these trusted online stores:
Mountain Bikes on eBay
Books about Mountain Biking
For more information, there are some informative books about mountain biking. You can find them on several online book stores.