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 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 experience 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 with the fearlessness of riders have opened up new opportunities for the population as a whole.
Mountain Biking Sport – Now and Then
Did you know...?
Did you know that mountain biking is an Olympic sport?
Mountain biking for both men and women has been included in the Olympics since 1996. During the 2012 London Olympics, Jaroslav Kulhavy from the Czech Republic and Julie Bresset from France took home the Olympic gold medal for the men's and women's mountain biking events respectively.
Mountain biking as a sport and a hobby has gone through several changes and modifications as years passed by, from a simple means of transportation meant to carry a person from point A to point B, to a complex machine engineered to bring about maximum durability for hardcore mountain bikers.
Any decent mountain biker who wants to be considered and looked up to as an expert in the field should at least know a little about the history of this wonderful activity, and if you are hoping to get your biking buddies admiration, or simply looking for some story to tell while you're all sitting at the pub, here's a quick overview of how mountain biking started and where it is now.
Mountain Biking - Then
The history of mountain biking sport is filled with controversies, especially about the part where it all began. There are three stories that all claim to speak the truth about the origins of mountain biking.
The first story is that the whole concept started when a group of Black American Soldiers was led by a White lieutenant through the mountainous terrains of Montana to Yellowstone and vice versa in 1896. They rode on then bicycles which were modified to fit the needs of soldiers during that time. The story states that the whole purpose of the trip was to test whether it was possible to use this two-wheeled transport to get soldiers through the mountains. What modifications they made were not detailed in any report, but the story implicitly suggests that the bikes were modified in a way that would allow for bike travels through mountainous areas.
Did you know...?
Did you know that mountain bikes were originally designed for military use?
In August 1896, bicycles were modified for use on rough terrain so that the Buffalo Soldier Regiment could be transported from Montana to Yellowstone.
The first noted modifications on mountain bikes are told in three other stories, which took place about fifty years ago. Accordingly, somewhere around the early 1950s, a group of cycling enthusiasts from France made improvements to their ordinary French bikes and rode them through rough terrains. At around the same time, an American cyclist by the name of John Finley Scott built the "Woodsie Bike," which demonstrated the early developments in mountain bikes. The "Woodsie" had derailleur and gears, as well as the distinguishing flat handlebars common to mountain bikes nowadays.
Decades later, another group of cyclers from California was said to be creating modifications on their bikes that further contributed to the development of modern mountain bikes like thumb-operated gear shifters, better derailleur, and gears, and so on.
Mountain Biking - Now
The developments and improvements made on the mountain bike continued to the following years and thus gave birth to a new and modern concept of mountain bikes and biking.
Modern mountain bikes are designed and equipped with specific parts that make them look cool, as well as promote complete efficiency and maximum durability that will allow them to survive demanding rides on challenging and dangerous tracks paved in mountains and hills. Whilst traditional bicycles were mainly made of steel, modern mountain bikes are not restricted to such material and are now made with other materials like aluminum and such. In addition, technical types of equipment like cyclometers and whatnot can be installed on the bike to help riders better understand and improve their riding skills.
In addition, since mountain biking was accepted as a form of sport, many types of mountain biking have sprouted up, all of which can be very challenging yet exciting. Here are some of the most common forms of mountain bike races:
Did you know...?
Did you know that the environment can be harmed through irresponsible mountain biking practices?
Delicate ecosystems 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 of this variation. These bikes are often a little smaller and more maneuverable.
Take a look at these main various types of mountain bikes. Additional variations include four-cross, urban BMX, trail biking, and bicycle touring:
Mountain Biking Sport v.s. Cross Country Mountain Biking
At its most basic level, mountain biking can be defined as riding that takes place off the paved road. This includes dirt or gravel single-track trails, logging roads, forest paths, deserts dried-up or muddy creek beds, and so on. This sort of riding, called cross-country bicycling, by people of any skill level.
Did you know...?
Did you know that there is a national mountain biking club called USA Cycling?
Join as a member to get exclusive information about upcoming mountain biking events, interact with other mountain biking enthusiasts, and find out more about national athlete selection and training programs for mountain bikers.
Many different mountain bikes can be used for cross-country riding. Because cross-country terrain often demands that the rider climb steep embankments or trails, lighter bikes are preferred for ease of ascent.
Similarly, the rider will also benefit from front, if not rear suspension on the mountain bike. This not only makes the ride more comfortable but also helps to keep your wheels in contact with the ground.
I am currently riding a Santa Cruz Superlight, and compared to a hardtail mountain bike, I must say that dual suspension makes for a very plush ride!
Equipment For Mountain Biking
Buying a good bicycle helmet should be a priority on your list. Your head must 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. You must be 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. 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 the food it needs, "bonking" is generally the result. 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 in several online bookstores.