Going off-road cycling can be a bit intimidating when you’re used to smooth paved roads, but mountain biking is popular in nature because its unpredictability. It is an exhilarating extreme sport that is characterized by high speeds, high risks and challenging terrain. It’s where adventure-seekers enjoy testing their limits both physically and mentally as they navigate over rocks, climb over bumpy and uneven hills and descend down mountainous areas that nature puts before them.
If you’re considering taking the sport up, rest assured mountain bikes can handle rugged conditions and can be ridden virtually anywhere. Because of the variety of choices in mountain bikes, it’s important to know what kind of terrain you’ll likely be facing to choose the right bike for you. You should also set a budget, know the basic components that make it work and do a little research into the performance and durability before you set out on your off-roading adventure.
History of Mountain Biking
While the first known “off-road” cycling took place just before the 1900s when Buffalo Soldiers rode modified bikes to see how it would fair in mountainous terrain from Missoula, Montana to Yellowstone and back, mountain biking gained traction in the 1970s when a new bike that had fatter tires, rapid-shift gears, drum brakes and ground-breaking suspension was created. The sport took off in California and quickly made its way across the country and around the world.
Today, it’s a widely popular sport that has a number of trails catered to it. Most are built in an upright position to allow riders better navigation, have some kind of suspension and heavy-duty wheels and larger, knobby tires to handle rough and bumpy terrains. They also tend to have more powerful brakes and have multiple speeds to facilitate easy uphill climb or rapid descent.
Types of Mountain bikes
With so many bikes to choose from, the choice can be daunting. Here are a few of the most common ones to consider.
Cross Country (XC) Mountain Bikes
Cross Country bikes are the most common type of mountain bike. They are versatile and light and are usually ridden on courses and trails that consist of a mix of rough forest paths. Most also offer a choice between hardtail and full suspension.
The hardtail mountain bike has suspension only in the front fork and is designed for racing or recreational riding. Without shocks in the back, the bike transfers pedaling power to the rear wheel more efficiently and can result in better acceleration and make it easier to sustain higher speeds over a long period time, especially on smoother terrain. It’s also less expensive than the alternative.
Full suspension mountain bikes have shocks in both the front and the back and are arguably more comfortable and enjoyable. It also offers more bike control when the terrain is more rough and uneven.
All Mountain Bikes
All mountain bikes are similar to cross country bikes, but are about 25 to 35 pounds heavier. They’re meant to be ridden uphill and downhill, but have more suspension in the front and back to handle more difficult obstacles.
Down Hill (DH) Mountain Bikes
Just as the name describes, this mountain bike is used to go downhill and quickly. They’re heavy and usually hauled to a high elevation point to make the descend. Rarely would you ever climb in this bike.
Freeride Mountain Bikes
These bikes are built for jumping and technical stunts and are lighter and easier to maneuver than down hill bikes. They’re usually ridden on steep mountains with drops, cliffs, rocks and other difficult terrain.
Single Speed Mountain Bikes
Single speed mountain bikes have only one gear and are designed for more skilled and fit riders. They can be more cost efficient, are lower in maintenance and are lighter and quieter than other mountain bikes.
Dirt Jump (DJ) Mountain Bikes
These bikes are smaller and more maneuverable so they can be ridden over mounds of dirt or soil to become airborne. They’re also built with sturdier material such as steel to handle crashes and bails when riders do tricks and stunts.
Setting a budget
With so many bikes to choose from, setting a budget is paramount to narrow your search. Prices vary so much that staying within your price range will help you focus on what you want and what you can afford.
Do your research
Product reviews can help you narrow your search even further to bikes that perform well and are reliable. Once you have a few bikes in the price range you want, look up the product and make sure it’s suitable for your needs. If you’re unsure, seek professional advice as well.
Gear and equipment
When it comes to the extreme sport, it’s crucial to practice safety first. At the bare minimum, purchase a helmet that will protect you against impact should you take a spill. A hard-shell helmet is probably the most suitable for mountain biking. They are made of thick, high-density plastic and lined with foam. The outer shell protects your head from penetrating objects like tree branches. Gloves will also help protect your hands from cuts and scrapes. Try getting gloves with thick padding that can absorb impact.