In our family, we love mountain biking. Our natural mountain terrain here allows for some incredibly rich biking experiences. There is little doubt that the popularity of mountain biking has increased in recent years. This is not without controversy – not long ago, there was discussion about allowing mountain biking in national parks where it had not been allowed before.
Here are some of the pros and cons of mountain biking, and some of the suggested rules that mountain bikers can follow to minimize their impact.
Here are some of the Pros:
* Mountain biking provides healthy exercise. In a day when childhood obesity is a problem, getting the family out onto the trail can be an important means of increasing health and fitness.
* Allowing mountain biking in national parks increases visitation to the park. That’s good for the local economy and for the environment – after all, if a national park gets a lot of visitors, it will help the park financially. A financially strong national park can do more to preserve wilderness areas.
* The entire family can participate in mountain biking to some degree. That promotes family bonding as well.
* Mountain biking promotes bonding with nature. If more people can build an appreciation for nature, that ultimately is good for the environment.
Here are Some of the Cons:
* Treaded tires, especially when speeding around curves, can cause erosion of the soil and disturb habitats.
* The speed with which mountain bikers sometimes travel can frighten and disturb, injure, or even kill wildlife. Animals such as snakes, lizards, or frogs may not be able to get out of the way before a speeding mountain bike runs over them. Mountain bikers often crash or fall as well, making for greater disturbance.
* Mountain bike tires can create deep ruts in the trail. These ruts collect rainwater, and as the water runs through these narrow channels, it takes soil with it. When the water dries, the ruts leave hard ridges that are hazardous to other bikers and problematic for hikers.
* There can be tearing and trampling of vegetation is a concern with mountain biking. Some plants are more vulnerable than others to this type of damage, but it’s certainly possible to destroy a plant before it can bloom or otherwise reproduce.
Rules Mountain Bikers Can Follow to Minimize Impact
* When you are turning around a bend, slow down and take the corner without skidding and kicking up soil.
* Stay on the trail as much as you possibly can. Riding a mountain bike in undeveloped areas is not only dangerous for the biker, it can also tear up vegetation and disturb wildlife habitat. Bikers who stay on the trail do the least damage.
* When riding downhill, don’t “ride the brakes.” That digs the tires in and causes more soil to be kicked up.
* Be considerate when sharing trails with hikers. Slow down when you see hikers ahead, and call out to let them know you are riding through.
* Don’t ride when it’s wet. Trails are much more vulnerable to erosion and widening when they are soggy and wet.
Now that you have this information and awareness under your belt, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of getting started with your mountain biking adventures!
How Do I Get Started With Mountain Biking?
Of course, you need the bike. Go down, speak with your local bike specialist, and get the best one that you can afford. There are many choices. Before you start riding, there are also a few other essentials you will need.
Mountain biking is one of the few sports where accessories actually become “necessities” or you may be in for a world of discomfort, so be sure to invest in these:
- Spandex Shorts – yes, spandex shorts aren’t just a fashion statement, but are essential if you plan to ride and sort of distance. Spandex shorts fix snugly around the legs and groin area, limiting the amount of friction your legs produce from coming into contact with each other, or the seat. This in turn significantly reduces the severity of chafing, a painful condition known very well by those who have ever experienced it. By the way, you do not wear underwear with the shorts!
- A Well Fitting Helmet – safety is important in any sport, but especially mountain biking where you can take a nasty head injury if you fall over an obstacle. A good helmet needs to fit well, not move around much and not obscure your vision.
- Puncture Repair Kit And Tire Pump – nothing is worse than heading miles out into deep country and suffer a puncture. Chances are you won’t have cell phone service, so unless you want to spend hours walking back out, ensure you prepare for emergencies. These kits are usually small, and will not add any measurable weight to your trip.
- Water Bottle – this should go without saying, but just in case you forgot… take enough water to last the distance you are riding. A sports drink can also be added to the mix for rehydration of electrolytes.
Master The Technique
These techniques will help make your experience much more enjoyable and less likely to result in injury:
- Keep Your Hands on the Bars and Not the Brakes – this is especially important on descending, since many new riders are pitched over the front of the bike by having a false handle grip. You can’t grip the brake levers for support, and this is a leading cause of injury to new riders.
- Shift Often – this is best learned by experience, but as a general rule when ascending use a low-tension gear, and the opposite when going down an incline.
- Use Positional Movements – ever wonder why some people stand at certain points? It’s for shock absorption and to effectively shift your center of gravity.
Start Simple And Progress
If there is one thing that discourages new mountain bikers from truly enjoying the wonders of mountain biking, it is going too far, too soon. If your start trekking over rough, unfamiliar terrain your first go, the sheer exhaustion and trauma of a likely few falls will discourage you.
Want To Ensure You’re In For The Long Term? Try These Tips:
- Start By Getting A Feel For Your Bike – there’s no better teacher than experience’ learning the best time to shift gears, and when to prop yourself up as opposed to sitting are learned habits.
- Keep The Journey Short – it is unrealistic to ride a 50-mile journey your first try. It’s best to start slow, and experience the nearby terrain. Couple it with your recovery ability, and you will soon be able to judge how much you are capable of undertaking as you grow in this sport.
- Take Rides On Weekends – we all have day jobs (most of us at least), so unless you want to be burned out all the time, start by riding on weekends. This provides some much-needed recovery after a tough ride, and functions as a good outlet for stress.
Why Should I Start Mountain Biking?
If you’re looking for an exercise system that can dramatically improve your health, and is also enjoyable, mountain biking is your cup of tea. Consider these reasons to begin with this sport today.
Mountain biking is different from conventional flat surface road cycling in the sense that the requirements for stability are different on the muscles, offering a very good resistance workout.
Have you ever noticed the muscular leg development of some extreme mountain biking athletes? Now compare that to a basic road racer. The difference is astounding.
This is due in large part to the recruitment of both Type 1 and 2 muscle fibers, helping develop mass, strength and stamina at the same time.
Perfect Tool For Incinerating Fat
Fat burning occurs preferentially when your heart rate enters a certain “zone,” which happens to be at 65-75 percent of your max heart rate. The intensity of mountain biking keeps your heartrate elevated in that zone most of the time, ensuring you’ll get leaner every time you ride.
Know what else is amazing about its fat burning potential? The staggering caloric expenditure. A light 145lb individual burns a decent 500 calories per hour, when performed on moderately difficult terrain. This amount can quickly increase as the difficulty of the terrain is enhanced.
A two-hour ride can easily amount to more than 25% of daily caloric intake.
Build Up Cardio-Pulmonary Efficiency
One of the most important elements of good health and fitness is how efficiently your lungs can supply oxygen to your hard working heart, which in turn increases the speed at which oxygen is delivered to the muscles and other organs. Better oxygen flow decreases your fatigue rate, and improves your performance over time.
There’s nothing that can improve your mood as fast or effectively as something you enjoy. For many, mountain biking is their drug of choice. The feeling of experiencing nature in all its true glory, and the endorphin rush associated with exercise will leave you feeling on top of the world.
In addition, who says mountain biking has to be a solitary exercise pastime? Many of the happiest and most resolute mountain bikers ride in a small group of friends, who keep each other accountable and motivated.
Having a safety net is never a bad thing either, in the event something goes wrong.
And since I’m all about inspiration, natural beauty, and the body-mind-spirit connection … have you seen this incredible video of a bike tour of Iceland? Enjoy!