Mountain biking is a hobby that entails riding bikes offroad, many times over rough terrain. There are specialized mountain bikes to cope with this terrain and increase the bikes durability. The different mountain biking categories are downhill, cross country, free riding, urban / street, dirt jumping, and all mountain.
As you begin cycling, take your time. Until you are familiar with what your body is capable of, avoid bicycle overuse. Try short, easy rides to start. Gradually increase your distance and difficulty to develop your strength, stamina, and ability without causing injuries.
Before You Ride
Learn to adjust your bicycle to fit your body. You can adjust the saddle, the handlebars, and the location of the brake levers.
Gauge your fitness level prior to beginning a new sport. If you have been largely inactive for several years, you may wish to begin your training indoors and progress to outdoor cycling as your fitness level increases.
Pay attention to your surroundings and prepare to stop if necessary. On flat surfaces, use your front brakes more. When braking on a downhill slope, use your back brakes more. On steep hills, use your back brakes to prevent flying forward.
Again, preparation is key when changing gears. Try to switch to the gear you plan to use before you need it. When shifting, remember to keep pedaling to allow the chain to move to the correct gear.
Pedaling isn't just pushing your pedals around and around. There is technique to proper pedaling. Instead of pushing down right away, push forward a little. Lower your heel as the pedal drops and pick it up again as the pedal nears the bottom of the turn. Pull the pedal back with your toes and then relax. Practicing efficient pedaling will reduce stress on your muscles and improve your cycling ability.
Try to center yourself in the trail or road to take the straightest path possible around the corner. Once you are in the corner, stop pedaling. Keep your outside foot low and your inside foot high to stop your feet or your pedal from hitting anything. Straighten your bike and accelerate out of the corner.
Most mountain bikes are designed for specific functions, but they all share a few basic characteristics.
Wheels and tires
Mountain bike wheels are robust, with many spokes, and usually 26” in diameter. 29” wheels are becoming more common, because they roll over obstacles easier, although these wheels are often less maneuverable. Tires come is different treads depending on the type of terrain and the weather, but all are designed to be ‘knobby’ for good traction, and to shed mud and dirt easily.
Some mountain bikes have traditional cantilever brakes like road bikes, but more and more riders are opting for the additional braking power of hydraulic disc brakes. Disk brakes are heavier, and harder to maintain, but they are more effective at stopping a heavy bike travelling on uneven ground.
Almost all mountain bikes will come with some degree of front suspension, or ‘shock’ on the fork of the bike. This is essential to allow the front wheel to maintain momentum as it rolls over rocks, roots, and other obstacles. Some bikes allow the rider to adjust the suspension while riding, so they can opt for a stiffer ride when climbing ills, and then a softer ride for bumpy trails.
Bikes without any rear suspension or shock are called ‘hardtails’. These bikes are stiffer, more responsive and lighter, so are a popular choice for racers. A rear shock, or a ‘full suspension’ bike, with up to 5” of travel is a good choice for a novice rider, or a rider that expects to ride of technical or bumpy trails. Some bikes have up to 7” of travel in the rear shock for jumping and tricks; these bikes are harder to pedal as much of the rider’s power is absorbed by the shock itself, but they certainly make for a more comfortable ride on very difficult terrain.
Mountain bikes usually have plenty of gears to make pedaling up hills, on rough terrain, and through sand and mud easier. Shifters are normally on the handlebars, or you can find ‘grip shifters’ which the rider operates by squeezing and turning the handlebar grips. Having the shifters in easy reach is essential, as most riders won’t want to take their hands off the handlebars on tricky terrain!
To allow for more ground clearance for the chain, many bikes fit plastic guards to the chainrings, and some designs use pulleys and other technology to keep the chain clear of roots and rocks.
Bicycle pedals is where the rider places the shoes. There are clipless and clip pedals, for mountain biking traditionally people use clipless given the extra time needed to get out of in the case of a fall.