Mountain biking, as the name suggests, is a biking sport in which bicycle-riders ride along mountain trails. Biking through a mountain terrain is pure fun, but it also has its share of adventure and excitement. The best-known locations for biking in mountainous surroundings have unpaved surfaces and so you need to be an expert biker to truly experience the thrill.
Since their invention, bicycles have been used on all terrains, including rugged mountainous territories. However, it was not until 1970s that biking in the mountains became an organized sport. Groups of bicycle-riders from different parts of the United States played a pivotal role in the evolution of this thrilling biking-sport – experimenting with bikes of different makes and modifying them so that they could take the rigors of riding in the uneven, craggy mountainous lands.
The Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, however, bestows the honor to a group of bikers in Marin County, California. The group (consisting of famous names in this field like Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Keith Bontrager and Otis Guy among others) undertook bike-ride down Mount Tamalpais (Mt Tam) on old 1930s and 40s Schwinn bicycles retrofitted with advanced brakes and fat tires.
The first ‘proper’ mountain bike was built by Joe Breeze in 1977. The present-day mountain bikes are based on the bicycle first marketed by the MountainBikes Company. The frame of this particular bike was built by Tom Ritchey and it was accessorized by Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly.
Bikers usually engage in four different kinds of cycling tours in the mountains:
1. Cross-Country (or XC) biking is the most familiar type mountain riding sport and naturally has the maximum number of followers. The sport involves riding between points or in loops. It includes ascents and descents on different terrains. (Cross-Country racing competitions are different from cross-country biking). A typical XC bike weighs some 22-28 lbs and it has 0-4 inches of suspension travel front and rear.
2. Freeride is the other popular type of biking in mountain trails. It restricts the biker with no specific rules rather allows the rider to do ‘anything and everything’ – downhill rides (without clock), jumps, stunts – that require skill and are hence meant for professionals. Freeride biking requires the rider to assemble the bike as per convenience and style, but these bikes are a bit heavier (weighing between 30 and 40 lbs) and are amply suspended (generally has 6 inches of suspension front and rear).
3. Downhill, as the name suggests, involves riding mountain bikes downhill. It is generally associated with racing-oriented downhill riding. Downhill biking does not require the rider to pedal up the hill. The bikers along with their bikes are transported up the hill with the help of a truck or ski-lift. The downhill climb is indeed challenging including jumps and drops as well as physical hindrances. Tough mentality, physical strength, swiftness and mounted heavy bikes weighing some 40-50 lbs make you eligible for these races.
4. Trials riding, which is quite similar to skateboarding, involves hopping and jumping over obstacles with your bike. It demands great sense of balance and control. The riders make use of special bikes that make use of 20", 24" or 26" wheels fitted to small, low frames.
The following tips will prove helpful if you are planning a bicycle-trip in the rocky, hilly terrains for the first time:
1. You must have stamina and endurance to bike down a mountain.
2. Selection of a superior quality bike, especially one that perfectly meets your type of mountain riding is also very crucial.
3. You cannot avoid minor cuts and bruises but you can certainly prevent major mishaps by resorting to precautionary measures, buying yourself some protection in the form of helmets, knee-caps and elbow-caps. A good pair of goggles will also prove handy.
4. Special competitions are organized by various mountain bikers’ groups and you can join in with them. If you choose to go on your own, you will need to collect all relevant information – routes, rules, et al.
5. Whether you go with a bikers’ group or go biking all by yourself, you must remember to carry your equipment kit so that you can take care of all your bicycle-repairs.