Five Things About Mountain Biking I Learned the Hard Way

July 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Tips

mountain bike trail stretching ahead 225x300 Five Things About Mountain Biking I Learned the Hard WayI began my mountain biking career over 15 years ago, and to use the old cliché I wish to god I knew the things then that I know now. Had I know some of the basic secrets to mountain biking I would of saved myself bodily injury, time spent healing and several doctors bills (I am sure that I could buy a new car with that money if I had it). Yet I did not know these secrets, and even if someone had tried to give them too me I am not sure I would have listened. However it is my hope that the following secrets will benefit you so you can maybe buy that new car when you are in your thirties.

1.  Just because all your friends jumped off the bridge does not mean you have too!So okay, we have all heard numerous times the above statement. The truth is that just because we have a tendency to confuse complete stupidity with bravery, does not mean we need to follow our friends every where they go. Sure being a bit reluctant to go down a hill or trail that seems a little bit above your skill level may get you some teasing, but when it is one of your friends who you are limping down the trail instead of you, who gets the final laugh?

When you are just starting as a mountain bike rider, remember that the point is to enjoy the sport, not to make your doctor more money. At first take easy trails, then as you grow more confident, expand your horizons by taking more difficult trails. Also realize that if you are gripping your handle bars in fear its hard to enjoy the scenery.

2.  Food and water are your friend not the enemySometimes we forget that the human machine needs fuel. Sometimes as we get psyched about the next trail, or just in a hurry to get out the door, we forget to top off our water bottles and to pack an apple or a carrot for the trail. While this is not a big deal for quick trails, not having food or water during a long trail can mean some very bad things such as dizziness, muscle cramping and even in some cases, a visit to the local hospital. This is easy to prevent by remembering to have a full water bottle (two if you are either going on a real long ride, or in a very arid area) and by bringing along high water food such as apples and carrots. Also apples and carrots are full of vitamins and easy for the body to digest.

3.  It may make you look stupid but stretching is always a good idea

One of the hardest things for me to make myself do before biking used to be stretching. I didn’t want to take the time to do something that I felt provided little to know benefit. However after a few pulled muscles I thought better of this and now stretching is something I do every time I go for a ride.

For those new to the idea of stretching the trick is not to overdue it and cause yourself injury. Start with simple toe touches and neck rolls. This will limber up your legs and shoulders which are the areas that will take most of the beating on the trail. Also you might want to add a couple sets of push ups and sit ups to warm up the torso muscles. Believe me you will feel a lot better during the ride if you do these simple exercises.

4.  A spare parts kit is worth the weight

I think virtually every biker on the planet has had a time when they wish they had brought along an extra inner tube or chain. Let’s face it, the trails we tend to ride do not care one little bit about our bikes and their conditions. In fact sometimes it seems a trail is out to get you from the start. Over my time as a mountain bike rider I have developed what I call the essential repair kit and I have used it more times than I care to count. Admitted it means taking a pack with me, but when it comes to either fixing a flat, or hiking my bike out, the pack seems a pretty small price to pay. Below is a list of items I always carry.

  • Patch kit (you can pick one of these up at any bike store or even Wal-Mart)
  • Extra tube (sometimes I get a flat no patch in the world is going to fix, but having and extra tube gets me off the trail and back home.)
  • A set of wrenches and bolts. (this can actually take some time to put together, however I have been very glad whenever I have had to make an emergency repair to my seat, handle bars or other parts of my bike. I also recommend getting small plastic tackle box to hold all of it in.)
  • An extra chain (most of my friends just bring extra links, but for me I find the chain is quicker and the cost difference is not that great, but at the very least bring a few extra lengths)
  • Air pump (what good does fixing your flat do if you can’t put air back in your tire?)

I do have friends who have found ways to mount entire tires on their bikes, but the above should cover most situations that don’t involve major types of repairs, and will get you home.

5.  Biking and drinking is almost as dumb as drinking and driving
Maybe I have just had some bad luck with idiots, but I swear nothing is worse on the trail than having to deal with a drunken rider. Not only are they a risk to themselves, they are a risk to everyone else. I realize it may not seem to be a big deal to drink a couple of beers before a ride, but really you are doing something that requires your total attention. IN fact some trails you wind up on have very little room for error. So if you feel like a drink, do it at the end of the road not the start.