Although called mountain biking this sport is not restricted to mountains, any rough wild place will do. In fact some individuals, living in the city have used their concrete jungle as a mountain. This sport is all about riding specially adapted mountain bicycles off road and over rough terrain. Despite looking similar to a normal bike, there are certain differences in the design that enhance durability and performance over rough terrain. Mountain biking is divided into several different categories. Up until a few years ago the sport could be defined into two main areas, downhill and cross country. Now the sport has become much more Popular and complex, with new models being created to keep up with the ever increasing diverse demands. Other mountain bike categories include free-ride, dirt jumping, all mountain, trials and more recently urban.
Mountain biking does not require any special skills, other than a bike and being able to ride it. It can be done any where in the world. One great aspect is that you can start for next to nothing and if you like the sport you can go out and spend your hard earned cash on upgrading to a decent bike and kit. However, although anyone can get on one of these bikes and ride off, a certain degree of fitness is required depending at what level you wish to participate. The sport can be very demanding and requires endurance, balance, core strength, good bike handling skills and self reliance. You can understand why this level of fitness is needed when you consider the back trails and off road areas that are used. Most trails are just narrow tracks that wind through forests, mountains, deserts, or fields, and in many cases are far from civilization. Being alone and miles from anywhere does mean a you need strong ethic of self-reliance in the sport. Riders learn to repair their broken bikes or flat tires to avoid being stranded miles from help. Many riders will carry a backpack, containing a water bottle, and all the essential tools and equipment for trailside repairs. Its also a wise precation to carry first aid and emergency supplies in case of injury miles from outside help. As a novice, you should consider joining a club or ride with friends untill you gain some experience.
The most difficult aspect is probably deciding what category you wish to participate in. Once you have decided this you can go out and buy your bike. It may be wise to borrow or get a cheap bike to start with. The bike you choose should light so that you can easily handle and manoeuvre it. Good suspension is vital as is the correct number of gears for your chosen sport. Make certain you are comfortable riding the bike and that you can control it with minimum amount of grip on the handle bars. Many beginners fall into the trap of gripping with all their strength resulting in locked wrists and arms. If your wrists and elbows are locked they will receive all the shocks coming up from the front forks. As you progress you may decide to take your riding up another level.
Extreme mountain biking can be very risky so you will need the specialist clothing. Participating in downhill racing will certainly mean that you will need body armour for your complete upper body, articulated spine protection and knee, elbow and ankle pads. Gloves are a must, make sure you buy high impact resistant gloves. There is a wide array of protective clothing, choose what is comfortable and still allows you to ride without any hindrance. Helmets. Next to your bike this is probably the most important piece of your kit. They offer protection from the elements and act as a shield around your head. Don't purchase an ordinary road bike helmut. You will need a specialist high performance helmut and get the best you can afford.
Your posture is very important, to maintain the correct balance you should be almost standing while leaning forwards onto the handlebars. Keep your legs bent so that they absorb shocks. Practise gear changing on practise runs near home. Mountain bike gears are your best friend, ensuring a smooth comfortable ride. You will need to be able to change gear instantly, automatically, without thinking about it. As you become more proficient at changing gears it will greatly improve your riding performance.
One reason that people take up mountain biking is to lose weight and get fit. If you are looking to lose weight and increase your fitness level then consider mountain biking. Most people are unaware of how many muscles are used and how many calories are burnt off. And by investing in the right clothing you will be able to go out mountain biking all through the year. Studies have shown that a large number of people fail at an exercise routine because of lack of variety. This is one of the major issues people face when they buy a single piece of fitness equipment such as a treadmill. There isn't much difference from day to day working out on a treadmill. This lack of variety turns people off. However, mountain biking offers people different places to go and see, keeping them interested and engaged, whilst providing an excellent keep fit and weight loss programme.
If you enjoy the sport then you might consider taking a mountain bike vacation or holiday. These adventure type vacations are specially designed, and catered for mountain biking. You will have to decide on whether you want a 'guided tour' type vacation or, if your more experienced a self guided tour. The other big issue is will you take your own bike or use a bike provided by the holiday or vacation centre. These types of biking vacations are becoming increasingly popular so there should be no trouble in finding and booking one. Tour operators also cater for foreign travel. Mountain biking is a great way to see and explore other countries, visit other cultures and see the 'real' people and how they live. Rather than from the inside of a coach or bus.