An introduction to mountain biking

A guide to the health and fitness benefits of cycling

Mountain biking is a sport enjoyed by millions of people across the globe. People are drawn to the sport for many different reasons but everyone will experience the sense of freedom, discovering and exploring new places, keeping fit and meeting great new people whilst cycling. The team at wants to give you a taster of this highly enjoyable, varied and often adrenalin-fuelled world of mountain biking where the only limits are your own imagination!

Mountain biking today

Mountain biking has now evolved, thanks to the efforts of its early pioneers, giving rise to today’s highly specialized mountain bike designs and is now a sport enjoyed by millions of people across the world. Mountain biking is a fantastic pastime that can be enjoyed by many people, but if you are thinking of having a go then don’t let the ‘mountain’ in mountain biking put you off … ‘mountain biking’ simply refers to any cycling that is done off-road and doesn’t have to involve any mountains at all!

Mountain bikes are specially designed so that they (and the rider!) can withstand the rigors of cycling off-road. A mountain bike must be able to withstand a variety of stresses and strains from a number of sources whilst at the same time being able to provide comfort and safety to the rider.

Mountain biking can be enjoyed anywhere from forest tracks, coastal paths, open moorlands to hills and mountainous terrain. How hard, long or severe your ride is up to you!

Who can do mountain biking? Where and how do you get involved?

Mountain biking is a pastime that can be enjoyed by many — regardless of their age or physical fitness. Riders of all abilities can enjoy mountain biking as there are infinite routes to choose from.

However, all mountain bikers should be aware of where and when they can and cannot cycle. Riders should stick to designated mountain bike trails away from horses and walkers. Horses are easily startled and footpaths often become crowded with hikers, making riding at speed highly dangerous.

There are plenty of mountain biking trails open for all to use and these avoid overcrowding and the environmental impact of routes being overused. But whilst out on your ride, if you do have to share your route with other outdoor users such as horse riders or walkers, just be aware and considerate.

If you want to get involved in mountain biking, the best advice is to go along to your local mountain bike retailer for details of locals groups or clubs. Groups meet up regularly and offer the opportunity to learn the basic mountain biking skills and techniques, essential bike maintenance tips and of course — meeting up with new people.

Mountain biking history in a nutshell

Mountain biking owes its origins to the early pioneers of the sport who, during the 1970s, modified existing bikes and bike parts to enable them to be used in off-road downhill races. Mount Tamalpais in California is widely regarded as the birthplace of mountain biking, from where the term ‘mountain’ biking also originates.

Early mountain bike designs were capable of racing downhill only. Competitors drove their bikes to the top of hills to race down and these early bikes only had a single gear and very rudimentary brakes! However, pretty soon people wanted to be able to race not just downhill, but uphill too and so more specialized bike components and gear mechanisms were developed.

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