All About Mountain Bikes
“It’s just like a riding a bike” may not apply when venturing onto the trails. Mountain biking requires a certain body of knowledge to ensure off-road adventures are both safe and fun. From knobby tires and seat position to braking and navigating the roots and rocks in front of you, these essential beginner tips and suggestions help you hit the ground riding.
From Road to Trail
First, a little history lesson: People have been mountain biking since the 1800s. That’s when most early cyclers rode on trails or dirt paths that required some sort of off-road technical skill. In the late 19th century, people in the military rode over long stretches of trails to test bikes’ suitability for army use.1 Yet it’s believed the true birthplace of mountain biking as we know it is Marin County, California, home of Repack (the first mountain biking race, held in 1976).2
So what exactly is the main difference between modern-day road biking and mountain biking? Let’s begin with the bike itself.
Mountain bikes are built differently to withstand the tough terrain and to keep riders safe. The tires are typically thicker and more durable than a road bike’s in order to navigate unpaved environments, including roads and trails with rocks, logs, and branches. The handlebars are either flat or rise up, depending on preference, and the frame size should be matched to the size of the rider.3
If you have a need for speed, a mountain bike is not for you. Mountain bikes are built for durability and sturdiness in order to travel varied terrain, technical trails, drops, and steep descents. Riding on the mountain versus the road has its advantages, including no cars, the solitude of nature, and a more challenging workout – the varied terrain requires riders to use different muscle groups.4
Anatomy of a Mountain Bike
When it comes to mountain bikes, be ready to spend anywhere from $300 or more, depending on your level of experience and commitment to the sport.5
- Frame: There are two main frame options: aluminum or carbon. Aluminum is light and strong, yet carbon (the more expensive option) is a bit tougher but still resilient and lightweight. Frames are perhaps the most important part of a mountain bike: they’re considered the backbone that joins every other part together.6
- Front Fork: Forks aren’t just for eating. On a bike, the front fork is the movable part of the frame that holds the front wheel in place. The purpose of the fork is to provide a suspension effect for improved control and comfort on rooty and rocky terrain.7
- Wheels: A hub, spokes, metal rim, and the tire itself make up a mountain bike wheel. The rims tend to be tougher than a road bike’s, yet they’re thinner and lighter. For the trail, mountain bike wheels are typically wide and knobby to absorb the rocky impact.8
- Seat: The seat can make or break your riding experience. It needs to be comfortable but firm, and combat moisture from sweat and weather. A saddle is made up of four parts: the shell, padding, cover, and rails. The shell is typically plastic, and the padding is usually made out of nylon plastic, which provides cushioning and comfort. Covers are usually leather or a synthetic material, and the rails come in different materials, depending on the durability, price, and weight you’re looking for. (Titanium rails are more expensive but the lightest option.)9
- Handlebars: Many people customize their handlebars to give optimum control for the way they want to ride. There are many types of handlebars to choose from, but straight or riser bars tend to be popular options for the trail.10 For risers, the lift assists when going downhill and doing small jumps, helping the rider land softly and maintain weight equilibrium.
- Pedals: When choosing pedals, riders should decide if they want to be clipped in or out. For beginners, flat (not clipped-in) pedals are good because you can quickly get off the bike or adjust your position if you start feeling uncomfortable or things go wrong on the trail. However, your feet are more susceptible to slipping on the rough road.11
- Brakes: Disc brakes are the standard option for mountain bikes and work well in various temperatures and trail conditions. There are brakes on both the front and rear of the bike.12
- Chain and gears: On the bike, you’ll see a set of chains and gears that keep everything in place. The front chain wheels, the rear freewheel, the derailleur, and shift levers on the handlebars and the cables are all designed to get muddy and roughed-up on the trail.13 14
Source: Fix.com Blog