Always wear a helmet. If there is one thing you need to know about mountain biking safety, it is that you must wear a helmet. In case you fall off your bike, have an accident, or overestimate the height of a branch, a helmet will be the most important piece of equipment on your person because it reduces the risk of serious head injury by nearly 70 percent. Some brain injuries can have life-changing consequences, so it is imperative to do everything possible to mitigate head trauma while mountain biking, starting with the helmet.
Proper Dressing of the Helmet
For the helmet to do its job effectively, it must fit you well. By wearing a well-fitting helmet, you should be able to get the tip of your index finger between the helmet and your forehead. Most helmets have an adjustable adjustment system that you can loosen and tighten with a knob in the back. If you can adjust the helmet so that it sits firmly on the top of your head without sliding back, you have the right size helmet. To make sure the helmet stays on your head in case of a fall, make a series of adjustments to the chin strap. The side straps should be pulled up and loosened just below the ear. The chin straps should be tight but not suffocating, and they should not be too far forward. A good test for the position of the chin strap is to open your mouth. If you feel the helmet droop when you open your mouth, then it is exactly where it should be.
Staying Under Control
Mountain biking is an inherently dangerous sport with the possibility of serious injury or worse. Regardless of where you ride or how well you know the trail, you should never go beyond your skill level and should always ride under control.
Riding under control doesn’t just mean being able to stop-it also means having the skills to recognize and avoid potential dangerous situations on the trail. You must also be able to recognize where it is safe to stop on the trail. Avoiding accidents with other cyclists is an essential skill in mountain biking.
With speed being one of the most exciting aspects of mountain biking, it is easy to find yourself riding at a much higher speed than you ever thought possible. Even at “only” 15 miles per hour, you are moving 22 feet, or four bike lengths, per second, which doesn’t give you much time to make sudden decisions.
When pushing hard, always be aware of your riding skills, trail conditions, the potential for an accident, and your ability to prevent one. The best way to do this is to ride on trails that do not exceed your ability and controllability.
Wear the Correct Clothing
In addition to always wearing a helmet, you should also consider other items to invest in, including the actual cycling clothing that best suits your needs, as well as safety equipment and accessories. In terms of appropriate mountain biking gear, the focus should be on safety and comfort, use what will help keep your mind on your pedaling.
Mountain biking clothing is similar to other cycling disciplines, but there are some distinctions to note. Most mountain bikers wear two layers of shorts; the first layer is usually a pair of tight-fitting, padded shorts, commonly called chamois or shammies, with a pair of lightweight, loose-fitting shorts on top. The padding in mountain bike shorts is generally thinner than in road cycling shorts because you generally spend more time on your feet and out of the saddle when tackling mountain bike trails.
Choosing mountain bike-specific shoes with a reinforced toe box is a good idea, since crushing your toes on rocks and roots is a common injury. With thousands of shoes offered by dozens of reputable manufacturers, the perfect shoe for you is surely available. If you choose shoes with laces, be sure to thread the laces through to prevent them from getting caught in the bike chain.
Other safety gear, such as gloves, body armor, and knee and elbow guards, may be appropriate depending on where you ride and the type of riding you do. This equipment is designed to protect the most vulnerable body parts and can make the difference between a bruise and a fracture.
Some basic accessories, such as sunglasses to protect your eyes and a bell to alert others to your presence, are also recommended. Although earbuds may seem like a logical addition to your gear, they are worth reconsidering: by eliminating your sense of hearing, you increase your risk of being involved in an accident.
Drive within Your Skill Level
When it comes to a section of trail that you feel is above your skill level, listen to logic and not your friends. Get off and walk that section. There is nothing wrong with making responsible decisions, especially if they promote your safety and the safety of other mountain bikers. The more sections of trail you walk, the better your skill recognition will be. Eventually, you will find yourself riding on all those sections that were once off-limits.
Where You Pedal Determines Your Bike.
Bicycles are designed for a variety of riding conditions, so it is important to end up with a bike suited to the trails you will ride most. Although the ability to tackle a given trail depends primarily on skill and experience, there is no doubt that the right tool for the job exists. A simple hardtail will be largely inadequate on a trail with brutal rock gardens and massive jumps, and you will soon discover the error of your ways if you take a downhill bike on a long off-road ride. Tire tracks heading up a black diamond trail might suggest it’s bike friendly, but keep in mind that the term “bike friendly” is open to interpretation; it doesn’t mean your intermediate skills are up to the task of descending that trail safely.
Know the Trail
If this is your first time on a trail, go slow! Don’t feel pressured by others to take risks that could prove dangerous. You will find rocks, roots, elevation changes, and obstacles on your rides, so if your skills are not up to what may lie ahead, it’s worth taking some extra precautions. Know the trail by walking on risky sections, check for surprises behind blind curves, and constantly scan the path ahead. Never assume you know what’s coming if you’ve never ridden the trail.
Slow down for Blind Curves
Don’t miss this great YouTube video in which six cyclists miss a blind turn and end up 30 feet down the trail. Watching it, you quickly realize why you should always be aware of what a blind turn might hold for you-it’s called a “blind turn” for a reason. Fortunately, there are riding techniques that can increase your field of vision, visibility and overall control. A common technique to use when negotiating a 180-degree curve is to drive along the outside of the curve, not on the inside; driving on the inside increases your blind spot, which is contrary to what you need. There are countless video tutorials that offer all kinds of safety tips you can apply when facing blind turns.
Falling Will Happen
Everyone who mountain bikes will inevitably end up falling: it’s part of the sport. Although you may not be able to avoid every single fall, the decisions you make before, during, and after a fall can have a profound effect on the consequences. Always assess the trail and analyze the consequences of a fall in that section. Use the “risk versus reward” method and decide if the chance of a fall is worth the reward of riding that section or feature of the trail. Observing others is often the best way to deal with challenging sections. If you’re riding on a popular trail, you won’t have to wait long for the next rider to come riding the line you weren’t aware of.
Being aware of your speed, the terrain, your skills and other cyclists are some of the ways to reduce the chances of a serious fall. Keeping your focus on the trail and your riding by avoiding distractions, such as listening to music, can also reduce your risk of being involved in a crash.
Start With Small Things and Then Move on to Big Things.
If you plan to make air time a part of your riding, you will need specific riding skills that, unfortunately, can only be acquired through experience. Practice on small elements before launching yourself on anything above your riding skills. When learning to jump on your bike, work on landings before takeoffs. Landing a plane is much harder than taking off, and jumping with a mountain bike is no different. Your landings should be smooth and should not feel like a controlled crash.
Common Sense Is Not So Common
Use common sense and intuition to avoid situations that, in your gut, you feel might not be the smartest move. Like many other physical activities, mountain biking can be done safely if you follow responsible riding habits and are honest with yourself about your abilities and limitations. Remember – any outing from which you come out without an accident was a good outing; your riding skills and knowledge of the trail determine a good outing.
When Accidents Happen – Help Phone “112”
Not all accidents can be prevented. Even the most experienced cyclists find themselves in an accident from time to time. For those who are new to the sport and have doubts about spending a good amount of money on a bike and related equipment, it can be reassuring to know that there is a way to protect themselves. To prevent high expenses related to mountain biking accidents, it is prudent to make sure you have adequate health insurance for yourself and a bike physical damage insurance policy for your mountain bike. Consider bicycle insurance to protect your investment and to give you peace of mind that if you ever find yourself stranded on the road or in the hospital, you are not alone. Velosurance, a bicycle insurance company created by mountain bikers, offers a variety of customizable options, so there is sure to be a policy that will meet your needs. With a mountain bike insurance policy from Velosurance, you will be back in the saddle as soon as possible, and owning the right insurance policies will ensure that your days off the bike are kept to a minimum.