Mountain biking is a fun and safe way to exercise, relax and see nature up close. Mountain biking is now encouraged at a large number of state and national parks in America, and improved bike technology now allows almost anyone to go out for a ride. The great diversity in bikes and trails offers an exciting diversity to both beginner and expert cyclists, and many parks are constantly redesigning or enhancing their trails to improve the quality of the ride.
I’m a beginner, what should I expect?
Mountain biking is inherently difficult at first because there will always be a lot of cross-country pedaling. Even paved or gravel roads are very difficult when going uphill, and if you do not have a lot of experience, then you need to be careful not to push yourself too hard. You should not expect a lot of amenities and places to stop, so be sure to bring plenty of water, and possibly a small snack. It is generally considered that you should bring one quart of water for every two hours you will be cycling, especially if it is a very hot day. As for snacks, you should pick light, high-energy foods that do not require preservation. Sandwiches are ok, but it’s a good idea to bring trail mix, dried fruit, beef jerky, and other more traditional trail foods.
Beginners should also be very careful in selecting a route. It is advisable that if you are not an experienced rider, you select a trail that is ten miles or less in length. Ten miles may not seem like a lot with a car, but using a bicycle, it may take two or three hours of pedaling to complete if you are not experienced. It is also a good idea to pick a trail which has been adapted from a service road or a railway, as they will have an even grade and will be easier to bike. These trails are usually also much harder to get lost on, since they are clearly marked by virtue of their paving. You should bring a small first aid kit in order to treat scrapes and bruises, as well as a cell phone to call for help should you suffer a major accident.
And if I’m more intermediate?
Bikers with a bit of experience should look to get the most out of their trip. Once you are confident that you can bike for five or six hours in a stretch, or even more, you should look for a trail that can push you a little. Most national and state parks will rate their trails to allow you to get a good idea how difficult they are. Many are accessible by footpath or car, which will allow you to scout out the trail and see if it is too rough or too uneven for you. It’s also a good idea to choose a trail with plenty of exits or ways to leave the trail in the event that you get too tired to continue.
You will also want to select a bike that matches the trail. Many “difficult” trails are actually rather level and easy to traverse, but they are filled with rocks. This makes them challenging for a normal mountain bike, but they may in fact be quite easy if a bike has shock absorbers. It is important also to tell if a trail is made “one-way” by the installation of anti-erosion devices. Anti-erosion emplacements are generally made of large “steps” to prevent dirt from traveling downhill, and while they are easily descended by bicycle it is necessary to dismount and carry the bikes when going up.
More experienced riders should also take into account the view and appearance of the trail. Once you have the ability to go almost anywhere you wish, you should exploit this opportunity to the fullest. As it’s easy to upload photographs to the web, you can often find out what a trail looks like simply by examining vacation photos or the trail’s own website. This will not only let you know whether the trail offers anything to see, it will help you to gauge whether or not the trail has any steep hills, rocky outcrops, or other nasty surprises.