Mountain biking has become an increasingly popular sport in recent years among outdoor enthusiasts in the United States, and for good reason; it is a thrilling and relatively inexpensive hobby that can offer participants hours of fun as well as the chance to explore and experience the great outdoors. As a result, it is no surprise that more and more people are looking into mountain biking as a way to get themselves outdoors and get their hearts racing. While mountain biking may seem like a daunting prospect if you have never owned or ridden a mountain bike before, the truth is that it is actually a relatively simple hobby to pick up, at least to the point where you understand the basics and are ready to go out on the trail on your own. However, before you get your gear and get going on the trail, it is worth making a few quick checks to your mountain bike to make sure it is truly ready to take you up, down, and through the toughest mountain slopes.
Perhaps the first and most important thing you should consider when trying to figure out if your mountain bike is ready for the trail is if your brakes are truly trail ready. There are essentially two types of brake systems commonly used on mountain bikes, road bikes, and basically all types of bikes you are likely to come across: rim brakes and disk brakes. Rim brakes are the traditional types of brakes where two rubber pads squeeze against the metal bicycle rim when you press the brake levers, with the friction being responsible for bringing the bike to a quick stop. Disk brakes are similar to rim brakes in that they rely on friction to stop the bicycle and in that they are activated by pressing (or rather, squeezing) the brake levers, but the crucial difference is in how the friction is applied to the bike system.
With disk brakes, a metal disk is attached to the bicycle wheel, and calipers squeeze down on that rim to provide friction to slow down the wheel and the bicycle by extension. Rim brakes are the dominant type of brake you will find on most bicycles that travel on the road, but you are increasingly likely to see disk brakes when it comes to off road and trail mountain biking. In fact, it is fair to say that disk brakes are the default option on serious mountain bikes and the default choice of serious mountain bikers when it comes to riding on trails and off the beaten path. This is because disk brakes offer a number of advantages over traditional rim brakes when it comes to off road riding.
First, a bicycle that comes with a disk brake system is likely to stop well in all riding conditions, whether you are riding through mud, snow, rain, hail, or anything else you can think of. In comparison, the braking quality of a rim brake goes down significantly when you start to ride in anything besides perfect conditions. This is due to a number of reasons that are worth exploring. First, when disk brake pads are fully retracted (that is, when they are not being used), they tend to stay much closer to the surface where they will be applied for braking power than the brake pads that come with rim brakes. As a result, they are less likely to suffer from a buildup of dirt, slush, mud, and water under the brake pad. Additionally, because the wheel rims used in bicycles are usually made of a light weight metal, it is possible to make harder brake disks and brake pads, which means the pads can accept higher maximum loads, which means they can provide more braking power when you need it. Since you will typically be riding in less than optimal conditions whenever you are out on the trail, it is worth investing in bike brakes that are designed to do the job without compromising your ability to stop in emergencies.
While brakes are important, another consideration to make sure your mountain bike is ready for the trail include making sure you have adequate tire pressure and tread.