what makes mountain biking cool?
It’s called mountain biking for good reason. The outdoors. Huge mountains tower above you. Crisp air. Rocky paths, steep up and downhill gradients. Scary dropoffs. You get the picture. Just because you own a mountain bike doesn’t make you a mountain biker.
Yet. You need to take it off the tar, and onto the brown stuff, preferably with some rocks, water and eventually, inevitably, mud thrown into the mix. See that as show time! And always remember: you can ride a mountain bike on the road, but you can’t ride a road bike offroad (unless you’re Gary Fisher, a Euro cyclo-crosser, crazy or a little bit of all three). Mountain bikes are designed to withstand demanding terrain and are both rugged and versatile. Ride them everywhere!
Over the last 10 years or so mountain biking has increased in popularity quickly. Sales of MTBs have gone through the roof – up to 10 times the volumes of road bikes. Many races have grown year on year transforming from small get-togethers to huge events with over 4,500 participants.
Front shocks will make the riding experience a lot more pleasant, and full suspension even more so. Beware of cheap bikes offering these features – they will let you down sooner or later! They are usually ‘built to a price’ and are often of insufficient quality to withstand the demands of off-road use. If you are on a tighter budget, consider buying a good used bike.
When purchasing a mountain bike for dirt riding, the two most important components are its brakes and gearing.
Brakes: Nearly all race-ready, none-department store MTBs since 2007 have disc brakes rather than the older V-brake (introduced late 1990s). Disc offers smoother, more reliable stopping power when setup properly.
Gearing: For the average rider, triple chainrings on the front and up to 38 tooth gears are considered the norm for off-road riding.
Other kit: Apart from ensuring that your wheels are wrapped in knobbly tyres and that the tyres are lined and slimed to prevent punctures, you do need a few extra items.
A helmet is essential. They have saved countless vertebrae, necks, skulls and ears over the years. Get a good one and wear it – whenever you’re on your bike. Cycling shorts are highly recommended and will add to comfort after the first hour or two of riding. A pair of gloves are a worthwhile investment to cushion your hands from possible nerve pinching. They’ll also protect your palms from grazes should you fall. Eyewear is highly recommended to keep grit out of your eyes. Occasional low branches have an uncanny knack of finding your eyes too.
training for novices
Mountain bike riding is probably the most accessible sort of cycling available, and it is growing year on year. It is superb for fitness and it takes you away from traffic and all the usual daily stresses of life. Anyone can do it, to a level that suits the individual, and everyone can enjoy the adrenaline rush it provides.
Joining a club is always a good place to start. There will be members willing to help you on your way to MTB greatness. Your weak areas will be improved and you will learn to ride the trails better, safer and with more enjoyment.
Many people train on the road as it is not always that easy to venture onto the trails whenever you feel like it. So don’t feel like you have to take your MTB offroad all the time.
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A helmet is essential at all times. You should never really cycle alone, if you have a serious accident in a remote area and are by yourself this could spell trouble. A mini tool kit can come in handy if you have to make small repairs to your bike. Some basic knowledge of mountain bike maintenance would be a big advantage.
Hydration, like in any other sport is extremely important. Make sure you have a water bottle on your bike and that you don’t take it for a ride. This is a term for riders who return with a full bottle after training, without having had any. You’ll only benefit from drinking it, not having it along for company. These days many riders wear hydrations packs on their backs especially if they are going on a long ride. There are many sports drinks on the market that help replace electrolytes lost through sweating.
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contacts & events
Most major KZN and Gauteng MTB events take place in winter as there is less rainfall and hence. The Western Cape offers up a fair number of races in summer. South Africa plays host to some huge MTB races including Absa Cape Epic, Subaru Sani2c and the Cape Argus Pick n Pay MTB Challenge. We are lucky to have some of the best trails in the world to test our bikes to the limit.
Contact: Cycling South Africa www.cyclingsa.com