Mountain Biking: handling the hills
If cycling or mountain biking is new to you, many guides have several trips
that are the perfect
introduction. You will need to learn some basic shifting and climbing skills.
Mountain biking can take us many places including away from the daily
turmoil of our hectic lives. Besides freeing our minds, it has the incredible
health benefit of keeping our hearts and bodies in great
physical shape as well.
Mountain biking can be relaxing or strenuous, depending on the terrain and your
physical capabilities or goals. And, when you consider that the terrain is
influenced by weather factors, temperature, natural elements, and even natural
hazards, every trip is truly a new and exhilarating experience!
Some helmets are specifically
designed for mountain biking and include features such as a harder
outer shell. This better protects you from trail hazards, such as
low-hanging branches, that you might come into contact with.
There are some distinct health benefits derived from biking
First of all, biking requires a thorough and more intense use of more
muscle groups. Despite
the mistaken idea that biking involves primarily the use of leg muscles,
anyone who has climbed a hill on a bike will tell you that it can be an
extreme upper body workout: lower back, shoulders, arms, neck — they all get
involved. Also, a descent works its own muscle groups. Hands gripping brake
levers will ache after a particularly long and steep descent. And, somewhat
surprisingly to the novice, a different set of leg muscles are used going
downhill because of the need to stand on the pedals and take the weight off
Perhaps the biggest difference while biking, comes from the way
feel after a ride. Biking, puts very little pressure on knees if the seat is
Mountain biking gives a thorough
aerobic workout. In other words, you
breathe deep and fast with a corresponding
heart rate increase. This aerobic
workout releases endorphins, the "feel good" hormones that some people get
so used to they become biking junkies, addicted to the sensation created by
intense physical exertion.
Some helpful hints for the mountain biking beginners:
Where you look is where you'll go. Try not to look off-course or over a
drop-off, or you may catch your self inadvertently heading in that
When not pedaling, try to ‘stand’ on the pedals in the 9 and 3 o’clock
position. This will give
you extra control. Keeping your elbows relaxed at about 90 degrees with your
back at an approximate 45 degree angle will also help maintain your balance.
Try to conserve your momentum. More so than power, it will get you
through most any tight spot and will conserve your energy.
Don’t waste golden opportunities to recover. Every time you can get your
heart rate back down, you're recovering. Use downhill areas and flats to
recover for the next tough section and keep your arms relaxed during
When using multi-speed bicycles, gear shifting is critical! Anticipate
each gear shift and let yourself transition smoothly and don’t let your
cadence slow down to much. Losing speed on a climb is a great way to
introduce your self to hike-a-biking. When going uphill, you should tuck
your backside down to ensure your back wheel has proper traction.
Play Follow the Leader while riding with a friend or a fellow
enthusiast. If the leader goes
down a steep hill or bunny-hops a mud hole, the follower should assume that
they can do the same. This is a great way to build confidence and to see
exactly what you are capable of. Of course, don't let your "expert" friends
force you to do stuff over your head that you aren’t comfortable with. Think
smart and follow your own instincts.
When cornering you should make sure your outside foot is down so that
your weight is properly distributed. Dropping the outside leg helps keep the
rear of the bike sliding out on you. Pushing out gently with the inside hand
will help you avoid tucking your front tire underneath the bike and flipping
you mercilessly over the handlebars, thus experiencing your first ‘endo’.
Though the thought of mountain biking may be intimidating to some, the
skills necessary to maneuver on a trail can be quickly learned from fellow
mountain bikers or acquired from trial and error practice. One of the most
difficult techniques to learn, however, is the ability to look ahead on the
trail. Keeping your chin up is very important!