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Do you know what your bike is made to do? Don't take on just any mountain with your mountain bike without first knowing what your bike is capable of.
A mountain bike is any bicycle designed for off-road riding on dirt trails or other unpaved areas. They usually have a sturdy frame with fat tires. There are different categories of mountain bike:
• XC racing- lightweight so they can handle the mountain from the bottom up
• XC trail- what most people think of as a mountain bike (with an active suspension and knobby tires)
• All-mountain- have even bigger tires, and powerful brakes for tough terrain
• Freeride- the most extreme (made to run over roots, rocks, and just about anything else)
Like most any other sport, mountain biking has its own set of official rules that you should get familiar with if you plan on getting into the sport. Developed by the International Mountain bicycling Association or IMBA, the rules are meant to minimize human impact on the environment, promote safety, and to encourage good relations between all trail users.
*To look at IMBA rules, you can go to http://www.imba.com/about/trail_rules.html
While mountain biking encourages the rough and ready in its enthusiasts, there are some conditions (like wet, muddy trails) that might stop even the die-hard enthusiast. Safety isn't always the main concern, however, many are out to preserve the trail.
Mountain biking on a wet trail can be very damaging to the trail, leading to erosion and trail closure. So, it has become over time, an unwritten rule that it's un-cool to damage trails—better to wait until the trail dries out.
Can you talk the talk? As with any specialty, learning the lingo is a big part of immersing yourself in the culture. Here are a few mountain bike terms to get you started:
• Chute- a steep, difficult, narrow section of trail
• Epic- is a long, hard ride with great views
• Clean- when you don't put your foot down during a tough climb or descent
There are times when even the most die-hard mountain biker takes to the road. As a matter of fact, many mountain bikers also like to commute to work on a bike simply because being on a bike is better.
*If you want to bike to work, you don't necessarily have to buy a second bike. Instead, buy a second set of thinner road tires for your mountain bike.
If you like to take your equipment with you while traveling by bike, a touring bike is your best option. Touring bikes are built for stability while packed, are comfortable over long distances, have a triple crank for smaller gears, come with eyelets in the frame, and fork for attaching racks.
*While it's true that mountain bikes and some hybrids also come with triple cranks, they don't give you the level of comfort necessary to really enjoy your trip.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|