Safety tips to keep in mind when mountain biking
Although mountain biking can be very enjoyable, it’s no secret that riding on rough terrain at speed can be dangerous. Injuries sustained from mountain biking can range from minor abrasions and sprains to broken bones or even death.
Even the most thrill-seeking among us should exercise caution and safe biking practice when on the trail. Fortunately, there are many precautions you can take to minimise the risks of mountain biking, while still ensuring you have a good time. Whether you’re a beginner to mountain biking or an experienced veteran, here are five tips to keep yourself safe.
Maintain safe biking behaviour
While it might be easy to get caught up in the feelings of rushing down a hill with the wind in your face, it’s important to remember to stay alert and attentive at all times while cycling.
A mountain cyclist travels at an average speed of 16 kilometres an hour, reaching speeds surpassing 19 kilometres an hour when travelling downhill. Those may not sound like dangerous speeds, especially considering how fast we’re used to travelling in cars.
However, those speeds sound much more severe when you realize that 16km/hour is 4.5 meters/second and bicycles lack the walls, seat belts, and other protections used in automobiles.
While travelling at such velocities, it is imperative that a cyclist is able to make split-second decisions to avoid trail hazards such as bumps, obstacles, and turns. Mountain cyclists should also make sure they choose designated, safe trails to bike on.
If you stray from trails, you need to be even more alert to obstacles and sudden terrain changes, which might result in dangerous falls and injuries.
Wear safety equipment
The first step in preparing to go mountain biking is making sure you’re dressed for the part. This means using adequate protective gear.
Impact protection is the most important part of safety equipment when cycling. Mountain biking injury statistics show that the majority of biking accidents result from falls.
A high quality helmet is essential to protect against head collisions that may result in cranial fractures, concussion and even permanent brain damage or death.
Appropriate MTB goggles should also be worn to protect your eyes and face from injury. Biking goggles also work to ensure your vision is not impaired due to flying debris or insects.
Knee and elbow pads can be used to prevent bruising, broken bones and skin abrasions during a fall or crash. In addition to impact protection, cycling gloves can be useful to prevent blistering and sores from affecting a cyclist’s ability to control the bike.
Finally, comfortable clothing (such as cycle shorts and jerseys) will help you to enjoy your cycling and prevent chafing and sores.
Get to know the trail
Cyclists who frequently travel know that one of the best aspects of visiting a new area is being able to experience a trail for the first time. Despite the excitement of cycling somewhere unfamiliar, however, it’s important for cyclists to take the time to research trails and be cautious when biking on one for the first time.
There are many websites that outline the best and most popular trails in any given area. Not only does choosing a well-known trail help to ensure you get the best experience when biking, but it also makes sure that there will be other cyclists in the area to help you in case you fall or injure yourself.
While biking on an unfamiliar trail, it’s also important to be extra careful until you’re more acquainted with turns and obstacles that may be present.
Ride within your skill level
When riding with friends or partners, it can be easy to simply follow the direction of your companions, regardless of your own comfort level. It is also common for cyclists to want to challenge their abilities by attempting difficult trails and terrain, or even by cycling through dangerous terrain.
While self-improvement is always positive, you should never put your safety at risk, regardless of peer pressure or the pursuit for achievement. Only use trails you feel comfortable biking on, no matter what anyone else says.
It is also important that you have a realistic sense of your own abilities. Many biking accidents are a result of cyclists overestimating their own abilities.
Before embarking on a difficult trail, take the time to reflect on whether you can be confident in your own skill to bike safely. Don’t worry; the trail will still be there, waiting for you to come back when you’re ready!
Stay in control
The most important part of cycling safety is making sure you’re able to stay in control as much as possible. If you begin to feel like you’re losing control, either due to speed or terrain, do your best to slow down or stop safely until you’re able to regain full control.
For difficult terrain where control is inevitable, consider walking your bike until you’re able to find terrain where you can adequately control your bicycle again. There’s no shame in stopping when you need to. Safety comes first.
Hopefully, with these five tips in mind, you can be confident in your safety the next time you go mountain biking. Even though accidents and falls may seem rare, it only takes one ill-prepared accident to change your life for the worse.
With appropriate attention to safety, you can bike confidently and with peace of mind that you’ll be safe.