This past March, my local cycling shop celebrated International Women’s Day by hosting a free mountain bike workshop, complete with free rentals. I grabbed a spot, hoping to pick up a few pointers about body position and pedalling technique. I definitely learned that, but I also stumbled into something much greater: a biker gang of companions, and a free trip into a part of the world I’d never seen before.
If you’re considering adding mountain biking to the itinerary of your next trip, there are a few reasons to sign up for a class or group ride.
To meet new people
Travelling is a glorious adventure, but it can also be lonely. By taking a class, you’ll have an opportunity to meet like-minded people. It’s likely you’ll swap stories about favourite trails and epic crashes, and if you’re lucky, you may swap phone numbers so you can go for a post-ride pint.
To see new places
We spent the first half of our ride on a wide, flat trail under power lines, practising skills. It was a lot of fun, but didn’t inspire the traveller in me. Then we ducked into the forest, and everything changed. Moss-covered cedar and fir trees, carpets of ferns, quiet chirps from native birds and squirrels.
Just like hiking and bus tours, taking a mountain bike class gives you a local’s perspective on your travel destination — or reveals something new about your hometown.
To stay safe
Before our ride, the instructor from Shredher Mountain Biking asked everyone to share why they’d signed up. An unnerving number of people said they were recovering from a serious mountain bike injury, and were hoping to get their confidence back. I wondered if I was too old to be learning a new sport.
Thankfully, our ride was injury-free, without a single crash. Why? Because our instructor chose skill-appropriate trails, and taught us techniques to avoid accidents.
3 things every mountain biker should know
Check your bike before every ride. The drive to the trailhead can knock parts loose, and slow leaks can happen at any time. Pre-ride checks are important!
- A is for Air: The proper tire pressure gives you better traction, comfort, efficiency and durability.
- B is for Brakes: Lift the front wheel and give it a spin. Check that your brakes aren’t rubbing, then use the brake to make the wheel stop. Repeat for the back wheel.
- C is for Chain: Clean out any dirt remaining from your last ride, and ensure the chain is properly lubricated and moving freely.
- D is for Drop: Lift your bike a few centimetres off the ground and drop it back down. Listen for strange noises, which may indicate a loose part.
2. Understand your brakes — both of them
If you learned to ride a bike more than 20 years ago, you were probably told to avoid using your front brake on its own. Yes, extreme front braking can cause the bike to flip forward, but when used properly, the front brake offers mountain bike riders precise control.
During the Shredher group ride, we took over an empty stretch of gravel path free of obstacles and practised braking with just our front brake, and just our rear. As riders got more comfortable, they increased their speed and braking power — leading to some wicked skids.
3. Chicken wings
To stop your nose from meeting your handlebars on a big drop, bend your arms out like chicken wings. Your elbows will absorb the shock, and your shoulders will stop your head from dropping too far forward.
Fall for mountain biking
This autumn, step out of your comfort zone and give mountain biking a try! Smaller crowds, moderate temperatures and beautiful foliage all make this a fantastic time of year to hit the trails. See you out there.
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