The focus of this article concerns your own personal safety when out riding off-road on a mountain bike. There are however, other articles in this section which are also worth looking at as they relate to safety too, especially with regard to considering other people’s safety when you are out biking.
Remember that mountain biking usually involves riding over extremely rough, undulating and remote terrain, often at high speed. Therefore, there is always going to be an element of risk but problems can usually be minimised by carrying out some preparation first and using common sense.
To consider mountain bike safety, you need to carry out a number of checks before you go.
You should always let someone else know that you are going to be out mountain biking and what time you expect to be back. Also, take a mobile phone out with you. You may not get a signal in extremely remote areas but it’s handy to take just in case. Keep an eye out on the weather forecast. As with all rock sports, bad weather can have serious implications on your safety so, if the weather’s bad, put off your trip until another day.
Where possible, always try to ride with a group of friends. That way, if you have an accident and/or suffer an injury, there will always be someone to assist you and to summon help, if needed.
Do a ‘recce’ of your route before you head out. Some of them may contain jumps and there may be other difficult parts of the route to negotiate. By finding all this out first, both you and your bike will be up to the job. On that note, you should check your bike’s parts before you go and make sure that everything is in working order, paying close attention to wheels, brakes and gears, in particular.
As with any sport, do some stretching exercises and warm up your muscles before you begin the ride. This will reduce the possibility of muscular damage.
Things to Take With You
What you take with you will often depend on the length of your trip, if you plan to stay overnight, e.g. perhaps at a campsite, and both the weight you’re able to carry and the carrying facilities you have on your bike. Unlike road cyclists, mountain bikers tend to travel lighter but items you should take include sufficient quantities of water to last for the duration of the trip – never assume there’ll be fresh clean water, along your route.
Take enough food with you and a first aid kit should be carried by at least one member of your group. A puncture repair kit is essential unless you’re carrying an inflated spare wheel with you. A mobile phone, as mentioned earlier, is not an essential but could come in very handy. If you decide to take one, make sure it’s fully charged before heading out.
Clothing and Protective Gear
Many people of all ages enjoy mountain biking and some will choose to dress more casually than others. If you’re a serious rider, however, you can buy clothing designed specifically for mountain bikers which will probably be more comfortable and offer you added protection features.
Over ¾ of all cycling deaths are as a result of head trauma so always wear an approved cycling safety helmet – it could save your life. Your eyes are at risk from mud, sand, grit, wind, branches of trees and insects, so wearing some kind of eye protection is a very good idea. Some people opt for goggles but even the trendy sunglasses-style approach will help.
Elbow and knee pads will also help prevent more serious injuries in the event that you fall from your bike.