Cycling has increasingly been picking up as a sport, leisure activity and interest. It’s a great way to escape from the hustle bustle of city life with little or no cost, and with the added benefit of getting great exercise outdoors. This growing interest has led to more people getting into mountain or off-road biking as a source of excitement and thrill. While you don’t have to be a professional to take it up, a certain amount of training is required to get the right skills and strength that it demands.

Here are a few tips to get you started and stay safe while mountain biking.

Getting the right bike

Mountain biking requires a special type of bicycle, your regular bike will not do. Mountain bikes are available in a number of styles depending on the type of terrain on which you intend to ride. Ensure you pick the appropriate bike, best suited to your intended purpose of use and budget.

Gearing up appropriately

The next step after picking the right bike is to get your gear in place to ensure you are well protected on the trail. These include comfortable and weather friendly clothing like padded shorts, a waterproof jacket and reflective jersey for riding at night. Knee and elbow pads help protect against scrapes and falls, and gloves will keep your hands warm and protect against blisters from gripping the handlebars.

It’s advisable to go with a helmet that’s been certified by a safety organization. The helmet should fit snugly, and not move when you tilt your head. Extra vents will increase air circulation to your head, keeping you cooler.

If you have clipless pedals, you’ll need shoes that fit into your pedals’ cleats. They should be comfortable, durable and have a hard sole to help you pedal more efficiently. Add thick cycling socks to prevent blisters.

A good pair of sunglasses will shield the sun’s ultraviolet rays, dirt, wind and bugs. Choose shatterproof lenses with high UV protection.
Water is a must-have so you don’t get dehydrated. Make sure to drink every 20 minutes or so, even if you aren’t thirsty. A fruit or energy bar to snack on is also advisable to carry, to keep up the energy.

Stick to the rules

For your own safety and those of others cycling with you, follow strictly the guidelines or rules specified by the trail organisers.

Get into shape

Mountain biking requires strength, endurance and skill. To get this combination right, you have to train and build up your endurance and capacity gradually. Keep practicing your skills slowly until you are confident.

Ride up and down hills, alternated with speed intervals on straight stretches of road. Practice handling your bike in a variety of terrains, from wooded areas to hills. Try tackling rocks, grass and sharp turns until you feel sure that you can keep your bike under control, no matter what’s in front of you.

A warm up session of at least 20 minutes is advisable before you ride. Other types of exercises like swimming, hiking and weight training help firm the muscles to be used for mountain biking and build endurance required for long rides. Keep them up on a regular basis.