6 Tips for Safer Mountain Biking
It’s post-Memorial Day, which means mountain-bike season is officially in full swing. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced rider, there are important steps you can take to protect yourself and others on the trail. Here, Abby Beerman, an injury prevention coordinator at University of Vermont Medical Center, shares the six things you should do to stay safe and enjoy the thrill of the ride.
1. Get the Right Gear
Protect your Head at All Times and Protect your Head on All Terrains (PHAT)
Not all bike helmets are designed for the same risks. When mountain biking, you want to choose a bike helmet that will protect your head against the unique terrain and hazards found on the mountains and in the woods. Compared to a person cycling around town, a mountain biker is more likely to:
- Get hit in the face by a low-hanging tree branch
- Get knocked off their bike backwards, instead of forwards
For these reasons, consider a full face or convertible style helmet that offers additional protection to your face and the back of the head.
Mountain Biking Gloves
Gloves help you keep a grip on the bar of the bike. While fingerless gloves are an option, full-fingered gloves offer more protection: skinned knuckles can be as painful as a skinned palm.
You want durable materials that won’t rip the first time you fall and are comfortable as you ride. Make sure nothing is so baggy that you have to worry about it getting tangled in your bike chain or snagging on your surroundings. You can buy pads to protect elbows, wrists and knees, or clothing designed with padding built in.
Protect your eyes from bugs, debris, high-speed wind and glare with goggles or glasses. Get eye protection that is designed for mountain biking or designed for impact. If it’s not designed for safety, after a fall you could end up with broken glasses or metal fragments that are dangerous for your eyes.
2. Inspect Your Mountain Bike
Before you hit the trails, do a thorough inspection of your bike:
- Are your tires at the correct pressure or do they need air?
- Do your brakes hold firm without slipping or squealing?
- Does your chain need cleaning or replacement due to rust or gunk?
- Are the crank arms and pedals loose and in need of repair?
3. Assess Your Skill Level
When planning your ride, consider your skill level and the skill level of those riding with you. Choose a trail that matches your ability. If the trail is more difficult than you expected, it’s better to get off and walk your bike than to continue riding outside of your comfort zone.
Tip: Use the Vermont Mountain Bike Association Plan Your Ride tool to see what trails in your area are ideal for your experience level.
4. Prepare Your Body for the Ride
Make sure you are hydrated and pack water and snacks for the ride. As you are riding, be aware of your fatigue level. If you start feeling tired or worn out, take a break or call it a day and head toward home. Fatigue can slow down your reaction times and can lead to serious injuries while mountain biking.
5. Bring Supplies
Include a charged phone and a first-aid kit in your pack. It’s better to plan for an emergency than be unprepared in the middle of the woods. There is a chance if you get hurt on the trail, you may not have enough signal to call for help. Treating injuries with a first-aid kit can be lifesaving until you can access professional help.
6. Check the Trail Conditions
Know the trail guidelines and conditions before you go by checking the weather and trail updates before you go.