Did you know that mountain biking was recognized as an Olympic sport in 1996 at the Atlanta Games? Since then, a cross country event is held at every Olympics. Mountain biking is an activity that involves riding a bicycle on many different off-road trails. To take upon this sport you need to be strong, and well balanced, and have endurance and technical skills.
You go through rough terrains and knowing how to navigate will be of great help. Mountain bikers are looking for adrenalin rushes, they cross obstacles and go through challenging paths like downhills, loose rocks, steep ascends and water crossings. This way they’re testing and challenging their abilities all the time.
It’s a dynamic sport that activates the whole body and gives it the necessary exercise. Your legs get a nice workout, your heart and lungs get stronger, and when you manoeuvre the handles and turn the bike around, your upper body gets exercise as well. Plus, it’s a good activity for relieving stress and improving your mental health. Another good thing is that you can go mountain biking throughout the whole year. Just avoid icy paths, which can be dangerous, and you’ll be okay.
What’s the Equipment?
Like any other sport, mountain biking requires its own riding and safety equipment. It starts with the proper bicycle, specially created and manufactured for this specific sport. Proper footwear in the form of sturdy mountain bike shoes that are waterproof is just as essential. And then there are helmets and protective glasses that are something you also can’t ride without. They’re basic safety equipment together with knee pads, elbow pads and riding gloves.
Men and women’s mountain bikes can have a couple of differences in frame size, type of saddle, size of the wheels and the dimension of the hand bars. Manufacturers make these differences under the assumption that women are smaller in size than men. Oftentimes, on women’s bikes, the top tube is slightly curved so shorter women can straddle the bike. Theoretically, women have shorter torsos than men, so these bikes have a shorter reach and a higher rise.
Again, under the assumption that women weigh less than men, the suspension is made plusher and smoother. The real difference that matters is the saddle type. Women have wider hips and sitting area so a wider saddle would be more comfortable. And finally, colour. Manufacturers often make women mountain bikes in bright “girly” colours, pink, light blue, red, or purple. Although this is not such an important factor, some women like to have these specific colours in hand.
Shoes too can be different for men and women. You could go with regular shoes at the beginning, but eventually, you’ll have to upgrade and buy trail-specific mountain bike cycling shoes. They are designed to fit the pedals of the bike and give you full support. Men have wider feet than women, so the main model difference is in the width.
The women’s MTB shoes have a narrow toe box compared to men. But if you have wider feet, buying from the men’s section won’t be an issue. Many manufacturers produce and sell unisex footwear that can fit all genders. Whatever you buy, make sure the shoes are comfortable. No one wants to have cramped toes during their biking session. This can influence blood flow in the legs and cause issues during the ride.
The protection levels around the toes and heels should be higher to keep you safe from rocks, roots and falls. Sole support is very important. The inner sole provides arch support and the outer sole holds the grip to the pedal. Although sometimes overlooked, mountain bike cycling shoes are a must-have because they are the connection between you and the bike. Comfort and performance should be the top priorities that guide you through the choosing process.
As men and women’s physique is different so is the clothing they wear. The shorts are loose-fitting and you’ll need to wear them over a liner short, also known as chamois, for added comfort. The material they’re made of is usually a combination of polyester, spandex ,and nylon. The ultimate goal of the clothing is to protect your skin if you crash, against vegetation and abrasions.
Shorts can be different in style, material, storage space, fit and length. Both men and women need to find the right combination of these features to have the perfect cycling shorts. As for the chamois, you can get thinner or thicker depending on the length of the ride.
If you go on a shorter trip, thinner ones will do better, whereas for a longer ride thicker chamois are perfect. Their purpose is to provide cushioning and ventilation for our bodies. The main differences between men and women’s shorts are the cut, the sizing and the padding. The same thing goes for shirts and jackets. The different body structure defines the shape of the clothing.
For example, women’s jackets are more fitted in the waist and have a wider chest area, and men’s jackets will have a broader back and wider shoulders. Overall, the most important thing is for the materials to be breathable and quick-drying. You don’t want to ride in dump clothing, especially if you go on a longer ride.
If you have the right biking accessories of quality your ride will be easier and more comfortable. Each of them has its own function and purpose that only makes the ride smoother, and even having the right sleeping tent or sleeping bag for longer journeys will be beneficial. Pick what works best for you.
All mountain bikers agree that wearing a helmet is not an option, you have to do it. Accidents happen and keeping our heads protected is a priority. Even a small crash can have a big impact on our health. Because the skull of men and women isn’t very much different, helmets are mostly unisex. The main differences would be in colour and maybe design. Sizing is usually S, M and L measured in centimetres. Before buying one, make sure you try it on to see if it fits well.
Gloves are a great way to protect your hands from chafing and blisters caused by the constant friction of your hand and the handlebars. They also help you with the grip. During the ride, your hands could get sweaty, or rain will make them wet, so gloves will prevent them from slipping and you’ll have bigger control of the bike. You can go with fingerless or standard designs, depending on your preferences and the weather conditions you ride in.
Knee and Elbow Pads
Knee and elbow pads are other important pieces of safety equipment for men and women. From when we were kids, we all remember how painful it is to fall from your bike. Now imagine the same situation but with a higher speed and a rougher terrain. Broken bones, strained muscles, stitches, and bruises are common injuries in mountain biking, luckily these pads are here to lower the risks and soften the blow.
Sunglasses will not only protect your eyes from the sun, but also from dust and dirt. You could use standard everyday sunglasses, but if you go on longer rides, biking glasses will be perfect. Some of them even have changeable lenses for different weather and light conditions.
Mountain bikers recommend always having a hydration pack when you go on a ride, even if it’s a short one. This way you can have water, tools, first aid, maps and other accessories with you. Sometimes, you’ll even help a biker friend out if they’re in trouble. Knowing what to have with you and how to behave in different situations will be of great help.