Extreme Mountain Biking
Extreme mountain biking is a fantastic, high adrenaline, sport/recreational activity that is undertaken by thousands of adventure seekers all around the world. The term extreme mountain biking is a rather flexible one as extreme mountain biking can be performed in one’s own backyard or a mountain or cliff that is far away from civilization.
In the sections below, we will quickly talk to you about where extreme mountain biking originated, the types of mountain biking and will also give you a few pointers on how you can get started with this sport.
The history of extreme mountain biking
Extreme mountain biking or even just mountain biking is a relatively new sport, with a history that goes back only about 30-40 years. Though people attempted the sport in small numbers, in Europe, as early as the 1970’s, it wasn’t until the 1980’s that the sport slowly started to become popular.
In fact, it wasn’t until 1981 when a company saw that there was enough demand for the sport to make a production mountain bike, one would that would be strong and durable enough for tough terrain. The first mountain bike that was mass produced was a bike called Stumpjumper, made by a company called Specialized. Specialized is still around and the Stumpjumper is still one of the most popular mountain bikes out there, even though its current day designs are very different from the one used in 1981.
Extreme mountain biking slowly picked up pace in the 90’s and then exploded as a sport/recreation activity after the year 2000. It was even included as an official sport in the Olympics, making its debut as a sport in the 1996 Olympics.
Types of extreme mountain biking
As mentioned earlier, extreme mountain biking can be enjoyed in a wide variety of terrains. Some terrains will be relatively easy while some are downright dangerous and only attempted by those who have a lot of experience in mountain biking. Here is a quick run through on the types of mountain biking trails.
Cross Country – These are often referred to as XC mountain bike trails. It usually uses a loop circuit that goes through and up and down terrain. Though some cross country trails can be quite difficult to negotiate, most people get their start into extreme mountain biking by trying their hand with XC trials.
Downhill – These are commonly referred to as DH trails and definitely fall under the hardcore extreme mountain biking trails. As the name suggests, a biker will have to start at the top of a steep trail and then basically race or simply ride down the train, using skill, strength and amazing body coordination to balance and control their bike as it hurtles down the trail at great speeds. In extreme DH trails, the rider may encounter jumps that are as long as 40 feet and also deal with 10 foot drops. Obviously, the bikes used for this type of extreme mountain biking are usually heavy and expensive, due to the fact that they use high performance parts like large disc brakes, extra heavy-duty shocks and so on.
Trials – This is a type of adapted extreme mountain biking. It is often set in urban environments where man made obstacles are used to create a course that will require a lot of jumping and hopping on the bike. This type of extreme mountain biking will really test the balance of the rider and special mountain bikes are sold just for this purpose. Some of these bikes will not even have a saddle on which the biker can sit on as the rider will have to be in a standing position to get the best balance on the bike.
Dirt jumping – Dirt jumping is often conducted in dirt trails that are specifically built for extreme mountain biking. Riders who are into this variation of mountain biking enjoy the dramatic jumps they experience when they take off a bump in the dirt path. There are some natural environments that will allow for this type of biking although they are few and far between. Artificial bike trails are where this sport is extremely popular. Some riders within this sport take the thrill factor to another level by performing stunts while airborne. Stunts like backflips, 360’s, 180’s and reverse variations of 360’s and 180’s are very popular. X-Games routinely have contests for such bikers.
Freeride – When you go to an extreme mountain biking store that sells mountain bikes, you will invariably see freeride mountain bikes. As the name suggests, these bikes are equipped to handle a wide variety of extreme mountain biking terrains. Though they won’t be optimized for all the terrains, they do give you the best bike to enjoy all kinds of mountain biking.
How can one get into mountain biking?
If you are interested in extreme mountain biking or any form of mountain biking for that matter, you must first equip yourself. Buy yourself a good quality mountain bike and all the protective equipment that you will need. You must always remember that almost every mountain bike rider would have crashed at some point of time. It is inevitable and it is imperative that you are well protected. Gloves, helmets, glasses, body suits and good riding shoes are a must.
Another very important thing to remember about extreme mountain biking is that you will have to know a few things about fixing your bikes. Mountain bikes, though extremely well built, will have constant niggling problems that you will need to fix. There is no point in driving to a mountain bike course about 50 miles away from your home, only to have a small accident that will render your bike useless. Knowledge about repairing your bike is extremely important if you are going to be riding alone.
Lastly, always start slow with extreme mountain biking. Go to XC trails that are easy and do many practice runs to get comfortable with your bike. It would be very silly to try downhill racing or dirt jumping straight away, as you are invariably going to have a bad fall that might put you out of the sport for several months, with a broken arm or leg.