Mountain biking is one of the most popular sports on the planet today. Sales of the rugged bikes have picked up so much in the past decade that you are just as likely to see one rolling around the streets of Manhattan, as you will the Andes Mountains. Adrenaline junkies are flocking to new corners of the globe to explore off the beaten track downhill runs. Before they had never seen a mountain bike, but now locations such as India, Bolivia, Tasmania, and Tanzania have their own tour operators and bike shops selling the same high quality equipment you will find in London or Sydney. You don’t even need to worry about your equipment, what to eat, or where to sleep most of the time. Many tour operators will already have it taken care of, thus leaving your concentration on why you actually came in the first place: to ride.
Mountain Biking Basics
The biggest difference between road cycling and mountain biking is the type of path you are riding. Although you can mountain bike on roads, the prime territory is off road, dirt tracks. While touring, riding long trips, is geared more toward cyclists, mountain biking is often don in short yet intense spurts. Trips can last weeks, though you won’t cover nearly as much distance as you would on a touring bike. Generally speaking, with a mountain bike you are not trying to ride across an entire country, but rather you will climb and descend a particular mountain range or region.
The options for where you should ride a mountain bike are exhausting on their own. Considering the best trails have some level of incline, places with hills and mountains are usually best. Ski runs in the off-season are good bets, as are sand dunes, hiking trails, and national parks.
Mountain Biking - Beginners
The amateur mountain bike rider generally avoids extremely steep or bumpy terrain. This doesn’t necessarily mean sticking to flat, well-paved roads, but more that some degree of caution should be used when choosing a route. Mountain biking can be dangerous, especially if you try to ride on a difficult trail. The sport can be highly technical and only experienced riders should attempt certain trails.
The length of time is also a concern for beginners. If this is your first serious biking adventure, maybe stick on the shorter side, maybe even a day trip. Many tours run just a few hours and will focus on a short trail. The amateur can run multi-day trips though, even in extreme altitudes in the world’s highest mountain ranges. They won’t have the option of every trail, but light to intermediate riding is possible almost anywhere.
Mountain Biking - Advanced
Changes in altitude found all across the planet, from calf burning climbs to 3,000 foot downhill descents, and these are where you will most likely find the advanced cyclist. Advanced cyclist often choose daring adventures that climax their previous ones by covering heading into the mountains for steep climbs and descents. The Alps, the Himalayas, and the Andes are all prime stomping ground for these adrenaline junkies.
The better the chance of falling and rolling down a hill, the more daring the adventure, the more heart pumping, and fist pounding a run the better for the advanced mountain biker. An advanced rider may get a ride with a helicopter to the top of a run (aka heli-biking) or they may have a 4x4 take them to the start of a trail. These riders, when they do go with a tour operator, only go with the best. They read biking magazines and buy energy bars by the case. They are particular about their equipment and may even have theirs shipped in from overseas, something that most bike shops in the western world can explain. The advanced mountain biker lives and breathes the sport and they carry their enthusiasm with them wherever they go.