Mountain biking is a ton of fun and an amazing way to stay fit and healthy. Spending time outside in nature and feeling connected to the land is extremely rewarding. But sometimes, your beloved sport can rear up and bite you in the ass when you least expect it.
When things go wrong on a mountain bike they can happen incredibly quickly and without warning. Most accidents tend to happen during a lapse in concentrations. Wondering what you’re going to do for dinner, or looking forward to something you have to do later.
When incidents do happen on the bike they can be surprisingly impactful, despite happening during quite a slow or seemingly innocuous action or event.
To avoid being relegated to the couch due to an injury there’s a number of things we can pay attention to so that we can continue to ride through all seasons, especially the wet, slippery, aptly named, “Fall” season. Perhaps we should use the word Autumn instead!
Injuries When Mountain Biking
Now, it’s not wise to dwell on the dangers of mountain biking, but it sure can be helpful to at least be aware of them so you can mitigate the potential for a season ending injury.
No one is immune from the dreaded clavicle break, or collar bone injury. It’s likely one of the most “popular” injuries in the mountain biking world. If you’ve been riding mountain bikes for a few years there’s a strong chance you know what it feels like.
Injuries can occur through impact, or twisting, leading to either broken bones, or torn body parts. The risk of an injury is increased in certain trail conditions and it’s good to know how the bike handles in different circumstances.
Thinking too much about potential injuries can hold you back in the sport of mountain biking, so we don’t need to constantly hold this in our minds. It’s best to focus on a positive outcome and learn how to visualize our intentions but also be realistic in our self assessment of our skills.
So now we’ve hovered over injuries, let’s put them to the back of our mind and focus on the good stuff.
Changing Seasons = Changing Conditions
You’ve had an awesome Summer – you’ve not had an accident all year. You’re riding has gone from strength to strength and you’re taking on more and more difficult terrain. You’re developing in confidence on the bike and you’re enjoying your riding more than ever.
Each time you go out you seem to having more fun and getting faster. Biking has never been so awesome.
Summer turns to Autumn. Rain falls and the leaves start to drop. Puddles form in the trail and the conditions are different.
It’s time to Adjust your riding
With a change in the conditions of the trails, we will need to adjust our riding style and technique to remain safe.
What was safe in summer, may not be safe in Autumn. Here are some considerations in respect to the conditions and dangers on the altered trail.
Puddles on the trail
Water pooling on the trail may at first seem harmless, but have you considered what lurks beneath the surface of the water?
Is there small hole, or channel, perhaps there’s a root or stick in there laying across the trail at a sneaky 45 degree angle just waiting to send your bike sideways.
The best way to manage these puddles is to avoid them if possible, the issue with going around them however, is that is can make the trail condition worse and widen the puddle. So we have a couple of other options.
- Wheelie or manual the front wheel over the puddle – this method can eliminated the worst of the potential mishap of your front wheel hitting a root or rock and being pinged sideways sending you flying off the bike.
- Bunny hopping – with a little more forethought and panning and providing the puddle isn’t too long, you can bunny hop the puddle – clearing it completely which also has another added benefit of not getting your feet wet.
Leaves one the Trail
Those Maple leaves look pretty harmless – infact they look awesome! The colours are amazing and it feels great out on the trails. Despite the fun had cruising through leaves, we have a similar hidden danger as the puddles. Is there anything underneath them? Even a slug could cause that wheel to fire sideways slamming you in to the ground.
Jumping or wheeling over leaves is going to “leaf” you pretty tired after your ride, so what can we do to counteract this new danger?
The correct body position and the right amount of pressure on the bikes wheels can be your saviour here.
Learn how to unweight the bike or unweight the wheels independently of one another at the right time can save you an unexpected tumble.
Dirt is malleable. It moves as the weather touches it. It moves as people ride it. New roots appear and new holes. Berms collapse, features break.
You’re cruising down a trail you’ve ridden 2 or 3 times a week for the past 3 years and you know it well. You’re assuming everything is the same and so you’re super relaxed on your bike. Then all of a sudden a bump dislodges your hand from the handle bar right before you go over a drop. You go over the drop with only one hand on the bars crumpled over your stem – you land it, but then veer off into a stump and spend the next 3 hours in ER getting checked for broken ribs.
This happened to me this year. Thankfully nothing was broken but the pain was real.
You can’t afford to become complacent. Stay focused when you’re on the bike and keep your wits about you – especially as the water is re-carving the trails and creating new hazards.
Ice hiding on the Trail
I don’t need to go into too much detail on this one, as the heading is obvious. Think about the path of the sun and if the trail you’re riding has been exposed to it earlier in the day. If not, there’s a strong chance that you’re going to come across an ice patch.
Again – wheelies and weight distribution over the bike is your key to surviving this trail hazard.
Skills Brush Up
With all these hazards on the trails in-between seasons it’s worth building up your skills tool box. Booking into a mountain bike lesson can be extremely valuable in the amount of pain it can save you.
Knowing how to do a manual, or a front wheel lift can be the difference between a successfully completed ride or a trip to the hospital. If you’re not sure how to unweight your bike or to perform the more advanced manoeuvres then start to put the time in to work on those skills.
I’m always happy to help during a lesson, the more people I can teach to conquer trails safely the better.
Stay safe out there – keep riding and having fun – stay warm and I’ll see you on the mountain soon.