Extreme Mountain Biking: Gear And Safety

Extreme mountain biking is an adventurous hobby, and if you are going to take it on, you have to be safe. A good hard shell helmet is essential, as are pads and eye protection.

Extreme mountain biking is a style of bicycling that involves riding off-road on a very sturdy bike, usually with straight handlebars and wide tires. The sport originated in the United States in the 1970s. While the name may throw you off, mountain biking does not refer exclusively to riding on mountains - it encompasses any terrain off of paved roadways. In order to stay safe when you are mountain biking, it is very important that you have the right protective gear.

Your helmet is the most fundamental article of safety gear. Never ever ride a bike without a helmet on. You run the risk of severe head injury if you are in a collision, and in fact many deaths result each year as a result of helmet-less riding. For mountain bikers, helmets are especially important because they not only protect your head if you fall, but they also protect your head from any falling debris that you may encounter during your ride. Since mountain biking takes place off-road, there is a good chance that rocks could fall along the way, and you will be glad that your head is protected. Sometimes experienced riders will take the risk of riding without a helmet, and this is extremely unsafe. Many mountain bikers are thrill-seekers, but unless you have a death wish, wearing a helmet - at all times - is critical. There are two types of helmets to choose from - soft shell and hard shell. Soft shell helmets are not nearly as safe as hard shell because if you fall on your head while wearing a soft shell helmet, which is made of soft foam, the foam could get caught on something, and you could end up breaking your neck. Hard shell helmets, on the other hand, have a thin plastic surface, so they cannot be penetrated, and you will not run the risk of getting caught on something when you fall. Usually, mountain biking involves rough terrain, not smooth surfaces. Therefore, a hard shell helmet is the way to go. Truthfully, they are often more expensive than soft shell helmets, but you really can't put a price tag on your safety. Try on a few different helmets before you make your final decision. Make sure that it fits snugly, and that the straps can be fitted snugly as well.

Some people complain that wearing a helmet is uncomfortable, and it is true that it may feel a bit unnatural at first if you are not yet accustomed to wearing one, but after you have worn it for a while, you will adjust. Only buy helmets that have passed the Snell safety test - there will be a sticker inside your helmet stating that it has passed this test. Once you have chosen the helmet, you still have to ensure that you are wearing it properly. Do not let the helmet sit far back on your head. Doing so could result in severe frontal head injury or death. The helmet should be level on your head, like a bowl-style haircut. Also, do not ride without fastening the straps. If you fall, the helmet will fly off of your head and be totally ineffective - fasten the straps against your skin so that the helmet feels very secure. If you fall off your bike, and your helmet is hit hard, you should replace it.

In addition to your helmet, it is also advisable that you invest in safety gear for your elbows, knees, and eyes. You can find elbow and knee pads at your local sporting goods store, and you will be glad that you have them when you take your first spill. Sports goggles will keep your eyes safe from branches, bugs, and anything else that could impede your vision if it got into your eye while riding at high speeds. Gloves can also be helpful, since many times when you fall, you catch yourself on the palms of your hands.

For optimal safety when you are riding a mountain bike, you shouldn't ride alone. Think about it: if you are all by yourself, and you take a nasty spill on some off-road trail that might not get re-visited for days or more, you are in big trouble. The buddy system applies to so many areas of life, and mountain biking should definitely be one of them. When you are a beginner, you should stick to well-marked trails. Also, do not wear baggy clothes or strappy outfits when you are biking - loose fabric could get caught in the wheels and cause you to flip. If you are taking a long ride, bring water - you can mount a bottle holder on the bike. Be safe, and have fun!

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