Sunday, February 8, 2009

How to Prepare for Winter Mountain Biking Adventure

Mountain biking is more commonly done during summer. But if you feel like riding during the cold season where everyone is hibernating in their homes, you are free to do so. But just like any other winter activities, certain preparation is necessary to ensure the safety of every member of your team.

I said "team" because I don't recommend you, conquering any trail alone. You must have at least one riding companion. The following are the general ways to prepare for your winter biking adventure:

Be physically fit
One of the better ways to stay safe while on the trail is to prepare for it physically. Design a training plan that includes weight training to develop strength and cardio activities to improve your endurance. Do it at least 3 times a week for one or two months before your scheduled trip. I recommend that you train with your group members. Avoid alcohol and smoking. Get enough sleep and rest.

Moreover, mountain biking skill and physical fitness vary so before setting out, know each member's strengths and weakness. Never try anything that is beyond the ability of the weakest person. Stick together as a group. Do not allow any member to be left behind and go ahead of the main party.

Know the trail. The worst thing that can happen to you out there is to be on an accident. Once you have identified where you want to ride your bike, do your homework. Get a map of the trail at least a week before your actual trip and know where sharp curves, steep descends, and dangerous areas are.

Get the weather report.
Winter season can have unpredictable weather patterns - especially on high altitude areas. Get an extended forecast. Do not forget to check with authorities. Forrest rangers know their areas very well. They carry important information about the trail, the condition of the place and the possible problems that may occur so you may prepare for it.

Bring the necessary equipment
The items you should bring depend on the condition of the trail and the proximity of the trail from your home. But there are things that are mandatory to bring: sufficient food and water, puncture kit (spare inner tube, pump, patches and glue), basic tool kit for bike repair, flashlights, and first aid kit. You should also carry an identification and medical info, map, compass (GPS if you have one), money, bike headlight, matches, whistle, and cellular phone or satellite phone.

Wear proper clothes
Whether you are planning to stay overnight on the trail or go back to your home at the end of the day, never take clothes for granted. Wear jacket or windbreaker that is suited for the temperature. Clothes that are compact, lightweight and can resist freezing temperature should be in your backpack. Keep your toes and fingers well-insulated. An outdoor blanket is a must if you are going out for days.

Let your family or friends know where you are
List your itineraries and give it you your family or friends who will be left behind. List down each member's name, addresses and contact persons in case of emergency, license plate of the vehicle you are using (if there is any), and expected time of return.

Have fun and be safe!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Gift Ideas for Mountain Biking Enthusiasts

If you are trouble with what gift to give for a friend, a relative or a love one, the best source of idea is his or her hobby. If he or she loves mountain biking, here are some gift ideas to take note of:

While it is nice to have a floor pump ready in the garage, most flat-outs happen on the trail. In fact, it is the most common problem bikers experience. Portable or mini air-pump is a real life saver. So if you know that he or she doesn't carry a mini pump while on the trail, consider this as your first gift choice. Throw in a pressure gauge too. Or better yet, buy a mini air-pump with built-in pressure gauge.

Spare Inner Tube
At any given point, mountain bikers can experience a flat. Sometimes, tires get ruptured beyond repair and must be replaced while in the trail. It would really help if you buy spare inner tube as a gift to save your biker friend from walking a long way down the mountain carrying his bike in case he hits a nasty bump.

Trail multi-tool
Aside from portable air-pump, every mountain biker should carry a trail multi-tool in case of breakdown while on the trail. There are different kinds of trail-multi tool on the market. I suggest that you buy one that has a built-in chain tool.

Sunglasses function as protection from dust, insects, and other particles that can enter the eyes while riding. They also serve as filter and light enhancer. Go for functional and stylish sunglasses.

Wearing a pair of gloves is a must during riding. It protects the biker's palms and fingers during crash. As a gift, it is something that bikers can't have too many of.

A backpack that can house everything a biker needs is another gift option.

Water Bottle or Hydration Pack
A stylish water bottle is another gift idea that you cannot get wrong with as any style, size and color will do. Hydration pack with bladder on the other hand has gained more popularity as it is more convenient to drink from and has enough room for the biker's snack, pump and tools at the same time.

Mountain Bike Apparel
This is easy and probably the safest way to make him or her happy. Bike shirts, jackets and shorts are most appreciated. There are hundreds of types and several brands to choose from. All you need to do is to know his size and his taste.

Figuring out which part of your friend's bike needs to be upgraded is the tricky part. But you can easily get a clue during conversation. If it is the bike that is the topic, you can always casually ask the parts that he or she wants to get replaced. It can be a surprise if you secretly bring it to the bike shop and have something upgraded.

A New Bike
Feeling extremely generous? Why not give him or her a brand new bike? But don't just go a bike dealer and point on one bike on display (or browse online and buy the first bike on the list). You must know what he or she wants and needs. Have a casual talk or go to a bike dealer with him (or her) and observe his (or her) movements.

You will surely get a clue of what type of bike he or she wants.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Mountain Biking Basic Skills

Taking the first stride is always the hardest thing to do so I have compiled the basic mountain biking skills you should possess to get you started. For some, these are very obvious; for beginners, these are very helpful.

Brake better, go faster
Every sports car has 2 things in common: large engine and high-performance brakes. This way, even if it runs fast, it can slow down quickly. No sports car is eligible to run at high speed without having good set brakes. This should also be your principle when riding a mountain bike. If you want to improve your speed, invest on good set of brakes.

The Gear Factor
If you know how to drive a car, then you know how important it is to drive on the right gear. The same thing applies on a mountain bike. Low gears are easier to pedal, but slow on acceleration. High gears are much harder but will give you abrupt acceleration. Low gears will help you climb stiff hills. High gears will drive you fast on level terrain. Do not start on high gears. Start low and gradually increase as you gain speed.

The Instant Turn
If you are about to hit a tree, a car or a large rock, you have to learn how to make a quick turn. To turn sharply to the left, steer sharply to the right. This will make your body lean to the left. Then make a hard left turn, steering into the lean and away from your obstacle. While this takes some practice, it can be very useful on emergency situations. Ease up on the rear brake if your rear tire begins to skid. Ease up on the front brake if your rear tire lifts off the ground.

Slowing Down
Riding fast lessens your reaction time significantly. So if you need to slow down to avoid something in front of you, do the following procedures: Shift your body weight as far back as possible, lower your body as low as you can, and squeeze front and rear brakes evenly. Avoid hitting the brake hard if your body is not properly aligned with your bike or if you are making a turn.

I think I'm falling
Yeah, yeah… It may sound so cheesy but the fact is, there is nothing cheesy when your face is about to crash on the rocks and you are about to experience wipe-out of a lifetime. Aside from learning how to ride the bike, the second, most important things you should learn is how to take the fall. The key is alertness. Anticipate all the possible scenarios that can happen on the trail. While the best thing to do when you know you are about to fall is to slow down by braking, make sure that you have an escape route in case your brake fails. Do not go flying up into the air while sticking your arm to protect your fall. Instead, tuck your body and plan your fall – choose where to land best. Do not keep your eyes off the trail. Do not stiffen your muscles.

Practice is said to make one perfect. But in the case of crashing, there is no better way to make the perfect fall than by keeping in control at all times even if you are about to fall 30 feet down the cliff.