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Mountain biking facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
20110825 OH H1013410 0091 - Flickr - NZ Defence Force
Mountain biking through woods

Mountain biking is the sport of riding bicycles off-road. Often this is done over rough terrain. Mountain biking uses specially designed mountain bikes. Mountain bikes are similar to other bikes, but have features designed to make them stronger and hold up in rough terrain.

Mountain biking can generally be broken down into multiple categories. These include cross country, trail riding, all mountain (also referred to as "Enduro"), downhill, freeride and dirt jumping. However, the majority of mountain biking falls into the categories of trail and cross country riding styles.

This individual sport requires the rider to have endurance, core strength and balance. The rider also needs bike handling skills, and self-reliance. Advanced riders take on steep technical descents and high incline climbs. Mountain biking can be performed almost anywhere from a back yard to a gravel road, but the majority of mountain bikers ride off-road trails. Using the bike's brakes must be done carefully on a mountain bike, especially when going downhill. In order to work on rough terrain, mountain bikes have several gears from which to choose. Mountain biking should be done so as to enjoy the ride but not damage the environment.



HardtailMountainBike 2010 Specialized Rockhopper
A hardtail mountain bike
Example all-mountain MTB
A dual suspension or full suspention moumtain bike, 'all-mountain' mountain bike
All Mountain Mountain Bike
Typical more stout all-mountain bike on rough terrain
  • Mountain bikes differ from other bikes primarily in that they incorporate features aimed at increasing durability and improving performance in rough terrain. Most modern mountain bikes have some kind of suspension, 26, 27.5 or 29 inch diameter tires, usually between 1.7 and 2.5┬áinches in width, and a wider, flat or upwardly-rising handlebar that allows a more upright riding position, giving the rider more control. They have a smaller, reinforced frame, usually made of wide tubing. Tires usually have a pronounced tread, and are mounted on rims which are stronger than those used on most non-mountain bicycles. Compared to other bikes, mountain bikes also tend to more frequently use hydraulic disc brakes. They also tend to have lower ratio gears to facilitate climbing steep hills and traversing obstacles. Pedals vary from simple platform pedals, where the rider simply places the shoes on top of the pedals, to clipless, where the rider uses a specially equipped shoe with a cleat that engages mechanically into the pedal.


  • Glasses with little or no difference from those used in other cycling sports, help protect against debris while on the trail. Filtered lenses, whether yellow for cloudy days or shaded for sunny days, protect the eyes from strain. Downhill and freeride mountain bikers often use goggles similar to motocross or snowboard goggles in unison with their full face helmets.
  • Shoes generally have gripping soles similar to those of hiking boots for scrambling over un-ridable obstacles, unlike the smooth-bottomed shoes used in road cycling. The shank of mountain bike shoes is generally more flexible than road cycling shoes. Shoes compatible with clipless pedal systems are also frequently used.
  • Clothing is chosen for comfort during physical exertion in the backcountry, and its ability to withstand falls. Road touring clothes are often inappropriate due to their delicate fabrics and construction. Depending on the type of mountain biking, different types of clothes and styles are commonly worn. Cross-country mountain bikers tend to wear lycra shorts and tight road style jerseys due to the need for comfort and efficiency. Downhill riders tend to wear heavier fabric baggy shorts or moto-cross style trousers in order to protect themselves from falls. All mountain/enduro riders tend to wear light fabric baggy shorts and jerseys as they can be in the saddle for long periods of time.
  • Hydration systems are important for mountain bikers in the backcountry, ranging from simple water bottles to water bags with drinking tubes in lightweight backpacks (e.g., Camelbaks).
  • GPS systems are sometimes added to the handlebars and are used to monitor progress on trails.
  • Pump to inflate tires.
  • CO2 Inflator with Cartridge to inflate a tubeless tire.
  • Bike tools and extra bike tubes are important, as mountain bikers frequently find themselves miles from help, with flat tires or other mechanical problems that must be handled by the rider.
  • High-power lights based on LED technology, especially for mountain biking at night.

Protective gear

The level of protection worn by individual riders varies greatly and is affected by speed, trail conditions, the weather, experience, fitness, desired style and numerous other factors, including personal choice. Protection becomes more important where these factors may be considered to increase the possibility or severity of a crash.

A helmet and gloves are usually regarded as sufficient for the majority of non-technical riding. Full-face helmets, goggles and armored suits or jackets are frequently used in downhill mountain biking, where the extra bulk and weight may help mitigate the risks of bigger and more frequent crashes.

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