By: Mayson Zimmermann, Master Bike Tech, REI Baybrook
Today’s bikes are completely different from the bikes that existed 30 years ago. Companies have come up with lighter, faster, and more comfortable components. One of the biggest improvements over the years that many people fail to recognize is safety. Crashing your bike is almost part of the sport. It’s how you learn and grow to become a better rider. You can’t completely prevent a crash, but you can minimize the affects by having proper gear and knowledge of trail safety.
Most people know the number one trail safety rule is to wear a helmet. However, they only work if you use them correctly. Having a helmet that fits properly is crucial. Helmets come in many sizes with different ways to ensure a tight yet comfortable fit. As a result, make sure you check the fit of the helmet before purchasing one. Technology has advanced considerably over the last few decades for protecting your head such as MIPS and
Wavecell, so consider investing a little more into your helmet especially if you’re planning on some technical rides in the future. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Before hitting a trail, make sure that your bike is working properly. Take a quick spin around the neighborhood first, making sure to test out your brakes and shifting as well as listening for any abnormal sounds. If anything is wrong, it’ll be better to figure out now rather than on the trail. Lower your tire pressure to get more traction to the ground keeping in mind the
minimum psi written on the sidewall of your tire. You want to avoid a wipeout, but you don’t want to cause one by having your tire go flat.
Now that you’re ready to ride, you need to look at yourself. You want to be seen when you’re on your bike, so make sure you are wearing bright colored clothing that stands out. Keep flashing daytime running lights on your bike to increase your visibility both during the day and night.
Before you hit the trails, it’s a good idea to have a backpack with proper supplies to prepare you for the trail. Make sure to have plenty of water (most people like to use a hydration reservoir). Especially with these hot Texas summers, it is crucial to stay hydrated. Other basic things to keep in your backpack include a cell phone, a small first aid kit, energy snacks, rain gear (if needed), a flashlight/headlamp, and sunscreen. Sunglasses aren’t only useful for keeping the sun out of your eyes. They also keep small rocks and other debris out as well, so definitely make sure to have a pair handy.
Expect things to happen when you’re on trail, so some preplanning is necessary for an enjoyable day outside. Trails can be harsh on a bike, so be prepared for technical failures. Have some back up parts such as tubes, tire patch kit, tire pump, duct tape, tire levers, and a small multi-tool. If you are running tubeless, make sure to have some extra sealant. If you need to stop, make sure to pull the bike off of the trail so that you aren’t obstructing the trail for other riders coming through behind you.
If there is a trail you haven’t tried before, make sure to walk it first, so that you are prepared for any sharp turns or drops that may cause an accident. Make sure to never ride any trails that are wet or soft because you can potentially harm yourself and tear up the trail. Make sure you are keeping your speed at a safe level. Never push yourself past your ability to where you no longer feel in control. Not only does this put yourself at risk, but it puts others around you at risk as well. Always be aware of your surroundings for children or off leash animals nearby. Not everyone understands the danger of bike trails, so make sure to keep alert.
If you are listening to music while riding, make sure to never have both ear buds in. This will make it difficult to hear your surroundings. Many people will call a verbal warning if they are passing you or if anything is wrong. It would be silly to crash just because you were jamming out too hard.
Lastly, always read the rules of each trail/park. Every trail is different and they set these rules to protect you and others. Mountain biking is an extremely fun sport, but it has its dangers. By being prepared, you are setting yourself up for a good experience and more time on the trail, which is what we all strive for.