Sunday, December 25, 2011

Beginner Mountain Bike Skills

Mountain biking is an exciting sport that can be enjoyed by anyone who knows how to ride a bike. Compared to the average bike ride, it does present some danger.  Therefore, you should master these basic skills before you hit the trails or the dirt. 

You can practice these beginning skills at a local park, school, bike path, or simply around your house. If you can, try to find a location with a steep hill.

Get a feel for your pedals
Practice moving your foot away from the pedal, first while sitting on your bike with one foot on the ground. Next, move on to releasing and replacing your foot while pedaling around for a bit.  Those with toe clip and clipless type foot pedals will want to spend a bit more time practicing.

Sit and spin for position
Simply sit on your bike and pedal around. You should keep your arms slightly bent. You should also adjust your seat height so your leg is 70 to 90 percent extended at the bottom of every stroke on the pedal.  Keep your body relaxed, as there will never be a position where you should have either your knees or your elbows locked.

Shifting gears
Get a feel for shifting gears with your bike.  The higher gears are harder to pedal and will go faster while the lower gears are easier to pedal and will help you ascend hills.  As you get to steeper hills, its best to shift before you get to the hill rather than while your on it.

You should spend a bit of time coasting while standing on your pedals, without actually sitting on the seat.  Keep your arms bent but don't lock your knees.  Now, try experimenting with shifting your body towards the rear end of the bike.

Pedal while standing
You should get as comfortable as you can with pedaling while standing on your bike.  Try lifting yourself off the seat while standing on the pedals, then crank them around.  You should try this in higher gears on flat ground then again in lower gears while on a hill.

Dropping down a curb
Try finding a curb where you can easily get to the upper portion of it.  Practice at a moderate speed, standing and coasting right off the curb from the upper level to the lower level.  Try this at different speeds until it becomes second nature.

Once you practice these techniques and get the hang of them, you'll be able to hit the trails feeling comfortable on your mountain bike.  Even though it may take some getting used to, it'll become second nature before you know it.

Buying A Mountain Bike

It can be a bit frustrating as well as time consuming when you buy a mountain bike.  Below, you'll find some tips and things to be aware of before you lay down the cash and buy a mountain bike.

Determining your price
There is really no limit as to how much money you can spend on a new mountain bike.  To help you keep your spending under control, you should figure out what your price range is and how much your willing to pay for a new bike.  When you buy, you shouldn't buy from mass merchant stores such as Wal-Mart.  You should instead support your local bike shop and get a much better bike and much better service.

Finding your style
All mountain bikes are designed with several different riding styles and terrain types in mind.  You'll need to figure out what type of riding you will be doing the most.  Smooth riding, cross country racing, mountain cruising, or lift accessed downhill is something you need to figure out.  Make sure that the bike you select fits your personal style and not that of the sale's staff.

Full suspension or hard tail
If you can afford it, a full suspension mountain bike is always worth the purchase.  A hard tail, without rear suspension, is much lighter weight and pedal more efficiently, although full suspensions offer more comfort and overall better control. You'll want to make that decision based on your price range, riding style, and the type of terrain you'll be riding on the most.

Finding your favorites
Comparing mountain bikes component to component is nearly impossible, as there are far too many combinations available.  The best way to go about doing this is finding a few components that are the most important to you and making sure the rest or the minimums fall within your price range.  You can start with the fork then look at the wheels and rear derailleur.

Sales and seasons
During the year, the prices of mountain bikes can fluctuate quite a bit.  Spring through summer is the main buying season.  If you can wait until the right price pops up, normally in the fall and winter, you can save a couple hundred dollars.  Many bike shops will also offer discounts or other accessories if you buy from them. 

Finding a good dealer
Finding a good bike dealer is more important than finding the best price. You should always find a dealer that cares more about selling you a great bike than selling you a high priced one. A great dealer will have a clean repair shop and give you the impression that you can really trust them.

Test ride
You should test ride as many bikes as you can within your price range and riding style.  You'll find that some bikes will feel right, while others won't. The more bikes you can test drive, you better you'll understand what works and what doesn't.

Doing the research
Product reviews and bike reviews are some of the best ways to find out about a mountain bikes reliability and overall performance. You should always look at what other owners and reviews think about a bike before you make that final purchase.

Clothes For Winter Riding

Mountain biking in cold weather has always been a challenge.  The problem is that you'll start out cold then warm up and break a sweat, making yourself wet.  Then, when you travel downhill, the combination of wet skin and windchill will be quite chilling. 

Below, you'll find a list of the cold weather clothing that will make winter riding less of a bone chilling experience.

In cold temperatures, your feet are the most vulnerable part of your anatomy.  Pressure from pedaling will tend to cut off the circulation to your toes, which can put you at a risk of frostbite. In cold conditions, neoprene booties are a must have. They will zip over your shoes and even have a pattern in the sole where you can cut out a piece for cleats.

There are several manufacturers that make "lobster gloves", a hybrid glove that separates your index finger and thumb from the rest of your hand.  These gloves are warmer than regular gloves, and the distinct index finger will allow you to operate your shifting and brake levers.

In case your hands get cold, you should carry a pair of lightweight glove liners will you as well.  If you have to stop to take care of a problem, the liners will protect your hands from the cold.

Glasses that wraparound and provide maximum protection from the wind are best to wear in the winter.  You can protect yourself from debris, as well as the cold.

You should wear heavy socks although not to heavy.  A sock that is overly heavy will make your shoes tight,
cut off circulation, even make your feet cold.  You should try lightweight socks, as they will keep your feet warm without bulk.  If you need an extra layer, try silk ski socks as they are very warm and also extra lightweight.

Polypropylene is the best material here, as it is lightweight and best for colder temperatures.

Wind protection
Moving air is the biggest cause for losing body heat.  By having good wind protection you'll be able to vent perspiration while also protecting yourself from windchill.  You should choose pants and a jacket based on durability, breathing, and price as these types of clothing can get very experience.

Helmet and liners
Your head is very important, as you lose 50% of your body heat through your head. A helmet is designed to keep you cool in the summer, not warm in the winter. A fleece liner inside your helmet will keep your head and ears warm during winter riding.

Cross Country Mountain Biking

Cross country mountain biking is cross country at its finest.  Where free riders and downhill bikers use four wheel bikes and ski lifts to get them to their destination, cross country bikers get to the top of the mountain by the ride. Though free riding is very popular, the life vein of the sport has always been cross country biking.

Just as cross country riders are a different breed, the bikes they ride are as well.  The cross country bike is completely different in many ways from other types of mountain riding bikes.  The premise for cross country riders is speed.  Everything about their bikes revolve with the idea of making the bikes faster and faster.

Bikes used in cross country mountain biking can be fully rigid frame, hardtails, or even full suspension frames.  Through the years, the cross over to full suspension has become very popular.

The weight difference between free ride bikes and cross country bikes are considerable. You'll be extremely hard pressed to find a bike that weighs more than 24 pounds, and even that weight can be heavy.  Free ride bkes weigh close to 40 pounds, which makes the difference in weight pretty close.

If you've never tried cross country mountain biking, you'll probably find it to be a break from the ordinary.  Even though this type of biking involves trails, it's normally the type of terrain that beginners wouldn't want to ride. Involving hills and rough terrain, cross country biking offers quite the rush.

For mountain bikers everywhere, cross country is the way to go.  It offers you a new assortment of bikes, new areas to bike, and a new twist to mountain biking as you know it.  If you've been looking for a mountain biking rush, cross country mountain biking is what you need to be experiencing.

Different Types of Mountain Bikes

With mountain biking being a very popular sport, there are many bikes to choose from.  Depending on what type of riding you like, the style of bikes you can choose from will vary.  Below, you'll find tips on the different types of bikes available.

1.  Cross country
Almost all mountain bikes will fit into this category. Cross country mountain bikes are light weight, making them easy to ride over most terrains, even up and down hills.  This is the most common mountain bike and it can be used with ease for riding on the path or even commuting.

2.  Downhill
These types of bikes are for serious bikers who crave the ultimate adventure.  Downhill bikes have front and rear suspension, strong parts, and disc brakes.  Rarely available off the shelf, most riders like to custom build their own.

3.  Trials
Trail mountain biking involves a great degree of skill and is classified as the precision riding of the sport.  Similiar to downhill bikes, trial riders will often build their own bikes rather than purchase one off a shelf.  Generally very light and very strong, these bikes require a lot of discipline.

4.  Jump and slalom
Slalom and jump bikes are very strong and designed for jumping, street racing, and slalom.  They offer a front suspension and use very strong components dedicated to what they do.  These bikes are very popular with the sport of mountain biking.

Even if you are new to mountain biking, the sport can be a lot of fun.  There are several bikes to choose  from, all of which depend on your style.  If you are still looking for the best style for you, all you have to do is try out several bikes and see which one suites you the best.

Disc Brakes Or Rim Brakes

This can be a very important decision when you are buying a mountain bike.  There are actually two answers to the question of disc brakes or rim brakes.

If you want better, more consistent brake performance in all conditions, disc brakes are what you should be choosing.  On the other hand, if you want the lightest set up you can have and you are willing to accept small variances in brake performance, or you want the lowest price possible, rim brakes are what you should be choosing.

Over the years, mountain bikes have gone through many design changes.  They started out with the original cantilever brakes, then went through the U Brake years, and are now with V Brakes.  In most conditions, the V Brakes seem to work well.

In wet or muddy conditions, rim brakes will perform poorly.  Over time, they can wear right through the side of your rim, causing the side of the rim to blow right off. 

Disc brakes on the other hand have been around for a long time in cars but weren't used on bikes much until the late 1990's.  There were some issues in the earlier models, although the cable actuated or hydraulic brakes of today seem to work quite well.

In terms of performance, disc brakes seem to work better than rim brakes, especially in wet or muddy areas.  Disc brakes normally require less force to apply and aren't effected by the rim or wheel condition.

Cost is an issue, as disk brake systems tend to be more expensive than rim brakes.  Mechanical or cable actuated brakes are a closer match, although they will still cost more.  Hydraulic brakes on the other hand cost a lot more.

When you make that final choice, weight out the above options then make your decision. Some riders prefer
disc brakes, while others prefer rim brakes - making it a matter of opinion.

Framing Materials

The cost of a mountain bike frame is proportionate to its material, as well as the treatment that material has received.  Currently, there are five types of material used in mountain bikes - high tensile steel, chromoly steel, aluminum, titanium, and carbon fiber.  Oversized diameters, heat treating, and butting are tubing material treatments that will increase the cost of a frame as well.

High tensile steel
This is a very durable alloy that's found in lower priced mountain bikes.  It offers a high carbon content which makes it less stiff than chromoly steel, so more materials are needed to make it stiff enough for bicycle frames, which will in turn make it that much heavier.

Relatively inexpensive to produce, you'll find this material in trail bikes, city bikes, and even entry level mountain bikes.  There are some bikes that come with a chromoly seat tube, while the rest is high tensile steel.

Chromoly steel
Short for steel alloy, chromoly is best described by its major additives - chromium and molybdenum. This is probably the most refined framing material, giving over 100 years of dependable service. 

Depending on the type of heat treating and butting, you can find this material in bikes as low as 400 dollars all the way up to 1,500 and beyond.  The chromoly steel material offers very good durability and a compliant ride characteristic.

For the past 15 years, aluminum has been refined in pretty much the same way as chromoly. There have been various alloys developed, as well as heat treatment, oversizing, and butting.  With dual suspension bikes, aluminum is the preferred material as it's the stiffest and most cost effective.

Aluminum is stiffer than chromoly, and therefore it will crack before chromoly.  Of course, this depends on how you ride and how much abuse you give the frame. The advantages of aluminum is that the frame is very light and very stiff through oversizing or butting.

Even thought it's somewhat exotic, the prices for this material have come down over the last few years. Frames made of titanium remain expensive because it takes longer to weld the tubes to the frame.

Titanium is considered an alloy, normally mixed with small amounts of vanadium and aluminum to give it better weldability and ride characteristics.  More compliant than chromoly, it offers better fatigue and corrosion properties. 

The material you choose for your bike, all depends on where you ride and what style you use. Almost all materials will last you for years, as long as you take care of your bike and treat the frame with some respect.