Get Into Cross-Country Mountain Biking
All Mountain Biking involves a mixture of fitness and machine control. Getting started is often simply a case of getting a basic mountain bike (a simple Cross-Country hardtail is ideal) and going out and exploring the local countryside. Bicycles can legally use bridleways and Britain has a superb network of these - learn to read a map and get out and enjoy yourself.
Riding competently off-road is a skill which develops through experience and practice. The very best riders can perform miracles, but every cyclist can master the basics and enjoy the challenge of riding away from roads.
One of the best ways to learn off-road skills is by watching other riders. Riding in a group also has added safety benefits. It therefore makes sense to join a club. Click on the Clubs button to find a club near you.
The pleasure of riding in a traffic-free environment cannot be understated. Mountain Biking also puts you closely in touch with nature and the landscape and every ride has the potential to become a mini adventure. However, for some, the ultimate test is to start racing.
Thinking About Racing
Beginners usually find their feet in the numerous Cross-Country events which are run at club level all round the country. Cross-country is a natural starting point for all Mountain Bike racing as it is far less technically challenging than Downhill or 4-Cross and a relatively inexpensive bike will suffice whilst you learn the ropes.
Cross-Country events usually have several races catering for a range of abilities and age groups and are an ideal environment in which to learn the bike handling and tactical skills necessary to succeed. Look out for Fun categories - there are also often categories for younger riders and age related categories for over-thirties. A British Cycling membership and Licence are usually needed for regional and national events.
If you are under sixteen, the category system ensures that you compete against others of a similar age. Adult categorisation is based more on ability. As they become more successful, riders progress through Sport, Senior and Expert categories and the very best become "Elite" category riders. There are also a range of categories for older riders, based on age.
Progression through the adult categories is through a national ranking system, administered by British Cycling, which rewards successful riders with points based on the length and difficulty of an event. Before you start racing, familiarise yourself with the rules of the sport, which include this system.
Don't forget that, during the autumn and winter months, Cyclo-Cross events are usually open to mountain bikes, are cheap to enter (no licence required) and offer the chance to hone racing skills on non-technical courses.