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Everything You Needed to Know About Mountain Biking

Mountain Bike Trails

Do you enjoy mountain biking? This sport involves going off-road, but more than that, it often involves riding over incredibly rough terrain that requires special tires. Mountain bikes are often modified a bit so that they can handle the extreme conditions they’re used in. Most mountain biking is considered to fall into the categories of cross country or trail riding, although some are considered free ride, downhill, or dirt jumping.

The History of Mountain Biking

Derangedtaco-MarinBike sitting on a hill top with the sun setting.


Mountain biking has been around for quite some time, but the first time anyone created a bicycle especially for mountain biking was in August of 1896. A group of Buffalo Soldiers, the name for all African-American regiments in the army, used off-road bikes in their expedition from Missoula, Montana, to Yellowstone National Park. However, mountain bikes were likely used before this in Switzerland, which had bike regiments as early as 1891.

In the early 1900s, people started riding bicycles off-road to keep in shape during the colder months. This became known as Cyclocross. Competitive cyclocross began in the 1940s, and durable bicycles were needed. In the 1950s, a French club began riding in the areas surrounding Paris, while in 1955, an off-road biking fellowship started in the U.K. While it wasn’t called mountain biking yet, the idea was global.

The first time the term mountain bicycle or mountain biking was used was quite possibly in 1966. A member of a biking club in Oregon created a rough terrain bike that he termed a mountain bike. A few years later, a bike designer in England began working on an off-road bicycle that. He perfected the design over the years and, by 1979, had mass-produced it. This was the first time a mountain bike was available to the public. Mountain biking continued to evolve over the years, leading to more durable rims, stronger spokes, and lighter frames. Today, there are even electric bikes build especially for mountain biking plus some races and other events.

How Mountain Biking Became Popular

A silver, GT XCR 1000 mountain bike 

Mountain biking became especially popular in the 1970s and 80s. Bicycle companies began building and selling bikes made just for mountain biking. Soon, they were available across the country, and more and more people were trying mountain biking. Some rode because of the challenge, while others liked being able to explore and enjoy nature while they exercised.

By the 1990s, mountain biking had gone mainstream. Mountain bikes were now available at almost all stores that sold bicycles. Most of the major bicycle brands had mountain bikes, and there were several mountain bike-only companies. Today, e-bike companies have even gotten into the game, creating electronic bicycles that can withstand the rigors of mountain biking.

How To Get Started

Being a mountain biker requires you to be in very good shape. You’re going to need to have good core strength and a good amount of endurance and balance. You’ll also need to be very skillful at handling your bike. Some mountain bikers find themselves riding down slopes at high speeds, going airborne at times, and working their way up fairly steep inclines. It’s not an easy sport, so you may want to take some time in building up your leg strength and endurance before hitting a mountain.

You’ll also need to invest in a good mountain bike or e-bike rated for mountain biking. If you’re just getting started and are uncertain if you’ll enjoy mountain biking, you don’t have to buy one of the top of the line models. However, some of these more expensive models are built using higher quality materials that last longer, so if you find that you enjoy the sport, you may want to upgrade.

Other than a good mountain bike, you’ll need some of the biking basics: a helmet, gloves, sunglasses, good shoes, and comfortable clothing. Because they’re out in the wilderness, most people invest in a sturdy backpack, water bottles, an emergency bike repair kit, and a GPS.

Is Mountain Biking Right For You?

Gabes mountain trail singletrack amongst the forrest.

If you enjoy getting away from civilization and challenging yourself, mountain biking is a good option for you. On the other hand, if you’re simply looking for a form of exercise, you may find that you enjoy riding on city bike paths or even on a stationary bike.

There are many mountain biking clubs in cities across the U.S. If you want to learn more about mountain biking before you jump in, look for one of these clubs and attend a meeting. It’s possible some of the members even have a mountain bike they will loan you so you can try it out before you spend any money.

  1. Mountain BikingWikipedia goes into more detail on the history of mountain bikes
  2. Buffalo Soldiers Test Bikes – Information about the 1,900-mile ride of the Buffalo Soldiers
  3. International Mountain Bicycling AssociationA large mountain biking organization
  4. How Mountain Biking Works – A look at the basics
  5. Mountain Bike Equipment and History – Information from the Olympics website
  6. The Mountain Bike Project – A list of biking trails across the country
  7. Singletracks – Another listing of mountain bike trails
  8. Trail Link – Mountain bike trails by state
  9. Rules of the Trail – Some guidelines all mountain bikers should follow
  10. 25 Mountain Bike Commandments – More rules and helpful tips
  11. E-Mountain Bike Magazine – A publication devoted to electric mountain bikes
  12. Electric Mountain Bike Review – Read real user reviews before selecting a bike
  13. 10 Essentials Bikers Need – A list of things all mountain bikers should carry
  14. Required Mountain Biking Gear – What do you really need?
  15. How to Start Mountain Biking – A checklist for beginners
  16. Mountain Biking Events in the U.S. – A guide to upcoming events
  17. Mountain Bike Calendar – Endurance bike races around the world
  18. Active Sports Calendar – Find mountain biking events near you