Mountain Biking Safety

Mountain biking is a safe and rewarding activity that will push you to your physical limits. But when you’re pushing the boundaries, you run the risk of accidents and injury. We can’t be with you on every ride, but by following our mountain bike riding tips, you’ll minimise your risk and maximise your enjoyment.

Is Mountain Biking Dangerous?

Let’s tackle this straight away. Mountain biking is no more dangerous than any other sport. Like any adventure activity, the more risks you take, the greater the likelihood of accidents and injuries. If you ride recklessly, carelessly and beyond your abilities, you’ll run into trouble.

In one study of rider injuries, over 70% of all rider injuries were caused by riding errors.

Every time you ride, you need to find that crucial balance between risk and reward. You need to be confident but remain cautious. Ride assertively, but not aggressively. Aim to stay in control at all times.

Learn from every ride and other riders. Work to improve your own skills, and when you pick the wrong line or run into trouble, ask yourself why?

Even guides on advanced mountain biking tips will stress the importance of taking your time. Yes, accidents can – and do – happen, and you should expect to take some tumbles from time to time, but by riding within your limits, you can minimise the damage.

Mountain Biking Injury Statistics

Mountain biking is conducted off-road, which removes the biggest threat to rider safety, namely other road users. Fatal mountain biking accidents are vanishingly rare, while almost 100 people die on the roads in accidents every year.

When compared to other sports, cycling (in all its forms) is much safer than other activities such as climbing, horse-riding and airsports. It might surprise you, but you’re also much more likely to have a fatal accident while swimming, fishing or even playing tennis.

Research into mountain bike accidents isn’t comprehensive, because in most cases the information just isn’t collected centrally. In one paper, the injury rate for mountain biking was low, at 16.8 injuries per 1,000 hours of riding. Of those riders polled in the research, 51% had experienced an injury in the last year with most injuries minor and requiring no medical attention.

Common Risks

Let’s start at the top. Head injuries are rare but can be some of the most damaging. Thankfully, wearing a helmet has reduced the risk of head injuries by 39% and the risk of facial injury by 28%. So just wear a helmet whenever you ride.

In a US study of downhill riders, lower leg injuries were the most common (27%) followed by the forearm (25%). Most of these injuries could be treated at home and didn’t require any medical attention.

In 64% of cases, the injury was an abrasion (scrapes) or in 56% of cased bruising (contusion). Serious injuries were, thankfully, rare and there were no fatalities recorded in the study.

10 Mountain biking safety tips

It’s clear that your risk of injury is related to how you ride and the risks you take. Here are 10 mountain bike safety tips that will help improve your riding and reduce the risk of accidents and injuries.

All the gear, all the time

The stats show that wearing a helmet can protect you from a potentially life-threatening injury, so wear one whenever you ride. You can pick up a perfectly good bike helmet for as little as £20, so there are no excuses.

As well as a helmet, your essential mountain bike gear should include gloves and bike clothing. Depending on your riding style and approach, you may want to consider additional protection such as body armour and a full-face helmet.

Protective gear isn’t an optional extra but an absolute necessity on a MTB.

Pack a first aid kit

When you’re packing your kit for the trails, a first aid kit may not be top of your mountain biking equipment list, but it can come in handy for treating minor injuries like cuts and scrapes by the side of the trail.

If you’re travelling as a group, one kit between you should be fine. Or if you’re packing light, leave one in the car. You’ll be grateful for it if you need it.

Refuel regularly

When you’re exhausted and on edge, you’re more likely to make poor decisions, so be sure to refuel regularly. Ensure you’ve got adequate supplies of food and drink that you’ll need when you’re off-road riding. Energy drinks, gels and blocks can all deliver a healthy dose of power when you need it, but you can achieve the same result with a can of coke and a cake bar.

Take your time

One of the most crucial mountain bike riding tips and techniques is to take your time. Going fast may be fun, but it should be controlled aggression – something that comes from confidence.

Take your time on unfamiliar trails to learn the course, to plan your lines and to ride safely. Aim to ride within your limits, not beyond them.

Plan your line

Mountain bike riding is all about planning. You should look ahead and plan your route around obstacles, over jumps and up inclines. Over time, you’ll learn how to spot the right line and position yourself to safely tackle the obstacles in your way.

Learn by watching

One of the best ways to improve is to watch other, more experienced riders as they ride. Study how they plan a line, how they approach an obstacle, ride it and recover. If you get the chance, quiz riders on their style. Everyone likes talking about themselves, so don’t be shy!

Information is power

Trails are graded according to their difficulty, so before riding, you should have a reasonable idea of what to expect. If you’re riding a route for the first time, read up about it and ask those who have ridden it before for things to watch out for.

Use information as power to plan your lines and approaches.

Never stop learning

Whether you’re looking for advanced mountain biking tips or mountain bike tips for beginners, you’ll find a massive amount of information online. Never stop learning from your own rides, other riders, online resources and information guides.

Start every ride with a view that it will be better, faster and most importantly, safer.

Check your ego

When riding, you need to find your limits – not someone else’s. Other riders may be stronger, faster and more experienced than you. Don’t attempt to follow someone else and take risks. Ride within yourself.

Join a club

Riding alone is great fun, but in a group, it takes this to the next level. If you’re up for riding, it should be simple to find others to join with. You can find a list of local clubs and groups here.

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