Mountain biking (Mountain bicycling) is a form of cycling which uses very sturdy bicycles with (usually) straight handlebars and wide tires. Mountain biking takes place off-road. It encompasses both competitive racing and purely recreational cycling. The remainder of this article focuses principally on the sporting (i.e. racing) side of this activity.
This sport originated in the United States, where young men left common roads or defined cyclocross circles and tried to travel on wild off-road ways especially through real nature. Although the first thing to say about mountain bike racing is that it need not take place on a mountain (a range of terrain, from remote alps to city parks) for common biking mountain countries and special bikes are preferred.
The start of this sport is situated near to the end of 1970s when the first special bikes were constructed. The first mountain bike (MTB) was produced probably by Gary Fisher in 1979. His motto was (and is): "All work and no play is no good". Another early producer of mountain bikes was Joe Breeze.
Significant departure of mountain biking from established traditions in cycle racing is its focus on equipment, material and design. A marketplace fascination with technology played an integral role in the rapid growth of the mountain bike industry, and the race circuit always provides an ideal testing ground for new products. Therefore there are a large number of bike producers e.g. Gary Fisher, Trek, Cannondale, Scott, Giant, Schwinn and Specialized.
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) recognised this sport relatively late in 1990, when it sanctioned the world championships in Purgatory, Colorado . The first mountain biking world cup series took place in 1991. Its nine-race circuit covered two continents - Europe and North America - and was sponsored by Grundig . In 1992, the Grundig-UCI world cup circuit expanded to ten races, and remained a trans-Atlantic series. Cross-country racing was the only world cup sport at this time, then in 1993 a six-event downhill world cup was introduced. In 1996, cross country mountain biking events were added to the Olympic Games. In 2006 cross country mountain biking events will become part of the World Deaf Cycling Championships for the first time in San Francisco, USA. ()
In 1988 the Mountain bike hall of fame was founded, to chronicle the history of mountain biking, and to recognize the individuals and groups that have contributed significantly to this sport.
There are several basic kinds of race:
- Cross-country - (XC) cross-country racing is held on a circuit, normally 6-8 km around. It is a massed-start race and riders are not permitted any external mechanical assistance. This means they have to carry their own means of making any repairs that may be necessary. The result of this rule has been to increase the durability of products available on the open market, as well as to the sport's elite.
- Downhill - (DH) downhill racing is a time trial event. Riders start at intervals that can vary from 30 seconds to three minutes-depending on the stage of the competition - and the rider with the lowest time wins. As the name of this discipline implies, DH races are held in steep, downhill terrain, resulting in higher speed than in cross-country racing. The terrain is also often somewhat rougher than in cross-country racing.
- Freeride - (FR) freeride competitions are not so much a race as they are a competition of skill. Courses contain varying cliffs, drops, obstacles, and ramps. There are usually a large number of ways in which to complete the course, and scoring is dependent on the competitor's choice of routes, the fluidity of riding and tricks performed (style), and sometimes also the time in which the course is completed.
- Dual Slalom/Dual - Dual Slalom (DS) is a ski-inspired event which pits two riders against each other on two identical tracks side-by-side with the same jumps and berms, with a rider on each track, and the first across the line wins. The contest has a knock-out format. Dual (DL) events are similar, only two riders share the same course/track. So dual is a contact sport.
- Four Cross - (4X) inspired by the dual format and by BMX racing, this event pits 4 riders on the same course from starting gates to finish. There can only be one winner per event, so the races can quickly eliminate riders making the progression faster for a day's events. This is the reason it was chosen as the race-format to replace Dual-Slalom by NORBA, the US National race authority. 4X also replaced dual in the UCI World Cup series in 2002.
- Marathon - (MT) is perhaps the toughest form of mountain biking because riders often have to cover more than 250 kilometers in one race. Basically it equals point-to-point (PP) discipline and that means that riders have a mass start from point "A" and they finish at point "B". Stage races are also permitted in mountain biking.
- Enduro - (ND) is a relatively new development that has its roots in Marathon mountain biking. Endurance races tend either to last for 12 or 24 hours and although this can vary, there will generally be the following team categories: solo rider; pair; mixed (gender) pair; team (usually four people of the same gender); mixed team (five people of mixed gender). Aside from solo and paired riders, there are often intermediate (i.e. fun, expert, pro) classes within the other categories. Only one member of the team can be on the course at any one time, and it is a competition not to finish first, but to complete the greatest number of laps before the end of the event.
The North Shore
The North Shore of Vancouver, British Columbia is a world-renowned mecca of mountain biking. It is known for its extremely difficult and dangerous mountain trails. These trails contain numerous natural challenges and some contain many man-made obstacles and stunts.
External links and references
International Mountain Bicycling Association
National Off-Road Bicycling Association (NORBA), USA
Maah Daah Hey Trail (America's longest single-track mountain bike trail)
Mountain Bike Review - Huge, international online mountain bike-related resource
MTB-Wales.com. A resource and forum for mountain biking in Wales (UK)
The Socorro Country Fat Tire Trail Book, The Socorro Fat Tire Committee in association with the Socorro County Chamber of Commerce, Socorro County Chamber of Commerce, Socorros, New Mexico, 1993, stapled paperback pamphlet, ISBN 0-88307-712-4, See Socorro County, New Mexico
Last updated: 08-17-2005 12:37:57