The growing sport of mountain biking is relatively new, and differs from regular bicycling in several ways: 1. Mountain bikes are smaller, with a stronger frame, a more upright handlebar, a wider range of gears, a suspension system for the wheels, and tires that are knobby, wider, have a higher profile, and are more durable. 2. Generally, mountain biking is done off-road on rugged trails or over rugged terrain. 3. Mountain biking requires a greater degree of skill than just riding a normal bicycle down a city sidewalk, requiring greater mastery in cornering, jumping, balance, and trail reading.
Equipment - Mountain bikers share many of the same trails as hikers, and in the Panhandle of Nebraska, equestrians also share many of these trails. While some of the gear used by mountain bikers is different than that of hikers, much is similar. Both often used backpacks. Both need water, maps, a compass, sunscreen, insect repellent, rain gear, a "space" blanket, food, first aid kits, and more. Most mountain bikers will wear a helmet, and many wear other protective gear as well. A careful biker will also pack an air pump, extra tubes, a patch kit, a chain tool, and other tools to make repairs along the way. These are important, because bikers can move faster than hikers, thus covering much greater distances. A breakdown, many miles out on a trail, could mean a very long walk back.
Hazards - Equipment breakdowns are not the only problems bikers may encounter. Accidents in the rugged terrain do occur occasionally. Although quite rare, unfriendly wildlife and rattlesnakes can be another risk. Insects can be annoying, and in the case of ticks or mosquitoes carrying disease, they can be hazardous. Inclement weather is another danger, especially if it produces floods, hail, or lightning. Sunburn and dehydration are always perils in hot weather, and if a biker is out in cold weather, frostbite and hypothermia are risks. Biking solo may be fun, but it can also be a gamble. Sustaining a serious injury in a remote area, could be life-threatening. A cell phone may help, if one is conscious to use it. But, cell phones do not work in all remote areas. So, biking in pairs or groups is normally safer.
Types of Mountain Biking in The Panhandle - While there are a variety of mountain biking categories most of the opportunities in Nebraska's Panhandle would fall into the cross country category. There are some free riders in rugged areas, and there are some urban mountain bikers in towns.
Caring For Our Trails - In some parts of the country, mountain bikers have faced opposition, due to ecological concerns. Advocacy groups have formed to organize bikers and supporters to educate new bikers, land owners, and others on safe and responsible use of trails. The International Mountain Biking Association has established Rules of the Trail. And, they promote trail work days to properly develop new trails, remove storm-downed trees, and do regular trail maintenance. While mountain bikes do not damage trails like ATV's, or even horses, they can do some damage, if not used properly. Riding before a trail has had time to dry properly is irresponsible and damaging. Bikers need to observe the same concerns for the environment that hikers do, especially in regards to starting fires. Packing trash and waste out is another important responsibility.
Resources To Learn More - This is just a small summary of the growing sport of mountain biking. You can also learn a great deal more about mountain biking, by clicking on the IMBA website below: