Mountain Biking FAQs
What is Mountain Biking?
Broadly, mountain biking is the activity of riding a bicycle off-road. It is both a recreational activity for people who may partake in the activity from time to time or the weekend warrior who hits the trails on their days off and a competitive sport. Participating in mountain biking can offer great physical, mental and social health benefits and is a great way to enjoy nature. Mountain biking is a rapidly growing activity in Australia.
What are the different types of Mountain Biking?
Cross Country (XC)
Cross country mountain biking is a more endurance oriented style of mountain biking with focus on riding for long distances across various types of terrain usually not as rough as other types. Hill climbs are often a big part of cross country riding, getting those legs burning and the heart pumping.
As the name suggests, this style of mountain biking is all about going downhill - fast! Downhill mountain biking has riders riding down steep slopes, dodging trees, performing long jumps, large drops in terrain and racing to get to the bottom of a hill as fast as possible to beat the competition.
Enduro (also known as All Mountain)
This one’s a bit of a mix of DH & XC. It features technical terrain and speeds similar to DH riding but riders also have to tackle steep uphill climbs to begin their descents. In events, the uphill sections aren’t timed.
What is the risk of getting injured in Mountain Biking?
Unsurprisingly, with the more intense nature with faster speeds, tougher terrain and bigger obstacles, downhill mountain biking carries a greater risk of injury. Injury rates for XC mountain bikers have been reported between 7.8-12 and 3.8-12 per 1000 hours of exposure for female and male riders respectively. Injury rates among DH mountain bikers are significantly higher, between 16.8-46.8 per 1000 hours of exposure.
A study looking at injury rates among recreational mountain bikers riding at mountain bike parks reported injury rates up to 15 per 1000 exposures. These mountain bike parks feature obstacles similar to what you would find on a DH track and have riders going at speeds similar to DH mountain biking.
What are some common traumatic injuries seen in Mountain Biking?
Lacerations and abrasions are very common amongst mountain biking injuries and occur as a result from a fall. A laceration is just another word for a cut. Severity of a laceration can vary greatly from being very minor to quite severe, depending on the location and depth of the cut.
Fractures (broken bones) are another common injury seen in mountain biking. Due to the high speed nature of mountain biking, the level of trauma if a fall occurs can be quite high, enough to fracture a bone. Most fractures occur in the upper extremity, accounting for 93% of fractures and 92% occur in males. The clavicle (collarbone) is the most commonly fractured bone, usually as a result of a fall over the handlebars with a direct impact to the shoulder
Concussions account for 3-13% of all injuries. A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) and can vary in severity. This occurs when there is an impact to the head resulting in a rapid acceleration/deceleration of the brain within the skull, injuring some of the nerve pathways within it.
How can I reduce my risk of injury whilst Mountain Biking?
- Ensure you are riding within your skill level. While it’s necessary to push the boundaries to develop your skill, this can increase your risk of getting injured. It is recommended to aim to progress steadily, gradually trying harder obstacles/going faster as you improve. Mountain bike trails are given a rating based on the difficulty of the trail. These can be used to inform yourself what can be expected on a particular trail.
- Below is an image of the different difficulty ratings and a short description of what you might expect with each difficulty level. These ratings are set in accordance with the Mountain Biking Australia difficulty rating guidelines.
- Signage with the logo can be seen at the start of mountain bike trails across Australia to inform riders of what to expect on the trail.
- A more detailed description of the difficulty of trails can be found here.
- Ensure your bike is in top mechanical condition. An unfortunately timed mechanical failure could be disastrous. Familiarise yourself with at least a basic level of bike maintenance knowledge and take it to your local bike shop for regular servicing as required. It is a good idea to do a quick check-over of your bike before every ride to make sure it’s ready to rock and roll.
- Familiarise yourself with the terrain you are riding. Ride new tracks slowly at first and build up speed as you learn the obstacles on that trail and how to tackle them.
- A pretty obvious one - wear your helmet!
How can we help at Sycamore Health?
If you’ve been unfortunate enough to injure yourself whilst mountain biking, we can help by conducting a thorough assessment of your injury and work with you to develop an appropriate treatment plan.
If you believe you have seriously hurt yourself, a trip to the emergency department is recommended.