Preparation: The Fine Print

Worried about accidents or injury? While the risk can’t be completely ruled out, you can take steps to minimize the chances that you’ll be endangered or inconvenienced.

Your first step should be to purchase a helmet. In Canada, all protective helmets must meet minimum safety standards, thus ensuring their quality. Other safety devices include body armour, which is designed for downhill riders who raise the chances of injury by riding at breakneck speeds.

If you plan on cycling at night, you’ll need a light system for your bicycle, as well as reflective tape. You wouldn’t want to crash into unseen obstacles, or have other vehicles or riders run into you.

In terms of preparedness, you’ll want to bring alone the right tools in case you run into technical problems. A patch kit, extra lube, a pump, a flashlight and other tools are a must if you’re really going off the beaten path. A cliché like “an ounce of preparedness is worth a pound of recovery” becomes that much more real when you get caught with your pants down because you were too proud to plan ahead.

When transporting your bike, a roof-mounted carrier or other types are useful. Without a doubt, you should spring for a solid lock. You never know when you will leave your equipment unattended, and a lock always comes in handy if you’re using your mountain bike for random errands. Some lock makers offer insurance policies in case of theft due to bike lock failure, which is something to look for.

Food and drink is an absolute must, even for short rides. You want to stay well-hydrated, just like in any sport. As far as nutrition is concerned, be concerned with how you eat away from the trail as well as on the trail itself. And remember to take all your litter with you—the reputation of mountain bikers as uncaring or unfriendly people is not good for the sport’s public image.

Performing a variety of cardiovascular and conditioning exercises will also aid you in your ability to handle discomfort, minor falls, and a higher pace. I recommend supplementing training by running or swimming in the off-season. If you have the knowledge and time, lifting weights will really bring your abilities into better focus. For riders with more serious aspirations, it most definitely will give you a fine competitive edge.

A few bumps or scrapes are inevitable, and you should be ready to accept these as inevitable occurrences. Even the most careful among us will wander in focus or miscalculate from time to time. When it does happen to you, just dust yourself off and get back on the horse. The better your attitude is, the more confidence you will have, which then translates into fewer accidents.

By Brian J. D’Souza, Trail Canada

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