Mountain biking or MTB is the sport of riding a bicycle on off-road terrain. Mountain bikes are now designed specifically for this purpose with increased durability, fatigue-reducing suspension, and a more upright position. There are multiple categories under the mountain biking umbrella, such as cross-country or XC, trail, all mountain, downhill, freeride, slopestyle, dirt jumping, and trials. The bulk of mountain bikers would categorize themselves under the XC, trail, or enduro (trail, all mountain) categories.
Unlike road cycling, mountain biking can feature a host of physical obstacles that challenges one’s balance, core strength, stamina, and bike handling skills. The more extreme versions of mountain biking tackle technical sections, steep descents, and both natural and constructed jumps and ramps. Due to being a sport typically performed in remote areas, it’s important for mountain bikers to be self-supported and carry their necessary supplies.
Mountain biking has its roots both in North America and in Europe. Buffalo soldiers used bikes on off-road terrain in the Montana and Yellowstone area in the late 1800’s, and cyclists in Europe would have cyclo-cross races to keep fit during the winter. Cyclo-cross is a hybrid between road biking and mountain biking, but years ago in Europe, cyclo-cross races were from one town to another through farm fields and over fences.
A few North Americans claim to have developed the first “true” mountain bikes. Notable figures include Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Charlie Kelly, and Tom Ritchey. Early mountain bikes in the USA were cruiser bikes retrofitted with stronger components and fat tires in order to handle the rigors of trails. The 1970’s and 1980’s saw the adoption of mountain biking by manufacturers who took their proprietary road bike technologies and applied them to mountain bikes. With this adoption, mountain biking was well on its way to being an established endurance sport.
Within the past twenty years mountain biking has seen a significant increase in investment and innovation by manufacturers, and the same upward trend is seen in the number of users. Companies are innovating mountain bikes as fast as road bikes, and they are building a number of different types of bikes in between. Gear specifically for mountain biking is now readily available around the world and is designed for each discipline within mountain biking.
Many advocacy organizations exist for mountain biking and it is also an Olympic sport. Now that mountain biking has been around for some time, studies are able to show the environmental impact of the sport. Such studies have demonstrated that mountain biking is on par with hiking and equestrian activities with regards to environmental impact, and it’s important for these three groups to accommodate one another on the trails.
Use your Endurance Unlimited account to find mountain bike rides with other members, and discover why so many riders enjoy this alternative category of cycling.