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Top Tips for mountain bikers, old and new!

Has watching Great Britain win a total of 12 medals in cycling at the Tokyo Olympics inspired you to get outdoors on two wheels? Tom Pidcock wowed us all with his fantastic gold-medal performance in the Tokyo Olympics men’s cross-country mountain bike race, winning Great Britain’s first ever mountain bike medal at an Olympics!  

Over the past couple of years, men and women, young and old have taken up the sport  and we expect to see this continue, with the global mountain bike market forecast to grow by more than £2bn between 2020 and 2024. Whether you are new to cycling or it’s one of your favourite outdoor pastimes, our very own Creative Director and mountain bike supremo, Tom Redfern, is here to share his tips for getting off road on 2 wheels.

Top Tips for mountain bikers, old and new
Since Covid-19 blighted our world, many people have been attracted to the physical and mental benefits of getting outdoors. A decent percentage of those have decided to take up the amazing sport of mountain biking. It’s a sport I’ve been obsessed with since 1999, so I thought I’d share a few insights learned from many years of riding – and falling off…

Not all mountain bikes are the same
There’s a variety of riding within the catch-all term ‘mountain biking’. For a start, you don’t even need mountains to ride a mountain bike. Mountain bikes are designed for riding off-road and generally, the steeper the place where you ride, the more you’ll benefit from having a bike with longer suspension travel in the front forks and rear suspension. There’s no point buying a £8,000, 160mm travel Enduro bike if you’re going to be riding somewhere relatively flat. You’ll just be pedalling something that’s carrying too much weight and you’ll limit your ability for fun.  

If you’re not very fit or have a health condition, an electrically assisted bike (e-MTB), will help to get you out on the trails by increasing the amount of distance you can cover and speeding up your recovery time before your next ride. However, e-MTBs are more expensive than a regular bike and carry a greater environmental cost (they require electricity to work and use battery materials such as Lithium, which are difficult to recycle).

Whichever bike you choose, try and have at least a small ride on it before you commit. Not all bikes are the same. And these days there are some great bikes available for around £500.

Buy good quality kit
In my time riding mountain bikes, I’ve seen a few horrific accidents. However, most riders save themselves from permanent injury by wearing protection, especially a helmet. Invest in a good quality helmet and it’ll protect your head when you fall off – which will happen at some point as you increase your speed and become more adventurous in your riding.

Invest in a good pair of cycle shorts. It’s no fun riding a bike for long periods without decent, padded cycling shorts. There are many styles, from baggy to tight, but make sure you buy a pair with a good quality chamois. It’s worth buying a good quality jersey which can wick sweat away and keep you cool and a lightweight waterproof for the British summer.


© Chris Bell

Care for your kit for continued high performance
Make sure you keep your kit performing by regular cleaning with the right Nikwax products. Cleaning technical base layers with normal detergent and fabric conditioner could lead to your garments starting to smell quite quickly and for the wicking to be reduced – causing you to feel chilly and damp when you stop cycling. This causes real discomfort.

However, Nikwax has all the aftercare you need to ensure your gear will regulate your body temperature, so you stay dry and comfortable no matter how much you exert yourself.

Try BaseFresh® for revived, deodorised clothing. It works in place of your normal fabric conditioner (which impairs the wicking), so you simply pop your garments into the washing machine with your normal detergent, adding the required amount of BaseFresh. It will allow your detergent to remove all dirt from the garments whilst preventing any harm to the fabric’s technical properties. BaseFresh enhances wicking, so sweat spreads and dries faster. Plus, it deodorises the fabric, to ensure your garments smell better for longer by preventing the build-up of odour-causing bacteria.

If you wear woollen base layers then clean them with Wool Wash, which is designed specifically for delicate garments. It cleans and conditions this natural fabric without any degradation to the performance.

Never forget your waterproof outer layer…. Tech Wash® is your go-to cleaning product to revive the water repellency and remove all the dirt you’ve collected from your rides. TX.Direct® is the easy-to-use waterproofer that will re-proof your jacket when the water repellent coating has worn away (this changes depending upon how frequently you use your jacket and the conditions it is worn in).

Upgrade your riding ability, not another bike
As with skiing, you’ll really benefit from investing in some lessons from a professional instructor. When you get into mountain biking, you’ll realise it really isn’t ‘just like riding a bike’. There are many additional skills required; body positioning, cornering, jumping, and reading the trail to name but a few. An instructor will help with your riding progression and enable you to feel more comfortable when confronted with trail features and enable you to ride a wider variety of trails. Whatever your skill levels, you’ll benefit from some tuition and it’s a much better idea to invest in skills training than continually spending money on upgrading your bike or other kit.


© Chris Bell

Leave no trace
Remember to take any litter home with you and don’t discard any food wrappers or empty drinks bottles. If you see litter on the trail and it’s safe to stop, then pick it up and take it home with you. I see so many discarded energy-gel packets out in the woods and it infuriates me. There’s no excuse for littering, the outdoors are for everyone and we should treat it with respect.

The last word
Mountain biking can appear daunting when first taking up the sport, so take your time and understand that the learning and progression never stops. There’s no shame in riding within your comfort level and never attempting that super-steep trail with the jumps and drops. It’s really all about staying healthy, enjoying being out in nature and having fun with friends and family.

So ride your bike, have fun and hope to see you out on the trail!

Tom Redfern
Creative Director Nikwax and Founder of Broken Riders.

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Celebrate the fail! Shrug off the embarrassment of crashing your bike

This month’s Guest Blog is by Tom Redfern. Tom is founder of Broken Riders – a UK-based company specialising in ethically sourced and environmentally responsible apparel for mountain bikers. www.brokenriders.com

Anyone not into mountain bikes, watching a rider in the world-famous RedBull Rampage back-flipping over a seemingly bottomless canyon must look on in awe or bewilderment and think that the sport is way beyond their mere mortal capabilities.

However, the competitors of this extraordinary event are a tiny bunch of elite athletes bearing no resemblance to ordinary mountain bikers. In fact, you’ll need to downgrade the skill grading many times until you reach one that matches up with that of your ‘average weekend warrior’.

RedBull_Rampage

Photo: Vimeo

I’m one of these riders; your average weekend warrior. Even though I’ve been riding regularly since 1998, my skills are average at best. I occasionally get it wrong and take a tumble while out riding due to my lack of correct technique, lack of fitness or lack of skill. Most of the time my fails are slow-speed and laughable, but occasionally I forget that my riding is pretty average and I encounter a high-speed disaster, which at the best ends in some trail rash, but at worst has put me in hospital with a dislocated fracture of my right ankle.

But I believe these fails are a good thing. For starters, that big accident back in 2008 inspired me to launch my mountain bike apparel brand, Broken Riders. Other fails have provided a good laugh for my riding friends at my expense.

Even the elite mountain bike riders that make those massive jumps seem easy will fail from time to time – just watch the out-takes on any mountain bike video and you’ll see a number of painful looking fails.

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Photo: emunte.ro

The most important thing to remember when it all goes wrong (and this applies to anyone who does anything other than sit on the sofa and watch TV), is to learn from your failure. Figure out what it was you did wrong and then get back on and have another go. The only real failure is something we don’t learn from, and when we repeatedly do the same thing wrong over and over again.

After my broken ankle had healed and I was able to ride again, one of the first things I did was to take a mountain bike lesson. It made sense; mountain biking must be one of the few sports where you engage in potentially dangerous activity never having had a lesson in technique how to control your speed. Everyone who skis or snowboards, surfs or kiteboards will have taken a lesson in order to improve their skills; so why should mountain biking be any different?

mtb-instruction-womens-specific-mountain-bike-skills-training-technical-skills

Photo: mtbinstruction.co.uk

I’d advise anyone, from beginner to seasoned visitor to A&E to take some skills coaching in order to improve their riding technique and boost their confidence. You can take these courses on a one-to-one basis or with you and your mates, and some courses even video your riding so that you can really analyse your technique and where it’s going wrong (or where you’re getting it right!).

So it’s only by embracing failure, rather than running in the other direction, that we can develop our riding, our resilience and increase our enjoyment out on the trails. I reckon it’s time to celebrate the fail!