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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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How to Dress for Mountain Biking: 5 Tips for Choosing the Best Apparel

Our guest blog this month comes from Amanda Wilks. Image © 

Any dedicated sports enthusiast knows that having proper equipment is crucial in any field. Naturally, this is also true for MTB. Thus, how you choose to dress for mountain biking is an essential part of your success, which is why you need to know everything there is to know about this.  

Appropriate MTB Apparel

Nobody is born possessing prior knowledge in any field, which is why it’s important to learn. This is equally true for the topic at hand. Therefore, here are five tips to help you choose the right apparel for mountain biking.

1.      Always Wear Padded Shorts

No matter what make and model of MTB clothing you prefer, you need to remember one universal thing about the shorts you wear: they must be padded. The crotch padding in them reduces friction and absorbs moisture, which ensures that you remain guarded and comfortable throughout the entire duration of the ride.

Nevertheless, due to the very nature of this item, it can easily become a playground for germs and bacteria. To keep them in good shape, all you have to do is use dedicated cleaning and conditioning aftercare products regularly. For instance, Nikwax’s BaseWash and BaseFresh work wonders on any type of technical underwear.

Such products help clean and condition the fabric, while at the same time deodorizing, accelerating drying and preventing the buildup of sweat and bodily odors in your favorite pair of padded biking shorts. Furthermore, they also improve upon overall cooling efficiency of the fabric, which makes your equipment even more reliable. 

As for what the best style is because aerodynamics isn’t the main concern in mountain biking, your shorts of choice can either be figure-hugging or baggy. The latter is great for layering, which makes them a lot more versatile. Thus, in the case of colder weather conditions, you can either throw a pair of leggings under them and you’re all set.

2.      Put Your Protective Gear On

No matter what your skill level is in the field of MTB, you need to remember that it’s still an extreme sport at the end of the day. Even if you own a sturdy and durable ride, such as the diamondback sorrento mountain bike, you are still not fully protected from possible accidents and injuries.

This is why even the most notorious professionals must wear their safety equipment at all times so that the trail doesn’t catch them off guard, therefore so should you. The five pieces of essential mountain biking protective gear you need to consider are:

  • Helmet. The best option is a carbon-made helmet that covers your entire face, thus offering adequate cranium protection and neck support. Thus, this sensitive area will be safeguarded during a crash.
  • Gloves. To ensure that your grip on the handles and brakes stays firm and your knuckles are protected, specialized riding gloves are a must-have. Choose the full-fingered variant for the highest level of protection.
  • Goggles. While a pair of regular sunglasses might protect your eyes from UV rays, they aren’t reliable in extreme sports. When out on the trail, safety goggles are ideal because they are sturdy and reliable.
  • Knee pads. It goes without saying that your knees need special attention while out on your mountain bike. They are the one joint that needs the most protection, so make sure they get that via some sturdy knee pads.
  • Shin pads. The ideal pair of shin pads should feel more like leg warmers than anything else. This piece of equipment needs to be light and breathable, while still protecting your leg at the same time.

3.      Have a Reliable Backpack

A lot of beginner MTB enthusiasts make the mistake of bringing a backpack that is either too small or overall improper for the purposes it must serve on the ride. Ideally, yours should be able to carry not only snacks and an extra bottle of water or electrolyte sports drink for a quick hydration boost, but also a few on-the-road repair tools.

This is even more important if you plan to go on a day trip that involves a longer trail. Not only will your body need replenishing, but your bike might as well. Thus, a small toolkit with a mini-sized pump, some wrenches and other crucial hardware for quick fixes is recommended if you want to enjoy a smooth ride.

4.      Shoes Are Important Too

Just like it is the case with any other intensely physical activity, the type of shoes you wear is incredibly important. To determine what the most suitable alternative is, you will need to analyze the specifics of the trail you are going to ride. How much time will you spend walking and how much will you spend pedaling?

Rubber outsoles with added grip are perfect for walking, but if you’re going to pedal a lot more, it’s better to choose stiff cross-country shoes. These are far less appropriate if a lot of walking will be involved, but you will need to pull through if you want to pedal more efficiently. Finally, make sure they are also waterproof in case things get wet and cold real fast.

5.      Check the Weather Forecast

Weather conditions can make or break a ride. While it is possible to withstand extreme conditions on your bike, it’s recommended to steer clear of stormy periods. However, rain is extremely unpredictable sometimes, which is why wearing waterproof clothing and knowing how to properly layer it is an essential skill during the wetter seasons.

Still, not everyone can afford to own ten different types of MTB clothing. If you don’t have the budget for purchasing new items, waterproofing your old clothing works too. There are plenty of products for this on the market catered for all sorts of materials, so you will surely find one that works for you.

Some of the best options on the market nowadays are in Nikwax’s TX. Direct line, either in the wash-in or spray-in variants depending on your needs and preferences. This gives your clothes water repellant properties.

At the same time, the formula preserves and even enhances breathability. While the former is activated in the washing machine, the latter is simply applied directly from the tube, which increases convenience.

Final Thoughts

Everything from your shorts and shoes to the goggles and helmet you choose will define your MTB experience on any trail. This is why it’s important to always be prepared and put your safety first above everything else.