Mountain Biking in Ireland
PLEASE NOTE: MOUNTAIN BIKING HAS A MINIMUM GROUP BOOKING OF 4 PEOPLE!
Mountain Biking is really getting into the swing of things in Ireland. You see more and more people up every weekend on the hills enjoying the thrills of downhill and the wind on your face. Be one of them!
Bicycles have been ridden off-road since their invention. However, the modern sport of mountain biking primarily originated in the 1970's . There were several groups of riders in different areas of the U.S.A. who can make valid claims to playing a part in the birth of the sport. Riders in Crested Butte, Colorado and Cupertino, California tinkered with bikes and adapted them to the rigors of off-road riding. Other riders around the country were probably copying their friends with motorcycles and riding their bikes on trails and fire roads.
However, a group in Marin County, California is recognized by the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame to have played a central role in the birth of the sport as we know it today. They began racing down Mount Tamalpais (Mt Tam) on old 1930s and '40s Schwinn bicycles retrofitted with better brakes and fat tires. This group included Joe Breeze, Otis Guy, Gary Fisher, and Keith Bontrager, among others. It was Joe Breeze who built the first new, purpose-made mountain bike in 1977. Tom Ritchey built the first regularly available mountain bike frame, which was accessorized by Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly and sold by their company called MountainBikes (later changed to Fisher Mountain Bikes then bought by Trek, still under the name Gary Fisher). The first two mass produced mountain bikes were sold in 1982: the Specialized Stumpjumper and Univega Alpina Pro.
In 1988, the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame was founded to chronicle the history of mountain biking, and to recognize the individuals and groups that have contributed significantly to this sport.
Mountain Bike Design
Mountain bikes differ from road touring bicycles in several ways. They have a smaller, reinforced frame, knobby, wide and high profile tires which are mounted on a rim that is stronger than a standard bicycle rim, a larger range of gears to facilitate climbing up steep hills and over obstacles, a wider flat or upwardly-rising handlebar that allows a more upright riding position, and often some form of suspension system for either the front wheel or both wheels. The inherent comfort and flexibility of the modern mountain bike has led to an estimated 80% market share in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and others. Mountain bikes often come with disc brakes similar to those used in automobiles, rather than rim brakes used on road bikes.
Mountain Bike Equipment
Pedals vary from simple platform pedals, where the rider simply places the shoes on top of the pedals, to clipless, where the rider uses a specially equipped shoe with a sole that engages mechanically into the pedal. Pedals with cages are rarely used, as the rough terrain (whether rock or tree roots and branches) can easily catch a cage and cause the rider to fall.
Mountain Biking Helmets
Helmets provide mandatory head protection, as falls can occur over rough, rocky, sandy, or mountainous terrain. Helmets include full-faced helmets or regular streamline.
Mountain Biking Gloves
Gloves differ from road touring gloves, are made of heavier construction, and often have covered thumbs or all fingers covered for hand protection. They are usually made with high-impact Kevlar.
Mountain Biking Glasses
Lightweight cycling glasses help protect against debris while on the trail. Filtered lenses, whether yellow for cloudy days or shaded for sunny days, protect the eyes from strain. Glasses are available with interchangeable lenses.
Mountain Biking Shoes
Shoes are chosen for their comfort and ability to withstand backcountry terrain, whether used with clipless pedals or not.
Mountain Biking Clothing
Mountain biking clothing is chosen for comfort during physical exertion in the backcountry, and its ability to withstand rough terrain. Road touring clothes are often inappropriate due to their delicate fabrics and construction.
Mountain Biking Hydration systems
These are imperative for mountain bikers in the backcountry, ranging from simple water bottles to toteable water bags with drinking tubes in lightweight backpacks (e.g., Camelbaks).
An essential requirement to inflate flat tires!
Tools and extra bike tubes are important, as mountain bikers frequently find themselves miles from help (where their cell phones don't work), with flat tires or other mechanical problems (e.g., chain-suck) that must be handled by the rider.
Types of Mountain Biking
Mountain biking is dominated by these four major categories:
This is the most popular form of mountain biking, and the standard for most riders. It generally means riding point-to-point or in a loop including climbs and descents on a variety of terrain. A typical XC bike weighs over 25 lbs, and has 0-4 inches of suspension travel front and sometimes rear. Some XC riders aspire to XC racing, which is even more physically demanding than regular XC, and like all sports at an elite level requires years of training to compete at a national level.
Dirt Jumping (DJ)
DJ is one of the names given to the practice of riding bikes over shaped mounds of dirt or soil and getting airborne. The idea is that after riding over the 'take off' the rider will become momentarily airborne, and aim to land on the 'landing'. Dirt jumping can be done on almost anything with wheels, but it is usually executed on a bicycle.
In the most general sense, this form of biking means riding mountain bikes downhill! The rider usually travels to the point of descent by other means than cycling, such as a ski lift or automobile, as the weight of the downhill mountain bike often precludes any serious climbing. While cross country riding inevitably has a downhill component, Downhill (or DH for short) usually refers to racing-oriented downhill riding. Downhill-specific bikes are universally equipped with front and rear suspension, large brakes, and use heavier frame tubing than other mountain bikes. Because of their extremely steep terrain (often located in summer at ski resorts), downhill courses are one of the most physically demanding and dangerous venues for mountain biking. They include large jumps (up to and including 40 feet), drops of 10+ feet, and are generally rough and steep top to bottom. To negotiate these obstacles at race speed, racers must possess a unique combination of total body strength, aerobic and anaerobic fitness, and mental control. Minimum body protection in a true downhill setting is knee pads and a full face helmet with goggles, although riders and racers commonly sport full body suits to protect themselves. Downhill Mountain Biking is a very dangerous sport. Downhill bikes typically weigh 40-50 lbs. Downhill frames get anywhere from 7 to 10 inches of travel and are usually mounted with an 8 inch travel dual-crown fork.
Freeride / Big Hit
Freeride, as the name suggests is a 'do anything' discipline that encompasses everything from downhill racing (see below) without the clock to jumping, riding 'North Shore' style (elevated trails made of interconnecting bridges and logs), and generally riding trails and/or stunts that require more skill and aggressive techniques than XC. Freeride bikes are generally heavier and more amply suspended than their XC counterparts, but usually retain much of their climbing ability. It is up to the rider to build his or her bike to lean more toward a preferred level of aggressiveness. "Slopestyle" type riding is an increasingly popular genre that combines big-air, stunt-ridden freeride with BMX style tricks. Slopestyle courses are usually constructed at already established mountain bike parks and include jumps, large drops, quarter-pipes, and other wooden obstacles. There are always multiple lines through a course and riders compete for judges' points by choosing lines that highlight their particular skills. A "typical" freeride bike is hard to define, but 30-40 lbs with 6 inches of suspension front and rear is a good generalization.
Trials riding consists of hopping and jumping bikes over obstacles. It can be performed either off-road or in an urban environment. It requires an excellent sense of balance. As with Dirt Jumping and BMX-style riding, emphasis is placed on style, originality and technique. Trials bikes look almost nothing like mountain bikes. They use either 20", 24" or 26" wheels and have very small, low frames, some types without a saddle.
Mountain bikers have faced land access issues from the beginnings of the sport. Areas where the first mountain bikers have ridden have faced serious restrictions or elimination of riding. Many trails were originally fireroads, animal paths, hiking trails, or multi-use paths that were simply used for these new trail users. Single-track mountain biking creates more conflict with hikers, particularly in forested areas. There is also some concern single-track biking leads to erosion. Because of these conflicts, the interpretation of the Wilderness Act was revised by the National Park Service to be able to exclude bicycles in certain areas.
Opposition to the sport has led to the development of local, regional, and international mountain bike groups. The different groups that formed generally work to create new trails, maintain existing trails, and help existing trails that may have issues. Groups work with private and public entities from the individual landowner to city parks departments, on up through the state level at the DNR, and into the federal level. Different groups will work individually or together to achieve results.
Advocacy organizations work through a variety of means including education, trail work days, and trail patrols. Examples of the education an advocacy group can provide include: Educate local bicycle riders, property managers, and other user groups on the proper development of trails, and on the International Mountain Bicycling Association's rules of the Trail. Examples of trail work days can include: Flagging, cutting, and signing a new trail, or removing downed trees after a storm. A trail patrol is a bike rider who has had some training to help assist other (including non cyclists) trail users.
The International Mountain Bicycling Association, or IMBA, is a non-profit advocacy group whose mission is to create, enhance and preserve trail opportunities for mountain bikers worldwide. IMBA serves as an umbrella organization for mountain biking advocacy worldwide, and represents more than 700 affiliated mountain biking groups. In 1988, five California mountain bike clubs linked to form IMBA. The founding clubs were: Concerned Off Road Bicyclists Association, Bicycle Trails Council East Bay, Bicycle Trails Council Marin, Sacramento Rough Riders, and Responsible Organized Mountain Peddlers.
Environmental impacts of Mountain Biking
Studies reported in the IMBA (International Mountain Bike Association) Trail Solutions manual found that a mountain bike's impact is comparable to that of a hiker and substantially less than that of an equestrian.
Studies that find mountain biking has little environmental impact have been criticized as underestimating the real impact of mountain biking on the environment. In 2003, Jason Lathrop wrote a critical literature review on the ecological impacts of mountain biking, raising some questions found nowhere else. He quotes the BLM: "An estimated 13.5 million mountain bicyclists visit public lands each year to enjoy the variety of trails. What was once a low use activity that was easy to manage has become more complex". He also notes that few studies take mountain biking into account.
The environmental impacts of mountain biking can be greatly reduced by not riding on muddy or sensitive trails, not skidding or locking the rear wheel when braking and by staying on the trail.
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