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Avoiding Mountain Biking Miscues

Avoiding Mountain Biking Miscues

A Company, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment
Utah Army National Guard
West Jordan, Utah

My brother and I grew up biking all over the mountains of Utah and considered ourselves experienced riders. So, when our town celebrated the grand opening of a state-of-the-art mountain bike park, we couldn’t wait to hit the trails.

After a few runs down the mountain, we decided to try the jump course. This portion of the course was a mixture of dirt and rocks and consisted of a series of four jumps that were about 5 feet tall. I hadn’t attempted a course like this before, but I was game.

During my first run, I negotiated the first three jumps easily. By the time I approached the final jump, however, I’d picked up a lot of speed. As I crested the top of the ramp, I took flight, but my bike stayed on the ground. I was able to come back down on the bike, but all control was lost and I crashed into the dirt, landing on my side.

Even though my day ended with a trip to the emergency room, I consider myself lucky. While I received seven stitches to my right elbow, my helmet protected me from being seriously injured. In retrospect, I could’ve prevented my accident had I not been overconfident in my abilities.

There are many different types of recreational bicycling, including downhill, cross-country and BMX. Mountain bikes are different from other varieties in that they are usually full-suspension, meaning the front and rear forks are suspended to provide comfort and stability. As the design has evolved, so has the use of the mountain bike. Today, a mountain bike is similar to a motocross motorcycle without the engine. These newer designs have proven safer; however, they also allow the rider to push the limits. Riders go faster through rougher terrain than ever before. Because of these situations, a crash can be devastating. Fortunately, personal protective equipment (PPE) has also evolved, and many riders are wearing full-face helmets and full-body padding to soften the impact of a potential crash.

No matter what type of riding you do, it is important to assess the situation and determine what type of equipment is appropriate. This should sound familiar because it is part of the risk management process. In my case, I was attempting to soar through the air on a bike designed for cross-country-type terrain, not high-speed jumps. I was also wearing PPE that would be appropriate for cross-country trails instead of the full-face helmet and pads needed for those types of jumps.

I only have a small scar from my accident. It serves as a reminder that I should always assess the situation and ride within my abilities. Thinking before we ride can help ensure we are able to hit the trails another day.


The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) offers the following tips for safe riding:

Know (and ride) open trails.

Not all trails are open to mountain bikes. Not all trails open to mountain bikes are open to electric mountain bikes (eMTBs). Some trails close seasonally to protect wildlife, or temporarily close for damage or repair. Some trails only open for bikes on certain days of the week. Some trails are one-way travel only. There’s a lot to know! Know before you go.

Be prepared.

Be self-sufficient and safe on the trail. Have the tools and know-how to fix a flat and make minor repairs, carry enough water and snacks, and know where you’re going. Carry a map or have a mapping app on your fully charged phone. Don’t get lost!

Be aware and share the trail.

In many places, hikers, trail runners, equestrians and/or motorized users all share our right to enjoy the trails. The classic IMBA triangle trail sign shows that mountain bikers yield to horses and foot traffic. When in doubt, yield with a hello and a smile!

Stay in control.

For our own safety and the safety of others, it’s critical we stay in control of our bikes at all times. We should be aware of blind corners — assume a child or a horse is just around the bend. Let's all ride with caution and care.

Respect the land.

Let’s preserve the land and the efforts of trail builders by staying off muddy trails and always practicing “Leave No Trace” principles. When letting others pass, stop riding and carefully step off the trail to protect the environment and to keep a single track single.

Keep tech in check.

Wearing earbuds limits our awareness on the trail, getting caught up in virtual racing can be dangerous, and all of us on mountain bikes and eMTBs should heed speed and safety guidelines.

Mind all animals.

Give animals plenty of space, including wildlife, livestock, equestrians and fellow trail users’ dogs. When we take our dogs to the trails, we must follow leash laws, leave no trace and train our dogs to be as respectful of other trail users — both human and non-human.


Source: International Mountain Bicycling Association (https://www.imba.com)

  • 10 September 2023
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 215
  • Comments: 0