Is Mountain Biking Dangerous?

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Mountain biking, or MTB for short, is a recreational activity conducted on a specific type of bike designed for off-road trails. Whether one approaches mountain biking as a fun way to get in shape or professionally, it’s fair to ask, “Is mountain biking dangerous?”

The main appeals of this sport are speed, overcoming obstacles, and going the distance. When we pair that with the rough terrain, like alpine forests, country farmlands, rocky hills, and many others, it’s clear to see that mountain biking can be dangerous.

However, there are ways to mitigate injuries, and we’ve prepared a few helpful tips. We’ll also discuss all the most common types of accidents so you can get a better sense of what mountain bike riders experience.

How Dangerous Is Mountain Biking?

There’s no argument that all cycling comes with some risk. If you’re an inexperienced rider, maintaining balance and maneuvering any bike could be challenging.

Many people ride mountain bikes on and off the road because they have a suspension system and are typically pretty comfortable.

It’s also important to point out that mountain biking is not inherently dangerous, but unlike some sports, it has the potential to be.

In fact, according to the Wilderness and Environmental Medicine study, even hiking is more dangerous than mountain biking. Furthermore, snowboarding is four times as hazardous as mountain biking.

The types of hazards that cause accidents can include:

  • Equipment failure
  • Rider error
  • Natural and man-made obstacles
  • Poor weather conditions

Also, not all mountain biking disciplines have the same potential for injuries. For example, downhill mountain biking is much more intense than cross-country biking. Therefore, it should only be practiced by advanced riders who know how to balance their mountain bike on the roughest terrain while going downhill.

The Most Common Mountain Biking Accidents

Knowledge is power; thus, knowing how one can be injured while mountain biking can help prevent it. We know that the answer to the question “Is mountain biking dangerous?” is that it’s not necessarily, but potentially. But let’s examine what could happen and some injuries a rider can sustain.

Going Over the Bars

One shudders at the thought, but unfortunately, going over the handlebars is a common type of mountain biking accident.

A toss over the bars can result in bruising, abrasions, and possibly a bone fracture. Going over the handlebars happens when descending if a rider’s weight is mainly distributed towards the front of the bike.

Abrupt stops, often caused by pressing the brakes to avoid obstacles, can also result in getting pushed over the bars. Typically, the drop-off is around 2 to 3 feet.

A practical way to avoid this type of accident is to lower the bike seat. Many mountain bikes have dropper seat post levers, allowing riders to adjust the seat height easily. In addition, lowered bike seat provides extra room for shifting the weight to the back of the bike during a descent.

Crash on a Jump

Jumps are integral to mountain biking, and riders train hard to ensure they land safely after jumping over an obstacle.

But if a rider moves their body weight too early before making a jump, they can lose balance and get knocked to the ground. Likewise, a sideways trajectory in the air could also lead to a crash during a jump.

Contusions, abrasions, fractures, and even ligament injuries could occur.

Running Into Obstacles

Depending on the trail, obstacles can be minor or very significant. Unfortunately, they can also make you crash your mountain bike in a split second.

Consider the tree roots, logs, or rocks in your way. That’s why scanning the trail carefully while riding is essential to a successful and safe mountain biking experience.

Making the most of your peripheral vision is essential. Otherwise, you can fall and may have to deal with debilitating injuries that could prevent you from finishing the trail.

Trying to Avoid Muddy Trails

When riding on a muddy trail, a loss of traction can occur, and you might have difficulty keeping your front wheel from moving sharply.

Often, riders try to turn the wheel abruptly to reach a less muddy lane. Unfortunately, the wheel can slip out from under you, and you might find yourself on the ground.

A much better solution is reducing the pedaling intensity and gradually applying pressure to regain traction and balance.

Knowing how much braking power to apply in a specific situation is the secret to being an excellent rider, whether riding your city bike, tricycle, or mountain bike.

But misjudging how hard to hit the brakes happens even to the most experienced mountain bike riders and leads to accidents.

Naturally, when going downhill, this is particularly a problem. However, ensuring that you let go of the brakes could prevent injuries.

Mountain biking is exhausting, especially if you’ve been at it for hours. It’s even more challenging in obstacle-ridden terrain if you haven’t had enough to eat, didn’t sleep well, or haven’t appropriately hydrated.

It can be challenging to keep an eye on the road and maintain balance and speed if you’re experiencing acute fatigue. Hence, any number of different accidents can occur.

uphill biking

The Best Ways to Make Mountain Biking Safer

Is mountain biking dangerous? It can be if you’re not careful. But mountain biking can be reasonably safe if you go the extra mile to take precautions.

If you want to minimize the chance of injury and reduce the recovery period if you do get hurt, here are a few tips to consider.

Wear Protective Gear

This might seem like a no-brainer, but not everyone is excited about gearing up for mountain biking. A helmet, padded gloves, and knee and elbow pads should be the minimum.

Additionally, many wear riding goggles, neck braces, torso armors, and specialized mountain biking clothes. There’s an entire industry dedicated to protective biking gear, and that’s not without a good reason.

Do Strength Training Exercises

Mountain biking enthusiasts might not love the idea of strength training, considering it’s not as exciting. However, strength training exercises boost the muscle core strength and ensure better balance.

More muscle tissue also protects the bones in case of a crash and reduces the chance of serious fractures. The good news is that there are many mountain biking-oriented strength training plans riders can try.

Learn How to Fall Correctly

It might seem silly to learn how to fall if you’re trying to avoid falling in the first place. But if you ride a mountain bike on rough terrain, you’ll probably take a spill at some point. So, knowing how to do it right can make all the difference.

Remember not to tense up when you start to fall, as that’s how the wrists and collarbones tend to get broken.

If possible, learn how to tuck and roll as you land on the ground because this maneuver protects your limbs and reduces the impact.

Don’t Forget the Helmet

Is mountain biking dangerous? If we ask someone who has never tried it, the answer would likely be “yes.” An experienced rider might minimize the potential hazard levels, but the truth is somewhere in between.

It can be dangerous if you don’t wear a helmet, build muscles, or know how to dissipate the impact when falling onto the ground.

It’s also important to keep in mind that mountain biking requires riding at your comfort level and taking risks after making careful calculations.