Texas is a large wide-open state with a lot of exciting and beautiful spaces and places. There are a variety of terrains available, providing individuals who enjoy mountain biking numerous trails and roads to travel on for hundreds of miles. This variety also caters to the sport’s five different categories: cross country, downhill, freeride, dirt jump and trials/street riding
Cross-Country (XC) is the most common form of mountain biking. Participants ride point- to-point or in a loop that includes climbs and descents on a variety of terrains. However, there is a difference between common XC and XC racing, which is much more physically demanding than leisure riding. Racers train for years to be able to compete at a national level.
A typical XC bike weighs 22-28lbs, and has 0-4 inches of suspension travel front and rear.
Freeride/Big Hit Freeride is a “do anything” discipline which encompasses everything from downhill racing 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 riding than XC.
Freeride bikes are generally heavier and have beefier suspensions than XC, but usually retain much of their climbing ability. The Freeride rider builds his or her bike to lean more toward a preferred level of aggressiveness. “Slopestyle” type riding is an increasingly popular style 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.
Downhill biking is simple — riding mountain bikes downhill. While XC riding has a downhill component, downhill (or DH for short) usually refers to racing-oriented downhill riding. Downhill racing bikes are equipped with a front and rear suspension, large brakes, and use heavier frame tubing than other mountain bikes. Downhill bikes aren’t meant to be pedaled uphill, so downhill riders and racers frequently employ trucks or ski lifts to be shuttled to the top of the hill.
Downhill courses are 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 includes kneepads and a full-face helmet with goggles, although riders and racers commonly sport full-body suits to protect themselves.
Dirt jumping is the practice of riding bikes over shaped mounds of dirt or soil. The idea is that, after riding over the “take off,” the rider will become momentarily airborne, and aim to land on the “landing.” A mountain bike built for dirt jumping tends to have a smaller frame than one used for other disciplines. Running single speed is very common, as is using only a rear brake.
“Trials riding” consists of hopping and jumping bikes over obstacles. It can be performed either off-road or in an urban environment, and requires an excellent sense of balance. As with Dirt Jumping and BMX-style riding, emphasis is placed on style, originality and technique. There are many stylistic similarities to skateboarding. 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.
Inherent to the sport of mountain biking is the risk of injury. There are dozens of companies that manufacture protective gear, often referred to as “armor,” to protect against injury from crashes, and mostly aimed at downhill, freeride and dirt jump riders. Armor ranges from simple knee and elbow pads to full-body padding. Some companies market full-body armor suits or jackets, that allow the rider to remove some of the padding and/or plastic plates that protect the rider’s arms. Most upper body protectors also include a spine protector that is comprised of plastic plates joined together, with foam padding underneath. Full-face helmets, often resembling motocross helmets (but usually considerably lighter and with more ventilation), are required by some bike parks, although advanced riders often wear these helmets by choice, in order to better protect their heads.
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