Mountain Biking for Beginners

Mountain bike tips and equipment.


| March/April 1984



086-128-02

The future of off-road pedal-powered sports, though, will be determined by the level of environmental awareness shown by the riders of today.


MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

In the last ten years, the racing-style bicycle has become tremendously popular . . . and for good reasons. The thin-tire, spindly machines are marvels of efficiency on the high way, turning travel into a healthful and entertaining experience. However, if you've ever tried to maneuver one of these specialized machines down a dirt road (or even across the often volcanic landscape of a large city), you know that smooth pavement is just about a prerequisite for riding them.

In fact, once you trespass onto the byways, the narrow, high-pressure tires and quick-handling characteristics of a street bike can turn it into a bone-jarring torture tool that's roughly the equivalent of a mechanical rodeo bull. Worse yet, that sort of abuse takes its toll on the machine as well as on the rider. Stories of wheels collapsed against the far edge of a New York pothole are part of that city's bicycle folk legend. Yes, after one brief sojourn, street pedalers learn to steer clear of dirt roads and rough pavement.

If you graduated from training wheels a few decades ago, though, you probably started out riding a heavy, unresponsive, wide-tired single-speed machine that was difficult to develop any speed on. And if you've since experienced a modern cycle, you're not about to switch back. In nearly every respect, the old "ballooners" were inferior to the racing-style machines that have become so common today. We say nearly. . . because, as you may recall, those stable and forgiving beasts were as much at home on dirt roads (or in a pockmarked alley) as they were on pavement.

Mountain Biking for Beginners

A little less than ten years ago, a group of cyclists (many of them pavement racers) in Marin County, California got the idea of marrying racing technology with sturdy (and cheap!) old balloon-tired bikes. Riding these strange hybrids, the group took to fire roads—steep, crudely prepared paths that allow fire-fighting vehicles to get into undeveloped areas—and created a subculture of off-road bicyclists. Even more important, they started the evolution of a new sort of bicycle, one that could revolutionize the business (and may already have done so).

The modern mountain bike (also called klunker or fat-tire bike) borrows from racing, street, and bicycle motocross technology. The result is a full-sized cycle that takes on rough terrain with ease but also performs quite well on pavement.

Nearly all such machines have a minimum of ten different gears to choose from (the Fisher Tandem actually has 21). With two or three front sprockets and from five to seven rear ones, there's a ratio to suit just about every imaginable situation . . . from climbing steep hills at a snail's pace to plummeting down long stretches of asphalt. As compared with street cycles, mountain bikes have gears that allow slower speeds while maintaining upper ratios that exceed most bicyclist's desires or capabilities.





Crowd at Seven Springs MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Sept. 15-17, 2017
Seven Springs, PA.

With more than 150 workshops, there is no shortage of informative demonstrations and lectures to educate and entertain you over the weekend.

LEARN MORE