Off-road Riding, How To Stay Safe

3 04 2013

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Image from flickr creative commons via chaunceydavis818

Off-road riding is a fun and exhilarating sport but when practised without caution, there is the potential for a lot to go wrong and injury to happen. For that reason, it’s really important that you take heed of safety warnings and advice each time you take your bike off-road. That’s why I’ve come up with this handy guide on how to stay safe when taking your bicycle off-road. We’ll take a look at essential safety equipment that every cyclist should wear, before further discussing the merits of riding and how you can get involved in the sport.

When cycling off-road, it’s vital that you wear safety equipment such as a full-face helmet, cycling gloves and elbow and knee pads. It is also recommended that both trousers and a long sleeved top are worn for added protection. So why am I telling you all of this? No it’s not to be boring. Safety is of utmost importance, particularly when you’re involved in a dangerous sport such as off-road biking. A helmet is possibly the most important piece of safety equipment to wear as it will protect your head should you fall off your bike. The last thing you want is to injure your head as it can have lasting and potentially severe consequences. As for elbow and knee pads, it goes without saying that if you can protect yourself from nasty scrapes and cuts, you might as well; it’s not like you’re losing out on anything by wearing them.

The most popular form of off-road biking is with a BMX. These bikes are ideal for doing tricks and cool manoeuvres as they’re built with that purpose in mind. The sport was first popularised in Britain during the 1980s and was practised in skate parks and on dirt roads. However, it has come a long way from there and was introduced into the Olympic games in 2012. After the Games finished, the 400m BMX track was opened to the general public as part of the Velopark in the Olympic Park.

So why is BMX so good for you? As with any sport, it gets your adrenalin pumping and your heart racing which means that it burns calories. In fact, the effort of riding a BMX bike at speed for just an hour can burn approximately 610 calories. The sport is known for increasing endurance, developing physical coordination and improving muscle strength, as well as helping with weight loss.

Pedalling a BMX bike helps to strengthen and tone various leg muscles, while muscle mass in the biceps and triceps is increased when lifting the handlebars to perform tricks. It doesn’t just have physical merits however; whether practising to compete in races or performing tricks, BMX biking gives the rider boosted self-discipline, motivation, self-esteem and confidence.

Not only that, but group training sessions can encourage younger cyclists to develop and improve communication skills and learn how to work well as a team.

If you’re thinking about learning BMX biking as a beginner, you’ll need to master the basics first before you are able to compete amongst the more advanced riders. There are many YouTube videos with tips and advice for mastering the basics and they can teach you how to perform some of the simpler tricks to get you started.

Once you start to become a little more advanced and confident with the tricks, you may wish to set yourself a bit of a challenge. Tom Allen spent several years travelling through some 30 plus countries with his mountain bike, so he’s more than qualified to dish out advice. He offers 10 tips for those wanting to complete their first off-road cycling trip. As well as giving the cyclist practical and helpful advice, he also reminds people to have fun too. My particular favourite is the final tip which he entitles ‘enjoy’, as I think it serves as a good reminder that you should be able to have enjoyment and pleasure from a sport as well as pushing yourself to the limits.

For those wanting to take part in BMX biking competitions, there are several events that take place up and down the UK as well as in various countries around the world. A low-cost way to be able to take part in so many competitions is to buy cheap tents to stay in, saving you a fortune on expensive accommodation. What’s more, you’ll be able to get in some handy last-minute practise on nearby trails.

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