To truly experience the mountains, you have to allow them to steal your heart, occupy your thoughts and soak your soul with their magic. It’s only when you get carried away by the obsession that you will see the true majestic colors of mountains.
Distant peaks, dense forests, windy paths, fields, roaring rivers, glaciers, clouds, winds, the sun, rain and everything else you can find when you choose your mountain and your adventure.
Over the years I’ve tried many mountain disciplines, learning more about the associated challenges, risks and the staggering highs. One thing unites all of these experiences – with intensity comes relief and hard work always gets rewarded. Effort and intensity are subjective measures, but we all know, when we reach the level we’re proud of.
Mountain biking is a diverse set of disciplines, all including a bike, but varying in terrain, level of bike suspension and the size of the helmet you’re wearing.
Downhill Mountain biking, as the name suggests, usually involves riding down steep, rough and often highly featured types of terrain. It is considered one of the most challenging of disciplines, due to its level of technicality and amount of risks involved.
However, let’s not get too carried away with the definitions, and discuss the obvious –
Mountain biking is a sport that balances mental and physical skills, and is likely to challenge you to your limits and push your abilities. Mountain biking and downhill biking offers an insane workout on several different aspects. In this article, I will discuss Downhill mountain biking exercise benefits.
Not surprisingly, mountain biking is an intense physical workout and requires some serious strength and endurance. When people think about fitness training, road biking is always the first discipline to come up and less so mountain biking.
Imagine if your road cycling workout was up a steep hill on an uneven road and your bike would weight two times more? Doesn’t sound too easy, does it? Most mountain bikers, including downhill bikers have to do their own climbs, unless riding in a park or with a support like a truck.
A typical day of riding might include 2000-5000 m of vertical gain, which is quite a hard work. Extended periods of sustained physical effort are an excellent aerobic exercise, increasing your endurance and contributing to your fitness.
The downhill part is as intense as the uphill part. While climbing uphill employs your aerobic capacity, the downhill can be seen as intense intervals and strength workouts. Speeding up through those flat bits to make the jump or pedaling hard to go through berms will get your heart racing and blood pumping.
Downhill Mountain Biking is also exceptionally upper-body and core intensive, as you have to control your bike and take in the impact from drops, sudden turns and jumps. Your upper body’s strength contributes a large extent to a rider’s ability to do certain features and maintain intense speed.
Finally, let’s not forget your hands. For majority of the riders, your hands will give up before your legs will. Little that we do in daily life contributes to grip strength, and having to control a downhill beast riding down a mountain trail is serious work.
If you downhill bike frequently, you are likely to add some major strength to your grip power. The opposite is also true – doing some grip strengthening exercises like dead-hanging and rock climbing will also help you become stronger for your biking.
Downhill Mountain biking will not only make your body strong and resilient, it will also train your mind. Focus, reaction, mental stability – these are all pleasant side products of riding hard. Given the dynamic and highly intense nature of the sport, you are forced to focus as hard as you can to make through features and maintain ability to react to the unexpected.
To me, personally, this is the most difficult part of mountain biking – surviving hours of adrenaline rush. As a beginner, it is important to recognize, when you start losing your reaction time and getting fatigued and blurry; it is very easy to make mistakes that might have dramatic consequences. Find the courage to push your mental limits, but employ your sanity to keep you safe.
Mountain biking has incredible advantages in developing your reaction time and motor skills. See it as a workout for your brain responsible for smooth activity of your body. Having to process new information keeps your brain “awake” and “young” and hence, the diverse patterns of the terrain and trails will keep you on your toes, ultimately benefiting you in a wide spectrum of ways.
Power of Meditation
From all that was described above, you might make an impression that there is no place for meditation in mountain biking, and you might be right.
However, I would like to point out that it is important to stay calm and confident, when you feel scared and the stakes are high; you want your conscious cool mind to be responsible for all your decisions and keep you going forward rather than stall at the worst time possible.
Often in order to progress forward and manage to do things we haven’t done before, we need to know that we can do them. Meditating, relaxing, trusting yourself might help you reach exactly that.
Some Nutritional Tips
Depending on your access to food and water supplies on the trails and how remote your trip will be, take some water and food with you.
These days you can find a large supply of mountain biking packs that will fit a camel bladder and have enough space for some extra layers, bike repair kit and, of course, food.
Do take some food, as you will burn through calories incredibly fast going up and down hills. Being low in sugar may lead to loss of focus, energy, resulting mistakes. Some people also say that being hungry causes them to get scared easily.
Choose high calorie, quickly digesting foods. Some good examples include snack bars, bagels, sandwiches, sweets, cookies or specialized sports snacks such as gels and chews.
A Word about Gear
You have to be able to trust your gear, when committing to solid rides. Start by learning what your bike is capable of, especially if you are relatively new to mountain biking.
Different bikes are designed for different things, also dependent on your skill. Take your time researching your equipment before purchasing and test it well after.
Helmets are absolutely essential pieces of gear – better leave your pants behind than your helmet. Depending on the terrain you’re riding, choose either an open-face or a full-face helmet. In some cases, wearing body armour is also a good idea.
I never leave my cycling gloves behind, as they provide me with better grip and skin protection in case of a fall. Finally, if you’re riding higher mountains or spending time in more remote areas, don’t forget a light wind-breaker or packable rain jacket and, if available, some navigation system.
In conclusion, Downhill mountain biking will throw you into the river of intensity, inspiration, challenges and a workout you will sleep like a baby after. It will train and challenge you physically, mentally, strengthening your adventure mountain spirit. If you will allow it, mountain biking will bring you to spectacular unique places both literally and figuratively. Mountain biking can be a great training for endurance and mental strength.
As they say – go hard or go home.
About The Author
I’m Dan, and I’m the Editor in Chief of True North Athletics. I’m also an avid adventurer, digital nomad and traveler. I enjoy all types of outdoor sports, a good golf tan, and spontaneous weekend trips. I currently live in Brazil where I can be found frequently hiking the rain forest around my city!