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Responsible mountain biking during lockdown

Lockdown means staying on the loam and way from rock gardens
During lockdown you should ride conservatively - and alone (Image credit: Rob Till)

If you are in the fortunate position to live close to a trailhead, the recommended one hour lockdown ride allowance is invaluably mindful mountain bike time.

The soothing serenity of a forest singletrack is especially therapeutic during this time of great global anxiety. Mountain biking in a time of Covid-19 is not irresponsible, so your riding needs to be adapted to current realities.

As national health services everywhere are overburdened by Covid-19, mountain bikers need to reconsider their risk management when riding. This is definitely not the time to be attempting that new double-black trail, if you are a regulation blue grade rider.

The tension between rolling speed and technical terrain challenges is what makes mountain biking so involving. Experienced off-road riders are aware, that even at very low speeds, a mountain bike crash or involuntary dismount can deliver severe injury.

How do you minimise your crash risk when out on that one-hour mountain bike ride, during the Covid-19 lockdown? The best precautionary measures start at home before you even mount that saddle.

As work-life has slowed to a trickle we all have an abundance of time to scrutinise the simplest maintenance issues on our mountain bikes. Some of the worst - and avoidable - mountain bike injuries are caused by loose bolts, especially on the stem or axle, which disable steering or braking inputs.

Take your time and check over all your cockpit and disc brake rotor bolts. Ensure whichever axle system your mountain bike has (skewers or through-axles), is properly fastened. 

If you are riding clipless pedals, loose cleat bolts can make swift unclipping impossible – which is the last thing you want when trying to dismount at low-speed.

 

Ensure all your bike's bolts are properly torqued, before a lockdown ride

Ensure all your bike's bolts are properly torqued, before a lockdown ride (Image credit: Rob Till)

On the Trail

Don’t be shy about riding with additional protection. If your kneepads and elbow guards are usually only taken off that gear shelf for the Alps or a weekend at a bike park in Wales, get used to riding with them more often.

This is not a time to be embarrassed about riding with ‘too much’ personal protection for ordinarily unchallenging trails.

Should your tyre pressure be altered for extremely careful off-road riding during the Covid-19 lockdown? Not radically, but you can make small adjustments to create an even safer ride.

Without risking the reality of a pinch-flat-induced puncture, you could choose to run tyres at marginally lower pressure. This will add a touch more cornering grip and a larger contact patch, which aids braking traction.

The world’s most skilled professional mountain bikers are not attempting to test their skills at the moment. Most of them are doing strength exercises and keeping their fitness relevant with hours on the indoor smart trainer, chasing pixels on one of many excellent virtual indoor cycling apps.

Ride with greater caution than before. Don’t allow gravity and your bike’s excellent rolling momentum, or the size of those front tyre tread blocks, lull you into a false sense of security.

Keep away from rock gardens, drop-offs and jumps for now, which are technical trail features that cause the most crashes. Neaten your approach to singletrack cornering too: commit on the brakes and then gently tip-and-turn through the corner.

This is a time to flow on the trails, instead of attempting to use all the amazing capability of your mountain bike’s suspension and tyre technology, to rush over roots, ping through rock gardens and boost off humps.

An hour’s worth of riding, calculates to immense privilege, in a world where many mountain bikers are confined to virtual riding like Zwift - in their living rooms. Use your hour to be mindful, instead of mindlessly becoming a crash casualty and statical burden, which the national health service can ill afford.