Getting ready for a trail ride is a lot like getting ready for a night out. There's the preparation, organising the friends and the picking of outfits. Then spending the time to get yourself (and your bike) ready, and making sure you know where you're going when you leave the front door - looking all fine and sassy.
It's an exciting experience because for a lot of us, getting away from the hustle and bustle of the real world to ride bikes is a precious occasion. While it's easy to get caught up in the romance of mountain biking, don't forget to carry out those essential pre-ride checks that will keep you sailing safe down those muddy descents.
Check the Weather
It sounds easy enough, but checking the weather at your destination is an important factor to play in your preparation game. The weather will affect what you decide to pack, wear and even how you set your bike up.
If it's looking to be a grim grizzly ride, pack the waterproof jacket and make sure your hands are warm and dry too. If you're fortunate enough to have sunshine on the forecast, then ensure you have adequate sun protection, and don't forget those sunnies!
Check your Bike
Are your gears shifting smoothly? Do your brakes bite, or do you have an annoying rub on your rotor?
One of the most important things you can do before a ride is check your bike over. The M-Check is a typical fail-safe way to ensure your steed is fit for riding. Starting at the back of your bike, work your way forwards ensuring bolts are tightened up to the correct torque, brakes and gears function properly and your personal adjustments are spot on. After all, your bike is what carries you down techy, fast and loose sections of trail, so you can't afford to not have her (or him) perform its best.
A common area to be overlooked is tyre pressure and suspension settings. Just because you set them up on your maiden voyage, doesn't mean the pressures won't go down over time. Not only that, but changes in weight and skill level will affect how you have your suspension set-up.
Check your Pack
What you take on the ride is just as important. You need to make sure you have all the essentials to see you through most situations, including emergency hunger attacks.
Pack essentials will include your hydration bladder which should be washed and refilled with fresh water each time - no, topping up the stale water with fresh doesn't count. Other pack pieces should include a puncture repair kit, pump, snacks and your everyday carry items. Read more about packing your MTB bag here.
Be honest with yourself here, but how do you feel? Are you aching from a previous training session, or are you on the verge of a full-on flu outbreak?
While your opportunities may be few and far between to catch those trail rides, you still have to take care of number 1. If you're not feeling mentally or physically on top of your game, take it easy or skip this ride altogether. When you aren't feeling your best, you're more likely to make mistakes as your reaction times get slower.
So you're ready, you're bike is ready and you're ready to ride. How are your mates doing? Are they just as ready?
It's always good to get into a habit of giving your friend's bike a once over, check that they haven't overlooked anything that could pose as a problem later on. Once your group has assembled, all bike and kits are in order, it's time to begin the fun and get conquering those mountains.
If may sound like a lot of faff, but being prepared for the trails is an important and necessary step to take in order to help reduce the risk of mechanicals, and even accidents.
Work these steps into your pre-ride routine so you can get the most out of your day.
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