Mountain biking speeds off course

By Staff Writer
September 29, 2006

KARL MONDON

Mountain biking is a sport that anyone who is physically capable can partake in. Beyond that, people may not realize how fun it is and how addicting it can

Eric Povish, freshman English and communications major, said, “Mountain biking sounds like it would be fun to try.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Joe Windt, sophomore criminology major, said “Bro, it’s just not like surfing. Going down a mountain on a bike isn’t as thrilling as dropping in on a perfect eight foot wave with a solid barrel.”

Riding a mountain bike takes endurance and a strong personal will to keep pushing on, no matter what happens on the trail or during a race. Most people own mountain bikes or something similar but never actually take them off-road. There are many trails in Pennsylvania that get plenty of use for whatever discipline of riding one chooses to do, and there are many. The main types of riding are cross- country, downhill and free-riding.

Cross country riding is the most commonly known riding style. The terrain consists of climbs and descents in an off-road setting, usually on wooded trails or smooth, skinny single tracks down mountain sides or through fields. XC bikes are usually hard tails or short travel suspension bikes. Travel is the length of compression a shock will go through, and XC bikes generally have four inches or less.

Wide gearing is necessary for all of the different terrain one may encounter, with the bike usually having three gears in the front and eight or nine in the rear. It is almost a necessity to keep a pump, spare tubes, patch kits, water bottles and even foldable tires with you so that the bike can be fixed on the spot should anything happen on the trail. Blowing tubes and tearing tires is simply a fact of life, and one must always be prepared. Price ranges for these bikes can lie anywhere between $500 and $8,000.

Downhill mountain bikes are entirely different. They are basically dirt bikes with pedals instead of motors. They have one gear in the front and the standard eight or nine in the back. These are made for racing on downhill courses where riders will typically hit speeds of 40 mph or above. The lack of gears in comparison to an XC bike is due to the fact that these are made for strict downhill riding. The frame geometry is far more slack to compensate for constantly being on a descent. To want to pedal one of these rigs up a hill would require legs and lungs of iron, as they generally weigh approximately 45 lbs. A complete downhill ride will set you back about $4,500 at least.

Free riding requires the use of a downhill bike while riding because one will encounter shoots, ladders, teeter-totters, see saws, and drops usually no less than 10 feet high, but usually more around 20. It is mostly downhill, but with loads of stunts and obstacles thrown in. Free riding started to blow up a few years ago and is huge now, with companies putting out free ride specific bikes at many price points.

What most people want to know are what the health benefits of riding are and how fun it actually is. There are many benefits to cycling that could surpass even running.

Purely scientifically, one will burn as many calories as a runner but will do it without the stress on the knees from the constant pounding of running. Biking is an all-body workout as well, contrary to the popular belief that cyclists use only leg muscles. Shoulders, arms, wrists, lower back, and hands are used as much as any other part, and what muscles one uses will alternate depending on the terrain he/she is riding.

Then there is the mental factor to cycling. A sense of accomplishment can be felt when an insane climb is completed, and some people even get addicted to the endorphins released from strenuous cardiovascular activity.

David Flood, senior art history major at Eastern University said, “Mountain biking is a delight that is only surpassed by coitus, presumably.”

There are many trails in the area such as Valley Forge, Ridley Creek and West Chester University’s own south campus trails. Orlin Jespersen, Assistant Director of Recreation said, “If there is enough interest here on campus we could certainly look at adding a club or adding that to the Ski & Outdoor Club Activities.”

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