Head over wheels: How mountain bikers stay safe when their heads hit the dirt

Mountain Biking can be an exciting yet dangerous sport. When beginning a career in biking safety equipment matters. Helmets, goggles, gloves, knee pads, body armour and even a partner in riding are all important things to think about before you hit the trails.

If you are an avid mountain biker like me, then you know that injuries are just a part of the sport. Whether it’s a scraped knee, a sprained wrist or a concussion, potential injuries lie on every corner of the trail. To enjoy the sport the best it’s important to make sure you do whatever you can to stay safe and make sure you can ride again.

Mountain biking can be dangerous. A crash can happen to anybody. I have experienced some myself. Most recently when I was doing dirt jumps in North Vancouver, I had a crash. I wish I could tell you more about it but it was so bad I blacked out. Can’t remember a thing. A friend was with me so luckily I was safe. I don’t think there is a mountain biker out there who hasn’t been injured. Not only have I had a head injury but I’ve walked off the trail with lots of cuts and bruises. I know that crash won’t be my last but what I did learn is that to stay safe, proper equipment is needed.

Even though I was wearing a helmet I still suffered a concussion. That’s how dangerous it can be! Proper safety equipment doesn’t necessarily stop you from getting injured, but it definitely can make your injuries less severe. It’s important to have the best equipment you can so you can recover and get back on the bike.

When you are in the market for safety equipment, there a few things to consider. It’s more important that your helmet is actually protecting you than just looking good. MIPS might sounds funny but it’s a key safety feature for a helmet. It’s a piece of plastic in the helmet that twists and moves so when you hit your head it acts as a layer that helps keeps you safe. Full face helmets cover your whole face keep everything safe but some people like a half helmet because they are lighter. Personally, I have both but tend to wear my full face helmet after the crash. Helmets are the one piece of equipment, other than the bike, that is a must-have for the sport.  

Company: iXS

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full face helmet 

A piece of equipment that some bikers use and others do not are goggles. Those who chose to use goggles tend to chose them because they do not want sand, rocks and mud in their eyes. You want goggles that stay on your face, that do not scratch easily and are not too heavy. Most people only chose to wear goggles when it is super dry and dusty outside. Riders will chose not to wear goggles as the pressure on their face can be annoying and distracting. Goggles are recommended by some and not by others so it comes down to personal preference.  

Gloves are something that might not get as much attention as other pieces of equipment but are also very important. You need gloves because they mainly protect your hands if you fall. They make sure your hands and palms don’t get scratched up. Most often the gloves are made from synthetic materials that can also often come in different designs. Unfortunately they don’t protect your hands from broken bones. When buying gloves you want to look for ones with padding on the palms and gloves cover all of your hands. You do not want any skin to be exposed. Technically a rider could wear any glove, but like in other sports, you want a pair designed for the activity you are doing.

Knee pads are another key piece of equipment you should think about for mountain biking. Obviously they protect your knees. If you can get in a crash or hit the dirt falling off your bike you want to make sure you are as padded as possible. The create a softer landing, help you prevent unnecessary cuts and bruises and can also help lower the chance of you breaking a knee. Some people also wear shin pads but I don’t because in my opinion I’d rather deal with stitches than shin pads.

knee pads

I only ride in iXS. It’s a Swiss brand that makes technical gear, clothing and helmets for biking and motor sport. The company has not only won design awards but it has also been recognized for its safety features. I recommend checking it out if you are in the market for new gear. Fox, Trey Lee and Bell are other good brands to look at.

Body gear is basically a chest protector and a back brace. Personally, I do not wear one or see a lot of other riders wearing them. They are often too bulky and annoying to wear due to the discomfort. One time I would recommend the use of body gear is if you were trying a new and possibly dangerous technique. As you might not land it correctly, it is important to stay protected until you become more comfortable with the trick.

While it might not be a piece of equipment you can buy at the store, some people say a partner while biking is very important. Biking with a partner is very important if you want to stay safe. If you hurt yourself there is someone there who can help you or call for help if needed. If you are alone, and hit your head the consequences could be worse if you are alone and lying there unconscious or with a head wound. Partners can also help you with your technique and it makes it a more social event.

Mountain biking is a super fun sport. The adrenaline rush of flying through the air and hoping you land is a feeling I live for. It’s what keeps going back out to the trails even with cuts, bruises and past concussions. To make sure I get to keep doing it for as long as I can means that I need to keep myself safe. With sore knees, ankles and an elbow I have challenges ahead but the best way I can keep myself injury free is using safety equipment. Helmets, gloves, and pads are just as important as the bike. I recommend trying out mountain biking but be prepared to fall and make sure you keep yourself safe while doing it.

Image credit: Flickr andy_c

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