Though they may seem incompatible, in reality, “safe” and “mountain biking” go together perfectly. For example, once you hit the trails, you’re free of unpredictable road traffic and other man-made hazards. When it’s just you and your skills, you can mostly trust your instincts not to put yourself in any danger. But to really make your ride trouble-free, start with these five helpful tips for safe mountain biking.

1. Check your bike

Make sure your bike is in tip-top shape before you head off-road to prevent equipment failures that can sometimes lead to crashing. Here’s a clever way to remember to check your bike that’s as easy as ABC. 

“A” is for air so if your tyres feel low, pump them up to the recommended pressure (usually a number printed on or moulded into the side of the tyre, see the Truth about tyre pressure.) 

“B” is for brakes, which can wear out over time so if your stopping power seems a little slack, it may be time to replace your brake pads or cables.

“C” stands for cranks and chain, which work together to keep you rolling so make sure they aren’t loose or misaligned. One more is “Q” for quick releases, which routinely need tightening.

2. Plan ahead

Before you even throw a leg over your mountain bike, take a few minutes to map your route. Make sure the trail is well-marked if it’s your first time riding it, or make sure your navigation system is working and well-charged before you head off into the unknown. Don’t wing it! Know where you are and where you are going, especially when the land area where you’re riding has unclear borders.

3. Be aware of your environment

Where you ride often has a lot to do with how you ride, so it’s a good idea to research your riding environment before you go. Trail conditions and levels of difficulty can vary a lot from trail to trail, now add in weather, time of day (is it likely to be a heavily used trail?), and possible nuisances like stinging or biting bugs. Use that info to optimise your ride ambitions.

4. Know your limits

Mountain biking offers you multiple opportunities for success, but there’s a fine line between challenging yourself and riding recklessly. A good rule to follow is “when in doubt, chicken out” if you come up against an obstacle that’s above your skill level. You’ll get there eventually, just work toward overcoming it instead of throwing yourself at it just because it’s on the trail. Better yet, try riding with someone more experienced who can show you the technique for overcoming the obstacle.

5. Ride with a buddy

A mountain bike ride among friends easily doubles as a social event as well as a safety precaution when you want to challenge yourselves with a bit of friendly competition. Riding with someone else or in a group lets you swap skills and learn from one another, as well as keep an eye on each other when the riding gets a little rough.

With mountain biking, it’s you who’s in control of how you interact with what’s around you because – unlike cars – trees don’t suddenly dart out into your path. Safe mountain biking amounts to riding responsibly within your limits.