What is a Mountain Bike?
A mountain bike is a bicycle specially designed and built for off road cycling, even over rough and steep terrain, away from the city streets. To withstand the off-road use and to be able to negotiate steep hills, these bikes need to have a very robust frame, knobby tires for good traction and a specially designed gear system with increased number of gears (18 to 27). Mountain biking as a sport first appeared in the United States, about twenty years ago, and lately it is becoming very popular. It is especially popular in Greece, as the weather and terrain conditions are ideally suited to this sport. It has been an Olympic sport since 1996.
Is special training necessary?
Of course a prerequisite is good biking skills. However, mountain biking requires additional training, due to the demanding terrain conditions and the resulting danger of injury. Training focuses on the use of the gears and negotiating various obstacles or terrain conditions (downhill slopes, rocky terrain, water masses, fallen logs, etc). There are organizations and schools that can teach you the basic skills of mountain biking, and then, you can perfect your technique with practice.
Where and when does it take place?
You can mountain bike practically anywhere in a natural setting. All over Greece one can follow special routes (trails) and enjoy biking in the countryside. In the area of Athens, such trails are available in the mountain regions of Parnitha, Varibobi, Penteli and Dionysos. More information on mountain biking routes you can get from local biking clubs. Mountain biking in Greece is practiced all year round, but especially in autumn in spring. In the summer, due to high temperatures, it is better to limit biking in the early morning or late afternoon hours.
› Frame. The frame of a mountain bike can be constructed with various materials, each with its own pro's and con's. The basic two materials are steel (a special steel alloy) and aluminium. The advantages of steel are high strength, ease of repair and low cost. However, steel is heavier than the rest of the alternative materials. Aluminium offers lower weight, higher rigidity than steel, but it is a little pricier. There are also more specialized, high-tech materials, such as carbon fibres, and titanium alloys. Although these offer certain advantages, they cost much more and they are not suitable for beginners.
› Tires. Characteristic on a mountain bike are its large, knobby tires. They are offered in many types and combinations, depending on the type of terrain to be used on. The air pressure in the tires plays a decisive role in mountain biking. Generally, selecting tires and air pressures for mountain bikes, is somewhat complicated for a beginner, but training and experience will help you know how to make correct choices.
› Wheels (rims). In a good mountain bike the rims are made of aluminium, for weight reasons.
› Gear system. This is a must for every mountain bike. It is made up of the chain, the gear sets on the front and rear wheel and the changer that helpw you select the speeds.