Mountainbiking is a fun, active and enjoyable sport for all levels and ages of riders. However there are dangers and risks that are inherent of the sport, and you should always ensure you practice safe riding where ever and whoever you are with,
Skills which are imperitve to being safely in control of your mountain bike range from being able to shift your body weight in reaction to the terrain. I.E; if the ground slows downwards sharply you should be naturally positioning your body weight backwards. And vice versa should you greet a sudden incline.
Having quick reactions are essential to not being caught stuck on sudden obstacles where foot placement is inhibited. I.E; should you need to clear or ride over a fallen log or a rock your feet should be positioned where they are level and high off the ground as possible. Also where you should be ready at any stage to put your feet down in case of a sudden imbalance needing support.
On the higher end of the scale, you may be encountering trails where you can gain some ‘air-time’ over jumps, rollers or drop offs. You should not expect (if being unfamiliar with Mountain Biking) to maintain a natural flow of motion should you find yourself air borne. having correct and fluid body placement and reaction is absolutely imperative to maintaining control of yourself and the bike until regaining contact with the ground. Should these motions go un done, you are risking losing control of yourself and the bike making recovery impossible, leading to a very high chance of an accident.
If you are unfamiliar with the terrain and new to Mountain Biking it is always strongly suggested you go out with a friend, family member or anyone who can guide you and look out for you, offering encouragement where due and more importantly being a devils advocate to any instance where you may otherwise be putting yourself in danger.
Starting out is fun when approached safely and responsibly, and with plenty of Easy (Green) trails you are bound to find yourself right at home amongst the rainforest and eagerly gaining into the skills required tackle the next step.
Just as you would find on any ski slope around the world, Mountain Biking is governed by the same set of standards when segregating the different difficulty ratings.
Green Circle trails are typically for beginners. They are flatter and leave out the steeper areas of the trails. They also stay clear of obstacles or sudden and disrupting changes in the surface. As a typical trail network, the Green trails often are the first available when leaving the ‘trailhead’ and are laid out in a way where the harder trails are start/finish from this first basic loop, meaning you cannot find yourself on a higher rated trail without first accessed it via an easier Green trail.
Blue Square trails are the next step up. They include more climbing/descents though where the path is of a smoother surface, and requiring less balance/technical skills to navigate. Riders who are not as fit or strong may struggle where the trails may lead further up the hill and run for a longer distance before rejoining an easier Green loop. Blue trails may also include sections where the rider has the opportunity to get air-time and ride purpose built obstacles where a higher skill level is required to navigate.
Black Diamond trails are more advanced. They often will only lead out from Blue trails, which act as a ‘filter’ to keep out unsuspecting (less experienced) riders. The surface will vary greatly and can climb and descend very steeply and suddenly. The surface can be very uneven, having multiple obstacles such as rocks and roots where the rider must have high levels of technical skill to safely navigate. It is very strongly recommended riders who are comfortable only on Green trails do not attempt any Black trail, where the rider can easily find themselves out of their comfort zone, often always resulting in loss of control.
Double Black Diamond trails are the most advanced and difficult in the network. Typically they only make up a small percentage of the trail coverage, but require the most advance level of skills navigate safely. They are often the hardest trails to reach, requiring skills equivalent of Black trails to get to. They are often less maintained to offer a more challenging surface to ride, and may be narrowing and more restricting, requiring very high levels of balance and co-ordination over extreme varying terrain conditions and gradients, including jumps, drop offs and cambered bends. The beginnings of these trails are clearly marked with warnings indicating their difficulty rating, and is very highly recommended no unexperienced rider attempt them.
All trails are marked at their beginning with a trail name (or number) and their respective difficulty rating as indicated by either the Green Circle, Blue Square, Black Diamond or Double Black Diamond. It is the riders responsibility to gauge their skill level and not attempt trails that are outside of their own ability.
Trail etiquette is an important part to practising safe Mountain Biking. As you would expect to find on a ski slope, or at any recreationally sporting facility, there are rules and guidelines that outlay the etiquette, behaviour and personal responsibility expected to use the trails.
– The trails typically flow in one direction only. Pay attention the trail maps and sign posts that head every trail beginning, following the direction of the arrows. If you enter a trail and cannot see the signpost, you are heading in the wrong direction and can cause an accident.
– Be mindful of who is around you. Should you come across a rider who is slower than yourself, do not force them out of your way to get past. It is your responsibility to ensure they are aware of you and if you wish to move past, make your intentions known clearly and with enough time for them to react and leave a safe passage.
– If you come across a rider who is hurt or in need of assistance, you are obliged to stop and offer assistance. If you cannot assist, you should find the quickest and easiest solution to get further help. Never leave an injured rider on the trail whether you think they are safe/getting help or not.
– Carry spare tubes and a pump. It is inherent with Mountain Biking that you are bound to get a puncture at some stage. Do not expect riders to hand over their only supplies if you did not want to carry your own.
– Carry your own water. There may be no water point anywhere on the trails for you to fill up. Not only is it unfair to ask another rider for their own water supplies, you are putting yourself at risk of overheating and dehydration.
– Be friendly to riders. The trails are there for the public to use, and as such families/kids are often enjoying the same facility as yourself. There is zero tolerance to rude, abusive riders and they are dealt with appropriately.
– If you find any lost-property on the trails, it is encouraged you pick it up and hand it to the nearest bike shop. The bike shops have an extremely large circle or riders where a message can be made public regarding the lost property. Please do not feel obliged to claim any property found.
– Do not litter. If you carry snack-bars, wrappers or any foreign materials you are expected to take them out of the trails with you. Do not leave it on the ground or at the trailhead. The trails are highly sensitive and any litter left on the trails not only leave an ugly sight but detriment the eco-system.
– Do not ride the trails if you are ill-prepared or equipped to do so. A helmet is absolutely obligatory and no exception will be made to excuse any rider caught not wearing one. Your bike must have both front and back brakes working adequately, bar ends fitted (no hollow ends of the handlebar visible. You are endangering others and yourself if you enter the trails on unsafe equipment.
– If you come across any wildlife, be respectful and give plenty of clearance. Snakes are found in many parts of the Cairns region, and if you are unfamiliar assume they are poisonous and slowly move away. Do not attempt to pick up, chase or handle any wildlife.
Safe equipment is the biggest part to practising safe Mountain Biking. You can have all the skills necessary to tackle a double-black diamond trail, but if your bike is unsafe, or you are not properly dressed or wearing the necessary protective gear.