Mountain biking for leisure

Mountain biking for leisure

Riding off-road is great fun. You can cover more ground than walking, enjoy the views, notice the local flora and fauna, stop to talk to local people. It's a healthy and peaceful environment. With cycling there very few age boundaries - so it is ideal for groups, families, or individuals.

Three good reasons to ride a bike

  • Biking is renowned for promoting health and fitness. It uses your cardiovascular system (heart, lungs and circulation) with minimal impact on your skeletal joints.
  • You can pedal at any speed and or exertion rate that you choose.
  • Most of all biking is fun! The feeling of the wind on your face as you freewheel down a track; the contented feeling after exercise that the body itself creates or the satisfaction of conquering a climb by your own efforts.
The traffic-free environment of off road riding is especially suitable for young children to enjoy cycling
How to get started  

It's advisable to wear a suitable helmet but not a legal requirement. You can use any bike to begin with provided it is roadworthy and safe. Before riding any bike, check the brakes work, the tyres are suitably inflated, and not worn or cracked, and that the chain is lightly oiled. For full details on a bike check, see Maintenance and Planning a ride. It's also important that your helmet is properly fitted. Ask a bike shop to help you or see the information in the Kit section.

The traffic-free environment of off road riding is especially suitable for young children to enjoy cycling. Once most children have reached six months they are capable of sitting on a child seat on the back of a bike or in a bike trailer, and when a little older they can ride a trailer bike to help with the pedalling. These can all be rented from many bike hire centres around the country. Of course, as soon as children start to ride themselves, there's no stopping you.

Where can you ride?  

Legally you can ride on almost all roads (not motorways) as well as bridleways and byways, but it's worth searching out quiet lanes and avoiding the busier roads altogether, and it's fun to create a route that stays off road altogether. In towns and cities, canal tow-paths are ideal places to ride. In the countryside bridleways and byways, as well as a few other rights of way may be suitable for riding, but they may be difficult to follow (or overgrown...) unless you know them or can navigate.

Many old railway lines have been renovated into cycleways

Often the most suitable locations are those with specific cycle paths and general wide tracks. These include Forest Centres, located all over the UK and parts of the National Cycle Network (NCN). These are mainly old railway lines that have been renovated into cycleways. The NCN has already established half of its final planned total of 10,000 miles of tracks covering the whole of the UK In fact around 50% of the population are less than 2 miles from part of the NCN. The NCN also forms part of the Europe wide cycle path network stretching from all corners of the Continent.

More about the National Cycle Network here.

If usually you only ride on tarmac, it's worth venturing off road from time to time. You'll see the countryside from another angle; traffic-free tracks make a safe and peaceful ride, which is ideal for riding with youngsters and a substantial amount of stress relief from normal life. You might begin your riding career with brief saunters around the local park and progress to half days and then full days out. The attraction of cycling may take you further - into camping, hostelling or (if you prefer a little extra comfort) just take your credit card and hit the B&Bs for a great weekend away. Who knows, within a short while you may be poring over maps to link up places of interest and making your own off-road routes across whole continents!

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