Is Mountain Biking Dangerous? (How Protective You Must Be?)

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Mountain bike crash

Mountain biking can seem quite intimidating at first glance. In fact, a common question for every beginner of this sport is, is mountain biking dangerous?

The short answer is that it all boils down to your skills as a mountain biker, and the environment in which you’re mountain biking. If done right, incidents are unlikely to happen.

Compared to what social media displays, mountain biking isn’t about terrifying cliffs, steep trails, and heart-stopping mountain drops.

It’s more about enjoying safe trails and‌ open fields where one might sustain lesser injuries such as scrapes, bumps, and bruises.

In this post, we’ll show you how protective you need to be when mountain biking, the right gear to use, and how to avoid the dangers of mountain biking.

Common Injuries of Mountain Biking

Being a mountain biker means exposure to both natural and man-made obstacles, including unpredictable weather, road obstacles, wild animals, poor judgment, and over-speeding.

The good news is that the common injuries you can sustain from such conditions aren’t entirely life-threatening. One study shows that the rate of minor injuries, which are only skin wounds and bruises, is 75%.

However, these aren’t the only dangers that mountain biking poses. Here’s a glance at common injuries most bikers—from beginners to professionals—experience:

  • Abrasions (such as cuts and scrapes)
  • Bruises
  • Lacerations
  • Fractures
  • Skier’s thumb
  • Sprains and strains
  • Concussions

Fractures and ligament tearing may sound alarming (and they are), but records show that bikers who experience fractures, sprain, and strains make up a rate of 1.54 out of 1000.

That being said, it’s still possible to encounter a severe injury without practicing caution. So, we recommend staying vigilant and prudent when you’re out on rough terrains.

Mountain Biking Risks You Should Watch Out For

With the previous point in mind, how can we stay vigilant when mountain biking?

Well, the first step is knowing what the risks are. Equipping yourself with knowledge on how to avoid any incident is the greatest prevention in mountain biking.

So, without further ado, below is a list of the most common risks to watch out for when you’re exposed to dangerous terrain as a mountain biker:

1.   Biking in Uncharted Terrain

The call of the unknown can be enticing. Discovering secret trails and amazing views holds a certain charm, but it also holds a degree of danger.

Biking or choosing a trail you haven’t mapped out can reveal obstacles like blind spots and slippery downhills. So, it’s always best to survey your terrain and plan your trail to avoid unwarranted injuries.

Once you’ve entered your trail, we recommend slowing down when turning at a blind spot or going downhill. Stay vigilant and watch out for obstacles.

2.   Faulty Bike Parts

Using an unmaintained bike on rough terrain can cause certain parts of your bike to fall apart. Even worse, you might get stuck in the woods or on a mountain with a broken bike.

So, remember to keep your mountain bike in good condition and upgrade your gear. It also wouldn’t hurt to bring first aid kits and a bottle of water to stay hydrated.

3.   Going Beyond Your Skill Level

Going beyond your skills and choosing a terrain that exceeds your capabilities as a mountain biker can lead to serious consequences. Bikers that push themselves too hard in pursuit of achievement end up regretting that decision after a crash.

You need to practice good judgment and pacing. Increasing your strength and endurance is commendable, but try to slow down as you do so.

4.   Using an Incompatible Bike Type

There are certain types of bikes for different types of mountain biking. This entails choosing the right type of bike for the terrain you plan to tackle.

For instance, you can’t use a cross-country bike for mountain biking. This bike type is intended for covering distances quickly, so in the event of traveling downhill, the speed of this bike type can be dangerous.

Protective Equipment You Should Wear

Mountain biker with injury

The next step to avoid any severe injuries is to keep yourself protected. Like it or not, mountain biking is a sport where falling and crashing are part of the learning experience.

Choosing the right apparel and protective gear can be a huge game changer. It can lessen the impact of a crash and even save a life.

Here’s a list of gear every mountain biker should have:

1.   Helmets

Helmets are one of the most obvious and effective pieces of protection you should always have as a mountain biker.

Wearing helmets can undoubtedly reduce and prevent serious head injuries. You might not like wearing a helmet, but this doesn’t change the fact that it has saved countless lives and that it can save yours.

For a full package of protection, ventilation, features, and outstanding comfort, consider the Giro Manifest Mips Spherical Bike Helmet. It’s not the most wallet-friendly option, but it’s worth every penny.

2.   Riding Jersey

Staying sweaty for too long may give you chills and make you lose focus when riding. On that account, choosing the right jersey can help you stay well-ventilated and save you from feeling fatigued and uncomfortable.

Consider a moisture-wicking jersey that’s designed for mountain bikers.

3.   Waterproof Jackets

Unpredictable weather can be a bane to every biker. When a drizzle starts, it’s best to be prepared and keep yourself from getting soaked.

Jackets can also save you from potential scrapes and cuts when going through trees with sharp branches.

With that in mind, consider getting yourself a softshell jacket. They’re durable, highly breathable, and can protect you from a light shower.

4.   Elbow and Knee Pads

Elbow and knee protection can help prevent bone fractures, sprains, and strains. When you fall hard from your bike, the impact won’t be as intense when wearing elbow and knee protection.

We recommend a knee pad with enough coverage that it can reach the side of your knees. For elbow protection, prioritize a lightweight, breathable, and adjustable fit.

5.   Eye Protectors

Dust, dirt, tiny insects, and branch tips are all things that can hit your eyes when you’re biking. Having the right eye protector can keep you from suddenly losing your vision and swerving out of your path.

We recommend choosing an eye protector that’s anti-fogging and impact-resistant. It should also have clear lenses and a sturdy frame. Plus, a stylish design wouldn’t hurt.

6.   Padded Gloves

Padded gloves help prevent wrist strains and pain. They also keep your knuckles from bruising and scraping when you fall. So, having pads on gloves is ideal for hand and wrist protection.

7.   Torso Armor

Keeping your vital organs protected is important in mountain biking. Your neck should remain safe and stable if ever you experience a crash.

Body armor can protect you when you’re riding on rough and intense terrain. It can be a little heavy and restrictive, though, so be sure to wear it on the right occasion.

The Verdict

Is mountain biking dangerous? Like all sports and types of biking, we can’t remove the danger from the equation, but we can prevent it! Read our article if you’re curious about needing reflectors on the trail.

Learning the risks of mountain biking and how to avoid them can drastically change the game and keep any incident from occurring. It also helps to wear the right protective gear to increase safety, confidence, and enjoyment!

As you learn more and gain experience, perhaps mountain biking can turn from an intimidating sport to your all-time favorite passion.

Photo of author


Paul Tuthill
Growing up in Scotland, Paul developed a love for the outdoors and a desire for adventure from an early age.