Whether you're a seasoned enthusiast or just getting started, mountain bike trail safety should be a priority. Safety starts with having the right skills and physical conditioning to handle the mountain bike trails you're riding. Always study a map of the trail before you go riding, know what challenges are coming and how long your trip might be. Don't go faster than you're comfortable riding, and don't get caught unprepared for a steep incline, tricky terrain or darkness.
When you know you're ready to hit the bike trails, check your equipment and safety gear. Make sure your bike and helmet are in good working condition and appropriate for the type of trail you're riding. Also, check the weather and determine if it will affect the trail. Be prepared both physically and mentally for any muddy, icy or foggy conditions.
Gather the gear you need to be prepared for any situation on the trail. For longer cross-country trails, the essentials are a map and compass to help you follow the trail, and food and water for energy and hydration. Emergencies could leave you stranded on the trail, so carry a pack with a first aid kit, a light, spare bulbs and batteries, rain gear, a reflective blanket, a mobile phone or radio, and your bike repair tools: a pump, wrench, Y-socket tool, multi-tool, Allen keys, tire levers, and spare tires and tubes [source: Crowther].
Don't forget your most important bike trail safety tool: your brain. You need to know how to maneuver the obstacles you'll encounter, and how to handle and repair your bike. You also need to know how to read your trail map, and how to use your compass and map to find your way. Finally, help keep the trail safe for others by letting those who maintain the trail and other riders know when conditions change.
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