Oxford University's mountain bikers are few and far between, but if you like mud, sweat, and a lot of fun on a bike, you’re part of the family. Whether you’re from Oxford or Oxford Brookes, and whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned pro, please come along and enjoy some rides with us!
We cater for all, whether you’re looking to compete regularly or just want to come along because you love being on a bike (I fall into the latter category…)
Helmets are a must – no helmet, no ride.
Gloves are recommended, but not a must. Shorts or cycling trousers are a good idea – jeans are not. Some of us choose to wear kneepads, shinpads, elbow pads – it’s up to you.
For off-road/longer rides the following are also important to remember: - Warm clothing: be prepared to remain stationary for prolonged periods of time in deteriorating conditions if need be.
- Plenty of water and something high energy to keep you going.
If you can, it is also useful to bring: - Spare inner tube and tools to mend punctures or broken chains. The ride leader will always have these, but the more we have, the better. The club record is 4 punctures in one ride, and it gets a bit wearing to be repairing tubes in the rain… if everyone has a tube, it usually means we can whip the damaged one out, get a new one in, and be on our way as soon as possible.
- First aid kit. Again, the ride leader will always have one, but bringing your own is a good idea to cover all eventualities!
What we can provide:
The club has 3 Hope One lights which can be loaned out for night rides – please email me in advance so I know how many to bring!
The road club has a stock of turbo trainers which we are allowed to use, but you have to provide a suitable bike.
Our ride schedule for this year is provisionally set as the following:
Wednesday - 7pm – Night ride around Oxford
Saturday – 2pm – Ride in Oxford or further afield! (PLEASE NOTE: THE FRESHERS' RIDE WILL RUN AT 10AM, NOT 2PM - SEEBELOW FOR MORE INFO)
Depending on interest, some hill repetition or interval training sessions may be set up for other days.
Join the OUCC MTB page on facebook! Events will be regularly updated and this will be a good way to chat to other people in the club.
Add yourself to the mailing list. There will be a weekly email with scheduled rides and any other important information.
Finally, if you have any direct questions you think I can help with (or just want to talk bike), email me.
This year’s Fresher’s ride will run at 10am (meet at 9.50am) on Saturday the 12th of October, from Trinity gates, Broad street. There will be drinks at Somerville College with the roadies at 1.30 pm, and a mini-AGM where you can apply for any vacant positions on the committee.
a bike in decent mechanical condition
a spare inner tube (not compulsory but advisable)
a helmet (if you don’t have a helmet you will be turned away)
a snack (cereal bar, energy gel, peanuts etc.)
Wear sensible, comfortable clothing. Jeans are not a great idea, especially if it’s wet. Shorts, shorts and tights, tracksuit trousers, or cycling leggings are all okay. Layers are also a good idea – you may start off cold and get hot very quickly once we are riding. Gloves never hurt.
This will be an easy ride for all abilities. There will be a more technically challenging ride in Swinley Forest at the end of 1st week, aimed at more experienced riders. However, even if you are a keen mountain biker, please come along to the first ride, as it’s a great chance for everyone to meet!
A little about me… I have been riding XC for 2.5 years and DH for just over a year (if these terms are going over your head, scroll down). DH is my true love, but a little XC never did anyone any harm, right?
I am female, 4 foot 11, in my third year, have 2 bikes named Bambi and Thumper (if you diss the names I reserve the right to hit you with an inner tube) and have a penchant for wearing purple tights with my cycling shorts. I will never be as fit and fast as a six foot guy, but that won’t stop me from trying!
I’ve been riding with the club since 2012 – I joined as a second year. I spent Trinity term working hard to learn our Oxford rides, but if I get us a bit lost, please bear with me…
Oh, and I’ve been doing 90% downhill this summer, so my muscles have got bigger but I have usually either been pushing my bike up or sitting in an uplift van – so I might be panting on the hills!
If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact me!
These are some of the events we are looking to attend, subject to interest (and logistics...). Partial funding by the club, subject to committee approval, may be secured to help with the cost of participating.
Cannock Chase Evans Ride
A 16, 21 or 28 mile ride on natural singletrack and some man-made track
XC Rampage Night Race
Checkendon, South Oxfordshire
“The best place in the country for your first experience of fast XC racing. A bit like cyclocross but more fun, one hour of flat out, go for it singletrack.” Halloween afterparty too!
Real Ale Wobble
A 15, 25 or 35 mile ride taking place whilst quaffing ale..
Haldon Forest, Devon
Yes, this one is just after term ends, but I’m going because it’s just down the road from me! Could put up a guest or two…
"What is MTB?" - by John Binham (and updated by Sammi Rosser)
The term mountain biking is a phrase that covers a multitude of sins. The most popular at the moment are:
Cross country (XC) involves riders competing en masse over a set course for a number of laps, with the winner being the first person across the line. The courses are usually around four miles in length with an average racing lasting 16miles or 4 laps. They are composed of a mixture of climbs, descents, fire road and singletrack and can be fairly technical. Bikes used range from the entry level steeds from the main companies (like treck and specialised) up to £4000+ thoroughbreds. Light-weight is the key here as the less you have to drag around the faster you will go.
This is the main kind of riding we do in Oxford.
Downhill (DH) racing is an individual sprint event in which riders will race against the clock on a downhill (surprisingly) track over various jumps and drops. Downhill bikes are nearly exclusively long travel (200mm/8 inch) full suspension bikes that are built with strength in mind. These bikes were never meant to go uphill quickly – the geometry is slack, and everything is bouncy. However, they are stable at speed, . Downhill is not cheap to get into, with a new entry level bike costing around £2500, and prices going all the way up to £10,000 for the (admittedly beautiful) top-of-the-range Santa Cruz V10 carbon. An older, but serviceable, second hand rig can be picked up for £1000-£1500.
I might take the opportunity to just go on about downhill here because I love it. Your strength and bike handling skills will massively improve doing this kind of riding.
4x 4 (pronounced four cross) is a fantastic event, both for spectators and competitors. It involves eliminator style racing in which each round 4 riders race down a short open track, covered with large jumps, that is somewhere between a BMX track and a downhill track. The racing is elbow to elbow and the courses are often designed with multiple line choices to keep it interesting. 4X bikes are often strong hard tails or full suspension bikes, with travel around the four inch mark.
Marathon racing is taking the endurance aspect of cross country racing to the extreme and involves long off road distances of 50km+. Over these distances comfort is key and mid travel full suspension bikes (e.g the specialised enduro and the marin rift zone) are becoming increasingly popular.
Enduro is often described as “The kind of riding you do with your mates”. Bikes are full suspension rigs with about 160mm of travel. These guys can explain it better than I ever could!
Improving your Fitness - by John Binham
Unlike other branches of cycling, mountain biking is always supposed to be fun!
However, for those of you that want to get faster or compete at a higher level the following are a few simple tips to improving your cycling.
The various disciplines of cycling will all require some mix of the following strength, stamina, power and skills (or should that be skillz!). All training has to be specific so don't treat this as a hard and fast set of rules.
Strength is probably the easiest to improve on. Unlike road or track cycling where for the most part you will be very static on the bike in mountain biking you will be constantly moving around, shifting your weight and forcing the bike into the desired lines to get that extra speed. The best place to improve your strength is in the gym, focus on your upper body especially your shoulders, biceps, triceps and pecs. Dont go mad on leg weights as this will increase best from bike work, the best thing for your legs in the gym is ski training exercises, try and hold yourself in the sitting position for a couple of minutes and also squat jumps, this will improve your sprinting out of the saddle where you have to keep your legs bent slightly while sprinting to absorb the bumps. Your college gym or iffly sports centre will have a list of all the best exercises, do three 1 hour sessions a week and you should begin to notice a big difference within a month.
Stamina is probably the most boring, the best way is simply to get the miles in. Find a long route of maybe 30-50miles off road which you know well and go for it. I hate to say it but this is where riding on the road helps. A lot of people swear by road riding as a part of mountain bike training... I prefer to swear at it! Road riding allows a prolonged high level of activity unlike the very start stop nature of mountain biking, routes are easy to plan and you wont come back plastered in mud so is useful during the winter months in oxford. Any mtbrs who start shaving their legs will be lynched!
Power is required more in 4X and DH disciplines, but don't forget that a fast powerful start will benefit all riders. Power is often been described as a state of mind and being focused on an all out explosion of energy is certainly half the battle. Sprint training combined with gym work will help with the other half. 3 sets of 3 short sprints of about 30seconds each with a good break between each will stress your CP (creatine phosphate) system, which is your initial anaerobic energy source. Increasing the length of the sprints to a minute and/or doing them up hill will stress your lactic system which is your prime anaerobic energy system being derived from glycogen stores in your muscle, and takes over after about 30seconds when your CP stores are exhausted. Lactic training is hard work and don't even think about doing it after eating! All sprint training should be performed on the bike you are likely to race on, theres no point in training on a feather light road bike before lugging a 40lb downhill bike off the start line.
I could write pages on the various skills required in mountain biking. I wont instead the best way to improve is just to get out and ride, if theres a section you cant clean then ride it over and over again changing the gear and body position etc until you can. Also go riding with more experienced riders, following their lines and watching how they ride sections is good way to learn, they may also be able to point out what you are doing wrong. A good general aid to improving your handling with a view to becoming faster is to use a single speed, a tad perverted maybe but you'll find yourself breaking less and carrying more speed through sections.
Don't forget to vary your training, if it starts to become a chore you won't enjoy it which is why most people start riding in the first place.
The riding in and Around Oxford
Despite the obvious lack of mountainous terrain around Oxford there are nonetheless good areas locally and within short car/train journeys to cater for all riders.
Shotover Country Park
Shotover Country Park is located 2 miles due east of the city centre just beyond Headington.
Cycling is allowed but only on the permitted route so please stick to these routes at all times. Shotover is a nationally important wildlife site, protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act as amended by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. A mountain biker who damages the site could potentially be liable to prosecution.
The creation of new paths, jumps and other obstacles is strictly prohibited.
Some bike routes cross routes used by walkers so riders are strongly encouraged to keep this in mind when riding there.
Riding in South Parks is prohibited by the byelaws so OUCC members should not ride there.
Towpath along the Thames
The towpath along the Thames, as well as the Oxford Canal (starting on Hythe Bridge street ) provide easy off-road routes for getting out into the countryside or making out-and-back routes.
The area around Long Hanborough, about 35 minutes ride north-west of Oxford (or a train to Hanborough station) is well worth visiting for the cross-country loops which can be made using the bridleways to link up the good woodland singletracks on either side of the Evenlode valley. This is one of our longer rides, but is mainly flat, and stays dry for most of the year… but when it gets wet, it gets REALLY wet and stays that way for some time. It was unrideable for most of the 2012-13 academic year but when it dried out at the very end of Trinity, we had some good fun!
The Chiltern hills are only a quick train journey south of Oxford and provide a huge wealth of riding and possibilities for OUCC weekend rides. There is good riding around nearby Goring. Checkendon is only a short ride away too where excellent permanent cross country and downhill courses are maintained by the Reading All Terrain MTB Club (RATz) which regularly play host to SAMS and National Points Series races.
Swinley Forestin Bracknell , which is a regular venue for the excellent Gorrick races, is a popular venue for OUCC rides because of the very large network of good well-drained singletrack, which tends to remain dry all year. The area is only an hour's drive from Oxford (trains are available too) and is well worth the trip. The trails can best be described as twisty and flowing and the best trails such as the legendary 'Sidewinder' can be found in the area around Surrey Hill and 'The Wall'.
The excellent Aston Hill near Wendover has been justifiably called the 'South's premier mountain bike location'. Aston Hill is about 30 miles north east of Oxford, but is best accessed with a car. The 100-acre area of woodland contains five downhill courses, ranging from steep, rooty, technical descents to the smooth, Whistler-style Surface-to-air track, with big jumps and drops and the potential to get a lot of speed up!
In addition to some great downhilling (sadly not uplift assisted…), there is a popular XC loop, a pump track, and a 4x track.