Oxford University's mountain bikers form a bedraggled corps of chap(ette)s dedicated to finding pubs in mountainous/countryside locations too far from civilisation to reach comfortably on foot. Flippancy aside, all those affiliated with Oxford University and Oxford Brookes - regardless of ability - are warmly welcome to join our rides. We regret that those who are not affiliated with either university in any way may not do so, but if are in doubt about your eligibility, please do get in touch!
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.
- First aid kit: the ride leader will always have one, but bringing your own is a good idea to cover all eventualities!
Oxford University MTB: a discussion of the discipline in general and riding locations in the area by John Binham
The term mountain biking is a phrase that covers a multitude of sins, The main disciplines are cross country and downhill but recently splinter groups have begun to form and whether market driven or consumer they have become increasingly popular and with a trend in increasingly specific bikes (does any one remember the great "free range" bikes from Cannondale?).
Crosscountry (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.
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 to name but a few of the obstacles. Downhill bikes are nearly exclusively long travel full suspension bikes that are built with strength in mind. Travel nowadays is around 8inches front and back. These bikes were never meant to go uphill quickly so expect weights of 40lbs to be considered reasonable!
FourCross FourCross (4X) previously the dual slalom event tacked on the end of large downhill races is now an event in its own right. It involves eliminator style racing in which each round 4 riders race down a short open downhill track covered with large jumps. 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 rarley longer then 4inches to keep things snapy of the start.
Marathon (Enduro) 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.
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.
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 mountainbiker 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.
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' and regularly plays host to SAMS and NPS cross country and downhill races. Aston Hill is only about a 28-mile drive north east of Oxford. The 100-acre area of woodland contains two technical permanent downhill courses, a duel course and a 4.5 mile cross country course which is the favourite course in the country of many riders due to the high proportion of singletrack, as well as numerous other trails. All the courses provide fairly challenging riding with plenty of roots, twists, switchbacks and steep sections to keep riders happy. The riding at Aston Hill is for members only but day passes can be bought at the site for £4