I often ride my mountain bike alone, mainly because I like riding by myself and my schedule. I ride more careful when I’m out there and make sure to take the necessary precautions.
Mountain biking by yourself can be dangerous if you don’t prepare properly. Sometimes it can take hours before someone comes by on deserted trails, so make sure to take the following tips into consideration.
Most of you being safe comes down to using your brain and proper preparation. I came up with 19 tips for mountain bikers who ride alone.
1. Bring Your Phone
You should always bring your phone, this can be a lifesaver or can save you from a long walk. If you don’t have cell coverage, use an app that tracks your location. GPS usually works, and many apps allow you to send your location in case a search and rescue is needed.
Make sure your phone can’t get damaged and store it away safe dry place. An alternative is to bring one of those basic phones which can only send texts and phone. These are usually pretty strong and can take a beating.
2. Carry a List of Emergency Contacts
A sticker on the inside of your helmet or a piece of paper (plastered) can come in handy when your phone is dead and you need to borrow someone else. It took me 10 years to remember my wife’s phone number (it’s embarrassing).
Carrying contacts around can be helpful when you have a bad crash. I once was in a biking accident and couldn’t even remember the name of my doctor. A list will be helpful in such cases.
3. Inform Relatives About Your Ride
Make sure to let people know when and where you’re going to ride. Inform relatives, your wife or girlfriend that you’re going to ride. Tell them where and for how long you expect to be gone so they know something is could be wrong when you haven’t returned in time.
I always send a message when I decide to ride for a little longer. So take some time to drink and send a message when you’re later than expected
4. Spare Parts, Tubes, and a Pump
To save yourself a long frustrating walk consider bringing some spare parts. Even though you want to pack light, some parts are essential when mountain biking by yourself.
It really depends on how long you plan to ride. For a shorter ride on urban trails, you’re probably fine using a tube repair cut or carrying a spare tube.
If you ride tubeless you’ll need some CO2 and bacon strips, just hope your tire won’t get sliced. Make sure to slime your tire with Orange seal or anything similar. There are also tubeless repair kits available which are about 5 bucks and they don’t take up any room.
If you’re planning a longer ride a spare tube is probably wise. Usually, you can fix small holes but a rip might require you to replace the inner tube. Use some duct tape to seal the outer tube so it doesn’t blow up right after you fixed it.
Usually, tubes come folded, unwrap the packaging and get rid of it to save space. If you think you can fold it more efficiently, do so. The more space you save the better.
Bring plenty of water. I once had too little and got a flat (and no spare tube). I had to walk for miles in the heath and cursed myself for not bringing enough water. When it’s hot it’s better to bring too much than too little.
6. Ride Known Territory or Take it Easy
If you’re familiar with your track, stick to it. Even then a fallen tree can spoil the fun but at least you know the trail or track you ride.
If you decide to ride a new course, take it real easy. You need to get familiar with the surroundings and going in too hard might cause you to run into unexpected obstacles.
7. Eat and Drink Before You Go
When you mountain bike solo you need to keep your brain focussed and stay hydrated. Eating and drink gin before you a ride really helps to maintain your focus. You’re going to need the energy to keep your muscles working and fatigue is very often the cause of injuries.
Hunger and thirst will make you react slower and you have a harder time to perform last-minute corrections. Most of my crashed had to do with being tired and not focused enough and could have been prevented.
8. Bring Lights
When the days get shorter you might make the mistake of being out there too long. When the dark sets in it’s hard to see any obstacles or find your way back. It happened to me once or twice and I also have a hard time seeing anything in the dark, I was glad I brought some lights.
9. Bring GPS
Many watches have built-in GPS, and so does your phone. If your phone runs out of batteries you still have a backup that can tell you where you are or which direction you need to go.
I use my Tomtom multisports watch which can also take you back to the place you started, saved me many times already. Sometimes you get tired or a bit lost and want to go back but it’s hard to determine where you came from.
10. Bring Some Food
Just a bit of food to get your energy back but it also might come in handy when you get lost. An energy bar or energy gel or great to keep going, or save as an emergency ration. I usually bring a banana which is a much cheaper option.
11. Bring Money
There are many bike shops where I live and when I just go out for a ride on the road and something breaks, I can always go to the nearest bike shop and have it fixed.
If it gets worse and no one can pick me up, I can always get a cab using my credit card or cash.
It’s also convenient when you run out of water and there happens to be a shop nearby.
12. Check the Weather Forecast
I once got a flat tire in the middle of a thunderstorm. This was a pretty scary experience and I should have checked the weather forecast. I had to walk for three hours and carried my bike all the way back. It was a good workout I guess, but it was a bit foolish.
And yes, I didn’t bring a spare tube…
13. Don’t Stress out if Anything Goes Wrong
In case anything goes wrong just remain calm. Stress is good to keep you alert but you got to think clearly. Take a few deep breaths, remember your emergency plan and follow that.
If you crash hard, make sure you are in one piece first. After the initial pain, try to get up and inspect your bike. I had a few close calls before but wearing
14. Plan Ahead
If you have the skills to replace a flat tire or repair a broken chain you probably know how to prepare. If not, make sure to at least watch a few instructional videos and bring a repair kit and the necessary parts to fix a problem.
It doesn’t happen very often, but when something breaks down, you better be prepared and know how to fix it.
15. Wear Protective Gear
I shouldn’t even have to mention this but at least wear a helmet. If your skill hits a rock or tree it might be all over. Body armor might be helpful but not everybody thinks they’re comfortable. In the end, a helmet is the most important gear to wear, you need your brain.
16. Beware of Local Wildlife
Try to stay away from local wildlife. In my area, there are lots of boars that can be aggressive during mating season and even more so when they have offspring. Even squirrels can cause trouble if they have rabies.
I once got attacked by a cow, you think these animals are peaceful but I learned they are not. It might have been a bull though. I had to hide between a couple of trees and I still remember it coming for me out of nowhere. It was built like a tank and it wasn’t amused, it still makes a good story.
I’ve also read about mountain bikers bringing bear spray or bear bells but most say the bells aren’t effective and the spray only helps if a bear is really close. Fortunately, bears are more scared of people except when they have cubs.
17. Prepare to Leave Your Bike Behind
Your bike may be worth a lot but not as much as you. If you have no means of carrying it around, hide your bike somewhere and mark the position. You can always come back later to pick it up.
Dragging a bike along while being injured might not always be the wisest choice. That’s only in extreme condition but consider it nonetheless.
18. Ride Flats Instead of Clipless
If you ride clipless be prepared to have a frustrating walk if your MTB is damaged and can’t go on. If it’s not a long hike you should be good, but carrying your bike and walking on clipless shoes can be a frustrating endeavor.
Consider riding flat pedals when you’re going out alone. Clipless shoes are a pain to hike in.
19. Inspect Your Bike
Check your bike for any signs of wear and tear. Check your tire pressure and make sure everything is still properly attached. You don’t want your front wheel to come flying off on a jump. A proper inspection is half the battle.
Also make sure you have everything you need and your repair kit, food ration or anything else you bring along is still there. Lastly, make sure you don’t lose your car keys.
20. Satellite Phone
You may not always have cell coverage and when you’re out there this can save your life. Satellite phones are dependent on a network of satellites orbiting the globe. They are either geostationary above the Equator or in orbit (between 500 to 1,000 miles).
because they are almost never affected by the weather they work everywhere. A satellite call is a bit more expensive (about 0,15 cent to $2 per minute) and the phones range from $500 to $1500. Renting is an option if you go on an extended tour. If you like to bikepack for days, check out my tips on what to bring in order to make it back alive.
21. First-aid Kits
A first aid kit might seem a bit much but when you are in a desolate area it can save your life. You need to be able to patch yourself up in case you crash hard.
Make sure to bring at least water purifiers, painkillers, bandages, scissors, disinfectant to clean wounds, and adhesive tape. Search Google for survival kits, there are some great portable kits out there that don’t take up much space.
22. Bring the Right Tools
Your chain might break, brakes could fail and of course, a flat tire is not uncommon. Make sure to bring the right tools to do emergency repairs and patch up your bike.
Bring a chain tool to remove and attach the chainlinks and use a master link or connecting rivet to repair your chain. If you don’t know how to do this, watch some youtube videos before you head out.
Bring a repair kit to fix your innertube, these will only fix smaller holes. A ripped sidewall can be patched using duct tape or anything that can prevent your innertube from being exposed.
23. Bring Toilet Paper
Well, your life won’t depend on toilet paper but it sure is useful. Not only when you need to go, but cleaning your hands when you have to repair a chain or tube. You don’t have to bring an entire roll, it depends on how long you’re planning to ride. You can remove the cardboard roll to save space or just bring a couple of wet tissues.
Tissues or toilet paper will also prove useful when you need to clean a wound. If you run out of paper find some leaves (not the poisonous ones).
24. Take Breaks
This depends on how long your ride but when you get tired it’s a good idea to take a break and regain strength. I had most of my crashes because I was tired and lost focus.
Mountain biking requires you to stay alert and monitor everything in front of you. Slippery rocks, roots, and branches can cause you to fall if you’re not focussed it may end badly.
So take a break and eat and drink something to regain strength and stay sharp.
25. Bring a Survival Kit
Get a pocket edition of the SAS survival guide and a survival kit. There are tiny kits available that weigh almost nothing and have everything you need to survive. You might want to learn how to make fire first in case your lighter gets wet.
Some kits have waterproof matches, a fishing hook, and wire, a compass, thermal blankets, etc which all fit in a tiny box.
There’s nothing wrong with mountain biking alone, whether you don’t know people who like mountain biking, can’t keep up or don’t like to wait for others, it’s still a ton of fun.
The perfect moment to enjoy nature and release stress without having to wait or keep up with anyone.
Make sure you’re prepared by bringing replacement parts, food and drinks, proper protective gear and a way to contact people. Let someone know where and how long you’re out there and have a plan in case anything goes wrong.
Longer trips require more preparation, stay safe and enjoy!