Bicycle Network: Skill Up
MTB (Mountain Bike) Glossary
Confused about all the language used in the world of mountain biking? This starter guide should get you speaking the lingo in no time!
Types of mountain biking
Cross country (XC)
Riders go out and ride trails and tracks, usually in forested or country areas. The riding contains both up and downhill elements. Singletrack is the most highly prized/enjoyed form of cross country (see below).
Riders cycle downhill as fast as possible. Rather than ride up the mountain or hill, the rider is generally shuttled to the top in a vehicle or by a ski-lift; riding is strictly downhill only.
Riders complete a set amount of laps of varied terrain circuit; first to finish wins. Riders are not permitted mechanical assistance or food/drink (except in some races in designated zones). Informal races are often called 'criteriums'.
Races are held on steep downhill terrain, resulting in very fast riding. Riders go in intervals and are individually timed - rider with the quickest time down wins.
Teams or individuals see how many laps of a course they can do in the set amount of time; typically, races last 12 or 24 hours. There is only ever one active rider from each team at a time, and there is no limit to how long a rider rides. Non-active team members use their rest time to catch up on sleep or fix mechanical problems. The winner is the team/individual with the most laps clocked up at the end.
Mountain bike orienteering
Riders get a map and are required to navigate their way to checkpoints, riding on mapped tracks, paths and roads only. The challenge lays not just in riding, but in being able to interpret the map and decide the best and quickest route between checkpoints. Competitors carry a card which is punched at each control. Riders are timed and fastest to complete the course wins.
This is not so much a race as a competition in skill. Courses are downhill and contain drops, ramps and obstacles. There are several ways a rider could ride the course, and they are judged on choice of routes, tricks performed, riding skill and occasionally time.
Types of tracks
When researching a ride, it is good to know in advance what type of tracks and trails you will be encountering so you can pick according to what you feel comfortable riding. Below are some common types of tracks in Australia:
A small track, usually about the width of a bike. Riders generally love singletrack, as the riding can be challenging, and also can traverse some wild and remote terrain.
A track wide enough for a vehicle to drive on; can be partially overgrown.
Narrow dirt roads that provide access for firefighters and other FWD vehicles.
Wide dirt road that provides an access route through forest; sometimes gravel.
Similar to a forest road but may have heavy truck traffic; ride with caution if you know the area is currently being logged.
Management vehicle track
A dual track usually closed to all traffic except land management vehicles. Bike riders are allowed to ride on these paths, even though signs may not indicate so specifically.
A section of trail fraught with obstacles designed to test a mountain biker's skill. Technical obstacles can include narrow ledges, steep downhills, tree roots or logs blocking the path, and very tight corners. As they build confidence, riders tend to seek out increasingly technical trails to test their skills.