Summer activities are in full swing in the Roaring Fork Valley. For many outdoor enthusiasts, this means one coveted endeavour – mountain biking. Mountain biking in the area is world-class, ranging from scenic, winding single track to challenging downhill rides and epic bike parks. Whatever your favorite two-wheel flavor, it’s important to understand basic first aid and safety before heading out. Here are a few tips for staying safe on the bike this summer.
Before You Go
The trailhead calls hard, but it’s important to take a few safety measures before you head out for the day’s ride.
1. Know your local bike patrol, emergency dispatch or search and rescue numbers.
Connectivity to the internet is not always a guarantee on the trail, so it is best to program these numbers into your phone and/or jot them down on a piece of duct tape on your water bottle for easy access.
2. Pack a first-aid kit.
A basic first-aid kit is good, but a slightly more robust kit, complete with a splint, knife, duct tape and large wrap for breaks and dislocations, is even better.
3. Tell someone where you’re going and how long you expect to be gone.
Determine a “if we’re not back by” time that marks the latest you could safely be out, and after which emergency services should be called.
Gear Up for the Ride
Depending on where and how long you plan to ride, proper gear is key to enjoying the parks and trails while staying safe. A basic bike checklist should always include:
While it goes without saying, this can’t be emphasized strongly enough. Regardless of skill level, a properly fitted helmet is as important to riding as pedals. If you’re seeking serious downhill or park features, consider a full-face helmet and/or neck brace.
2. Proper padding.
This type of padding is typically seen while downhilling or for hitting jumps at the bike park — but protective padding should be considered for any technical trail. Donning elbow pads, knee pads, a back protector and any additional padding that can help keep your joints intact is a worthy investment to avoid the trauma drama on the trail.
Different riding styles call for different types of water vessels. Sometimes, a water bottle stashed on your bike is enough for a quick ride from town. For longer rides, a water bladder in your backpack or fanny pack can carry enough to take you much farther and ensure you have enough water to avoid dehydration on the trail.
4. Appropriate layers.
While mountain biking is typically a fair weather sport, it’s still a mountain sport — subject to afternoon thunderstorms, cold spells, heat waves and unexpected turns. Dress accordingly, wearing breathable, wicking fabrics and lightweight rain or wind jackets that can offer additional protection in the event of unexpected weather when traveling cross-country.
5. Bear spray.
If you’re traveling through bear country, respect their space and your safety by carrying bear spray as a last line of defense if needed.
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Be Prepared to Treat Common Mountain Bike Injuries
It’s well worth spending a weekend taking a basic backcountry first aid or wilderness first responder course to increase your awareness of common mountain biking injuries. This knowledge can literally be a lifesaver, especially if your ride takes you deep into the backcountry. These are some common injuries sustained while mountain biking and ways to treat them.
Shoulder dislocations in particular rank pretty high on the list. If you’re near emergency services, do your best to stabilize the arm with a fabric sling and let the professionals relocate the joint. If you’re farther afield and help is hours away, there are a variety of ways to pull the arm into traction and manipulate it back into place. It’s worth spending time learning more about these techniques to help avoid causing further harm.
2. Broken bones:
Legs, arms, clavicles, thumbs — flying off your bike into the bushes or onto the trail can end in a broken limb. Stabilize the person and the limb as much as possible while waiting for emergency help.
3. Loss of consciousness or concussion:
Even with a helmet, a hard fall off of a mountain bike can result in losing consciousness or a concussion. If this is the case, make sure the person is still breathing. If they aren’t, immediately start CPR. If they are breathing, stabilize the rider, make sure they have a clear airway, and call emergency services.
4. Head, neck or back injury:
If you suspect your fellow rider has a head, neck or back injury, it is extremely important to stabilize their body. You can undo their helmet strap, but don’t remove the helmet; it can help aid in keeping their head still. If the person is lying on his or her back, kneel with one knee on each side of their head to help keep them from moving. Call emergency services.
Know Your Nearest Emergency Services
While riders do their best to avoid injury, accidents in the mountains do happen. Mountain bikers in the Roaring Fork Valley are fortunate to have access to Aspen Valley Hospital’s extensive network of care, including a Level III Trauma Center. Here are some additional emergency resources to keep in mind whether you’re downhilling at Snowmass, jumping at the new Crown Mountain Bike Park or riding the IMBA Gold Ride Center Trails that wind through the region.
Be prepared, stay safe and enjoy! There’s nothing quite like cruising perfect single track through the Colorado Rockies or ripping around berms at the bike park. Mountain biking in the Roaring Fork Valley is second to none.