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Some Life-Saving Tips for Riding Solo in the Mountains

By Martin Atanasov

There are really only a handful of reasons to skip a ride, and having your buddy bail on you at the last minute is definitely not one of them. Actually, riding alone is a great opportunity to ride at your own pace, enjoy the freedom of being on your own, and see if you can rely only on yourself. However, going alone with your MTB in the mountains should not be taken lightly. You may be the best in the saddle but when there is no one to help if things go sideways, you should always be a bit more cautious. Still, that’s not a reason to skip it all together. So here are some life-saving tips you need to know before going to the mountains alone.

Be self-sufficient

Yeah, you can’t mooch from your riding mates when you are alone. Being self-sufficient is actually pretty solid advice, even during group rides. Still, it’s paramount when you are alone on the trails. This includes getting enough food, water, and other provisions. While during group rides, you can divide the load, when alone, it’s all up to you. So, get a portable pump and a spare tyre (even if tubeless), chain links, and essential tools. It’s really not ideal to get stuck somewhere in the woods with a broken chain and no one to help you out.

Of course, being self-sufficient means you have to be able to fix your bike on the spot. Now, you can’t bring all possible spares but knowing how to fix your tyres, drivetrain, chain, and brakes is essential.

Moreover, make sure to bring enough water and about 20% more food than you would if you were with others. If something goes wrong, you might need to wait, and having a snack to keep your strength is wise. Also, bring warm clothes even during the summer months. Yes, it’s a bit of extra luggage but safety should always come first.

Check your bike before the ride

Now, you can avoid most problems with your bike if you make sure it’s in top condition before the ride. Once again, this is a good idea even before group rides but it becomes mandatory when riding alone. Clean and lube the drivetrain, make sure your tyres and brakes work properly, and be mindful of any signs of wear and tear.

If you follow our advice closely, you already know that cleaning your bike should be done after a ride, not before it. But if you left your bike dirty after your last adventure in the mountains, it’s time to clean it up.

Remember that checking your bike doesn’t prevent you from bringing spares and knowing how to fit your bike on the go.

Lubing a bike
Take good care of your bike before your ride. © Profimedia

Wear a helmet even during climbs

Wearing a helmet during climbs is painful, especially if you are with a full face. Indeed, it’s uncomfortably warm and can negatively affect your performance. Moreover, you will need more water and electrolytes to compensate for the heat. However, when you are riding alone, wearing your helmet even during climbs can help you significantly. You need to protect your head at all costs. You need to be cautious when calling for help if things go sideways. So you can’t risk bumping your head and going unconscious, as this may lead to a scenario we prefer not to talk about.

So, you can either have a spare lighter helmet for the climbs or you can simply push through with the one you have. The obvious exception is if there are a lot of people on the climb who can help you if something goes wrong. But it’s best to be safe if you are alone with no other human in sight.

Stick to popular trails

Speaking of others, it’s a good idea to stick to popular trails if you are alone on your bike. This is the safest way to have someone nearby for help yet have the freedom of being alone. Yes, heavy traffic on a mountain trail is not ideal but having someone coming behind you if you fall and injure yourself is far better than being stuck alone in the woods for hours. So, riding alone in the mountains is definitely not the time to discover new trails and practice hermitage.

Share your route with close ones

Speaking of your route, you need to plan it in advance and keep it to well-known tracks. Plan your route via a platform like Strava, Mapy.cz or Komoot, so you have a rough estimate of how long you will be gone. After that, share your route with friends and close ones.

You’ve probably seen the popular short of someone riding their bike singing a rendition of a Christmas song, ending in “’cause I told my wife I’m at work.” Yeah, that’s not a wise choice. If your wife holds you back from riding, there are other ways to deal with it and risking your life should definitely be somewhere at the bottom of the list.

So, tell your spouse where you are going. Send them the planned route; if anything happens, you are extremely late, and there is no contact with you, at least they will know where to look for you.

Finally, don’t forget to send them a picture occasionally. If not for telling them you are OK, at least to make them jealous.

Add life-track

Going a step further is definitely not out of the question. You can put on a life-track of your location. There are various ways to do that but many bike computers already offer this outstanding feature. If you don’t have such a computer, you can always use a mobile app like FB Messenger or WhatsApp. This way, all your friends and family will know precisely where you are.

Furthermore, these apps have options to send notifications if you haven’t moved for some time or, in the case of bike computers, if they break or receive a severe hit.

This way, if you get in trouble, your friends or family can send help with your precise location.

Note, however, that these apps drain your battery pretty fast, so having a power bank with you is wise.

Make sure your batteries are charged

Speaking of batteries, if you are going alone in the mountains, your batteries must be at full capacity. Be sure to charge every electronic device, including lights and headlights, right before you go.

Note that your batteries will drain faster if the weather outside is colder. This being said, if you plan on riding after sunset, make sure to have at least two light sources. You never know when your headlight may give up or you can fall and break it. Having a substitute will help you avoid the horrible experience of cycling on a smartphone light.

Know your limits

Finally, one thing that can truly save your life: know when to quit. This is the big difference between the advanced rider and the newbie. A rookie will be pumped with adrenaline and can often overestimate their own abilities. An expert knows their limits. Moreover, they know that pushing way past them is dangerous and a terrible idea.

So, when you are alone, it’s definitely not a good idea to break records or try to clear new features. This jump that’s been taunting you for the past few weeks can wait a few more days. There is no reason to take unnecessary risks when no one can help you if things go awry. So, take it easy and leave the double-black-diamond track for when you have someone with you to show off your skills. Take it slow and just enjoy the ride.

Having a mate is always better

Still, if you don’t have to ride alone, don’t. Riding with a mate is always better. You share the excitement, push yourself further, improve your performance, and help each other. After all, MTB is meant to be a social activity. So, riding alone when no one else can is fine but don’t make a habit of it.