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What Is Cross Country Mountain Biking?

What Is Cross Country Mountain Biking?

So, what is cross country mountain biking? In a nutshell, cross country is considered to be one of the most popular forms of organized mountain racing. In 1996, this became an official Olympic sport. It is also the only form of mountain biking that is practised at the Olympics.

It is important to note that cross-country mountain biking is just one of several types of mountain biking. Some other popular types include all-mountain/enduro, downhill, four-cross, freeride and several others. In this article, we will exclusively talk about cross country mountain biking.

What Is Cross Country Mountain Biking?

Cross country mountain biking can be identified by the terrain on which it is performed. Cross country trails and courses will typically consist of a mix of single track (which is also referred to as a doubletrack, width dependent) and rough forest paths, paved paths, and smooth fire roads.

Until recently, the cross country trails were categorized as either easy or as intermediate. This was on the basis of the old school concept that the mountain biking discipline relies more on the physical prowess rather than the technical ability of the rider.

However, these days, certain paths could be more challenging and difficult. These may include grade three and four trails, which consists of technical rocky sections, and other elements such as steep descents and drops. These have the ability to challenge even well-experienced mountain bike riders in the Cross Country World Cup and the Summer Olympic Games.

The Different Racing Disciplines for Cross Country Mountain Biking

Within cross country racing itself, there are multiple racing disciplines. These include Cross Country Eliminator, Cross Country Olympic, and Cross Country Marathon.

  • Cross Country Eliminator

This is a race wherein the last person or the last two people who finish the race get eliminated.

  • Cross Country Olympic

This consists of lap racing, which happens around a short circuit. It is the only mountain bike discipline present in the Olympics and will require high mountain bike skills.

  • Cross Country Marathon

A Cross-Country Marathon typically consists of a route that is anywhere between 65 and 100 kilometres long. Over the last couple of years, this marathon has gained quite a bit of popularity. This is mainly because it is open for everyone to participate in. For several people, just finishing this marathon is a massive achievement.

Bikes and Equipment Used for Cross Country Biking

Unlike other disciplines of biking, cross country biking requires the lightest mountain bikes. It will normally weigh between seven and 16 kilograms. These bikes feature suspension forks in the front and can sometimes have suspension in the rear too.

In front and the rear, most cross county bikes have about 100 mm of suspension travel. That being said, some riders prefer between 125 and 150 mm of the suspension travel as the bike’s frame’s strength and the technology advance.

The geometry of the bike’s frames will typically place the rider in a slightly more upright position in comparison to a regular road bike. However, it will be much lesser than a downhill bike.

One common safety equipment used for cross country mountain biking is a helmet. That being said, cross country bikers seldom wear a full-face helmet nor do they wear a full body armour that is normally worn by downhill bike riders. While cross-country bikers tend to get more injuries in comparison to regular road bikers, these injuries are rarely ever severe.

Benefits of Cross Country Mountain Biking

Biking, in general, can have countless benefits for us. Today, though, we decided only to cover the exact benefits of cross-country mountain biking to our body.

  • Improved Cardio Health

When it comes to athletic endurance, biking ranks second to skiing with regards to cardiovascular demand. Cross country biking is extremely demanding and needs a refined system as you end up spending countless hours in training at a very high heart rate and high lactic acid concentrations.

Additional training, which could be in the form of cross-country riding, can result in an increase in your VO2, your lactate threshold, and also aids faster recovery. All of these values are quite high inexperienced cross-country bikers. For a biker who rides recreationally, the benefits of cross-country biking will only be limited to improved cardiovascular health.

  • Muscle Growth and Development

Cross-country biking can tremendously impact your hips, hamstrings, quadriceps, calf muscles, gluteus, and several other muscles. The entire lower body will benefit from the development of endurance, muscle mass, and more.

Even though cross-country biking majorly benefits the lower half of the body, it can also help the upper body. Cross-country biking requires the rider to use their upper body muscles during those intensive rides. Your shoulders, biceps, forearms, and abdominal muscles serve as a pressure regulator during those strenuous uphill rides.

All these are not just involved in stabilizing an isometric contraction, but they also work hard during several dynamic movements that manoeuvre the cycle around. They also aid in overcoming several obstacles and help in lessening the trail shocks.

  • Gentle on the Joints

When you jog or run, hitting the pavements can have a negative impact on your joints, especially on the ankles, hips, and knees. However, working out is still essential to keep them fit. Cross country mountain biking allows you to not only keep your joints exercised but also proves to be gentle on them while you ride your bike.

This is particularly great if you are prone to experiencing pain in your knees or your other joints on a regular basis. Choosing the right sized mountain bike will further reduce the strain on your joints and allow you to keep them from being injured.


Over the last few decades, cross country mountain biking has gained tremendous popularity and has seen quite a lot of progress. In fact, it even had a significant increase in media coverage, most especially the competitions that are held worldwide.

Thanks to this article, we are certain you are well aware of what is cross country mountain biking. This is one of the disciplines of mountain biking that is relatively easy, quite fun to try out, and has tremendous health benefits if you plan on doing it on a regular basis. We highly recommend that you give cross country mountain biking a try.

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