How Dangerous IS Mountain Biking | Pedal Chile | (2023)

How Dangerous IS Mountain Biking | Pedal Chile | (1)

How dangerous is mountain biking?

The injury rate is .37 per 100 hours for cross-country mountain biking and is 4.34 per 100 hours for downhill mtb racing. This stat was calculated using data from 31 studies concerning injuries and mountain biking.

How does mtb compare to other outdoor activities?

A study fromWilderness and Environmental Medicinetracked injuries from leisure activities over two years in the USA, using data from hospital tracking software. The researchers then calculated the injury rate for each outdoor activity. Here are the results:

Activity & injuries per 100,000 participants (injury rate):

How Dangerous IS Mountain Biking | Pedal Chile | (2)

  1. Swimming (1.5)

  2. Fishing (2.4)

  3. Mountain Biking (2.6) T

  4. Water-skiing/tubing (2.6) T

  5. Hiking/jogging (4.6)

  6. Sledding/snow tubing (7.7)

  7. Snowboarding (18.3)

From this data, the hiker injury rate is nearly double that of the mountain bikers.

Speaking from personal experience, I have suffered several injuries from hiking, but none to date from XC or singletrack riding. As in most recreational activities, injuries are determined by the choices of the participant more so than the specific activity.

Do bicycle helmets improve the safety of cycling and MTB riding?

How Dangerous IS Mountain Biking | Pedal Chile | (3)

Yes. Bicycle helmets significantly reduce the risk of injuries and severity. A professor in Norway analyzed 55 studies on cycling injuries from 1989 - 2017. What did he discover?

The author’s conclusion,

wearing a helmet while cycling is highly recommendable.”

Ah, you think??

The use of bicycle helmets reduced:

  • Head injury by 48%

  • Serious head injury by 60%

  • Traumatic brain injury by 53%

  • Face injury by 23%

  • Reduced fatalities or seriously injured cyclists by 34%

    (Video) GMBN's Travel Guide To Santiago, Chile | A Mountain Bike Scene Check

If you are looking for tips or helmet recommendations check out

How Dangerous IS Mountain Biking | Pedal Chile | (4)

Overuse injuries from mt. biking/cycling

When most people think of injuries, the first thing that comes to mind is falls, crashes, or other accidents.

While these injuries can be the most severe, repetitive or overuse injuries can nag for years, and make any activity seem like a challenge. Back, knee, neck, shoulder, and butt are all common areas that exhibit pain in overuse type injuries.

One of the best and easiest solutions is making sure your bike is properly adjusted.

A 2010 study out of Austria studied mountain bike adjustments and overuse injuries. The biggest finding, “The inclination of the saddle and the saddle-pedal distance were responsible for 2/3 of the recorded syndromes.

While proper bicycle adjustments prevent many injuries, it does take some expertise to get right. The study from Austria was studying professional mountain biker and 2/3 of these pros still had poorly adjusted MTBs. If you’re not sure how to properly adjust your bike, then seek out an expert in your area. Check-in with a local bike shop or look for a professional bike fitter.


In studies looking at injuries, hardtail riders commonly report more pain, particularly in the lower back. Hardtail bikes have significantly more vibrations and impact exposures than fullys. However, plenty of studies show that there is no difference between a hardtail and full-suspension bikes when it comes to vibrations and terrain impacts.

I like riding both hardtails and fullys. I let the trail dictate the bike I’m going to ride. Bike technology has come such a long way recently, and studies generally take time to catch up. My best guess going forward is that research will favor full suspension bikes in terms of comfort and a reduction in overuse injuries. However, not all trails require a full suspension and the lighter hardtails are nice for trails with long climbs and smooth descents.

Cause & type of injury

A 2010 study from The American Journal of Sports Medicine published a study that looked at mountain biking related injuries in the United States during a 13-year period.

Of the near 5000 emergency room cases:

  • 70% were due to falls

  • 14% from going over the handlebars

  • Fractures accounted for nearly 30% of the cases

  • 21 % from sprain and strains

6 ways to reduce risk of injuries

While preventing accidents from happening is impossible, there are ways to prevent or minimize the vast majority of injuries. The most common are not even from falls, yet falls are oftentimes the most severe. Here are six ways to help reduce potential mtb injuries.

correct muscle imbalances

How Dangerous IS Mountain Biking | Pedal Chile | (5)

Avoid repetitive/overuse injuries. Muscle imbalances create a cascading effect of whole-body issues. It’s best to address these issues as they come up and avoid long-term chronic pain. Pedaling away while sitting in the saddle for hours on end can eventually lead to repetitive stress syndrome unless corrective action is taken.

Any activity can lead to overuse injuries if done frequently enough, including sitting at your desk. Check out our article on addressing muscle imbalances for cycling/MTBing.

According to the research,hiking causes 1.8 times more injuries than mountain bike riding. Why? Cyclists and MTBers are significantly less likely to suffer from stress fractures and muscle tears. However, repetitive stress syndrome of the shoulder and knee are prevalent in participants.

“More participants are injured from hiking than mountain biking (1.8 times more) ”

make sure bike is properly adjusted

The vast majority of mountain biking injuries are either the direct result or caused partially from improper bike fitting. This is one of the easiest solutions, yet many people don’t seek out a professional to properly fit the bike. Also, is your bike set-up for maximum performance, or safety? Unless you are a racer, having your bike adjusted for safety is far more important and will help ensure years of fun on your mtb.

“The majority of mountain biking injuries are from overuse, and most of these are preventable with proper bike adjustments”

dress for the crash and not the ride

No one plans on falling, yet it happens. Wearing a properly fitting bike helmet and wearing gloves specifically designed for MTBing is essential. Some riders use knee/elbow pads, chest protectors, full-faced helmets, and mouth guards. This gear is generally reserved for the bike-park or pure downhill biking in a ski area. Wear what makes you feel comfortable, but not so comfortable that you think you're invincible.

Ride within your ability and comfort level

Mountain biking like every sport/activity takes time to practice to improve. Riding with friends on advanced terrain is fine, as long as you dismount for sections that are clearly for expert riders only. The majority of ski/snowboard injuries I see are from people that are on runs they shouldn’t be on. Singletrack is different. If a section or two throws you out of your comfort zone, simply dismount and walk your bike.

How Dangerous IS Mountain Biking | Pedal Chile | (6)

well maintained bike

The number of injuries suffered from poorly maintained bikes is relatively unknown. However, I discovered one study from the ’90s that estimated 13% of all bike accidents were due to faulty equipment. Regular maintenance of your car is important, as is the routine service of your bicycle.

How Dangerous IS Mountain Biking | Pedal Chile | (7)

(Video) The Crash That Has Me Questioning Mountain Biking

trail worthy mtb

The worst crashes that I have witnessed all involved bikes that should not have been on that specific trail. Unless you are trying for an epic fail video, riding a huffy from the 80s down advanced singletrack is only going to lead to an epic crash

Bike's equipped with hydraulic brakes, tubeless tires, dual suspension, a dropper post, and 29-inch tires perform significantly differently than ones with lesser parts. While top-end mountain bikes are expensive…….you get what you pay for.

Pro Bike Fitting, n0t just for roadies

For more information, click here

How Dangerous IS Mountain Biking | Pedal Chile | (8)

Jesse is a director for Pedal Chile and lives in Patagonia, Chile. In addition to being an avid singletrack rider, this author is a lover of all books. Jesse has a Master of Science in Health and Human Performance and a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology.

Additional articles from Jesse at Pedal Chile

  • Mountain bike glasses or MTB goggles ?

  • Difference between a road and mountain bike helmet

  • What is MTB ‘travel’?


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Sources and References

  • Carmont, M. (2008). Mountain biking injuries: a review.British Medical Bulletin,85(1), 101-112. doi: 10.1093/bmb/ldn009

  • Flores, A., Haileyesus, T., & Greenspan, A. (2008). National Estimates of Outdoor Recreational Injuries Treated in Emergency Departments, United States, 2004–2005.Wilderness & Environmental Medicine,19(2), 91-98. doi: 10.1580/07-weme-or-152.1

  • Høye, A. (2018). Bicycle helmets – To wear or not to wear? A meta-analyses of the effects of bicycle helmets on injuries.Accident Analysis & Prevention,117, 85-97. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2018.03.026 link

  • Nelson, N., & McKenzie, L. (2010). Mountain Biking–Related Injuries Treated in Emergency Departments in the United States, 1994-2007.The American Journal Of Sports Medicine,39(2), 404-409. doi: 10.1177/0363546510383478 link

  • Sabeti-Aschraf, M. (2014). Overuse Injuries Correlated to the Mountain Bike`s Adjustment: A Prospective Field Study.The Open Sports Sciences Journal,3(1), 1-6. doi: 10.2174/1875399x010030100001

  • Swain, T., & McGwin, G. (2016). Yoga-Related Injuries in the United States From 2001 to 2014.Orthopaedic Journal Of Sports Medicine,4(11), 232596711667170. doi: 10.1177/2325967116671703 link

    (Video) Intense Race Down the Stairs of Valparaiso, Chile! Final Run


Is casual mountain biking dangerous? ›

Contrary to what you might be predisposed to think, mountain biking is not an inherently dangerous sport, but it can be. In fact, the injury rate of mountain biking is lower compared to many popular sports. However, the severity of injuries sustained can get pretty bad.

How safe is MTB? ›

Mountain biking is an inherently dangerous sport with the distinct possibility of severe injuries or even worse. No matter where you ride or how well you know the trail, you should never ride beyond your skill level and always ride in control.

What is the most common mountain bike injury? ›

A broken collarbone, or clavicle, is a very common mountain biking injury and is normally caused when the rider falls onto an outstretched hand.

Is MTB trail riding dangerous? ›

Mountain biking can be dangerous, but it is also a lot of fun. You just have to remember everything you've learned about it before you get out there and start riding, because this is the best way to reduce the odds of having a serious injury at some point.

Is mountain biking safer than skiing? ›

Broken bones, concussions, internal bleeding, organ damage, and even a case of quadriplegia were some of the more serious injuries. Putting it into perspective with stats from skiing illustrates the risks: Downhill skiing has a ratio of about 1 injury per 1,000 skiers. Downhill cyclists suffer 1 injury per 10 cyclists.

How often do mountain bikers get injured? ›

According to studies published across a wide range of medical and sports medicine journals, the injury rate can be up to a whopping 40 injuries per 1000 hours of riding. Now obviously this varies widely amongst the various disciplines that make up mountain biking, and also varies by age group and level of risk taking.

Is MTB safer than road? ›

If you are cycling downhill, a mountain bike is more dangerous. But if the road you are taking is a simple terrain, a mountain bike is safer than a road bike because you will not have to ride with other vehicles, such as trucks, cars, and buses. Not to mention, but city road biking can be dangerous due to pedestrians.

Is mountain biking safer than road cycling? ›

Simply, road biking is far more likely to result in death whereas mountain biking is far more likely to result in serious injury with broken bones like a shoulder or leg. Also, helmets play an important in reducing cycling-related head injuries.

How can I protect myself from mountain biking? ›

6 Tips for Safer Mountain Biking
  1. Get the Right Gear. Protect your Head at All Times and Protect your Head on All Terrains (PHAT) ...
  2. Inspect Your Mountain Bike. Before you hit the trails, do a thorough inspection of your bike: ...
  3. Assess Your Skill Level. ...
  4. Prepare Your Body for the Ride. ...
  5. Bring Supplies. ...
  6. Check the Trail Conditions.
1 Jun 2021

How common are concussions in mountain biking? ›

Conclusions: The yearly prevalence of diagnosed concussions in mountain bikers is 6.9%. More than one-third of mountain bikers do not recognize when they have had a concussion and continue riding after experiencing concussion symptoms or with a broken helmet.

How common is paralysis from mountain biking? ›

Two more studies found that one-quarter of trauma center admissions involving spinal injuries were due to mountain biking accidents. Out of these injuries, 42% of them resulted in complete paralysis.

What is the potential danger injury of cycling? ›

The knee is the most common site for overuse injuries in cycling. Patellofemoral syndrome (cyclist's knee), patella and quandriceps tendinitis, medial plica syndrome, and iliotibial band friction syndrome are a few of the more common knee overuse injuries.

Is climbing or mountain biking more dangerous? ›

At 145, it is the most deadly of the sports and nearly thirteen times more likely to result in death than the sport in the #2 spot (mountain biking with 11.2 fatalities per million participants). At the same time, rock climbing apparently has the lowest overall injury rate out of all five activities.

Is mountain biking an extreme sport? ›

Downhill mountain biking has been defined as an extreme sport (Becker et al., 2013) and an extreme sport subculture (Hagen, 2013).

Is Enduro MTB dangerous? ›

Enduro and DH racing both involve timing riders as they descend a course as fast as possible. While the overall race formats may differ — enduro races can involve multiple timed stages, and riders have to ascend on their own power — the risk of a high-speed crash due to a rider miscalculation is fairly similar.

Is downhill mountain biking safe? ›

Downhill MTB is statistically more dangerous as the overall risk of serious injury is high relative to other sports, classifying it as an extreme sport. The associated risk factors range from difficult trail conditions, skill over-estimation to lacking maintenance and inadequate safety gear.

How hard is downhill mountain biking? ›

Downhill trails are built to be extremely steep, challenging and fast. You can expect lots of gaps, jumps, drops, technical corners, and of course rocks and roots.

How many injuries does Whistler bike Park have? ›

Identification of 1759 specific injury diagnoses was made, including 420 fractures in 382 patients (42.5%). Upper extremity fractures predominated (75.4%), 11.2% had a traumatic brain injury, and 8.5% were transferred to a higher level of care: 7 by helicopter, 62 by ground, and 5 by personal vehicle.

How do you fall on a mountain bike? ›

How To Crash On Your Mountain Bike | MTB Skills - YouTube

What percentage of mountain bikers are male? ›

Number of male vs female mountain bikers

Researchers found 83.9% of mountain bikers are male. Making it around 2 out of every 10 mountain bikers are female.

Why is mountain biking so popular? ›

Mountain bikers get a fantastic full body physical workout. Very regular exercise – after all it's just fun to get out on the bike, and as fitness increases, so does the enjoyment. Mountain biking gets you out in nature, experiencing the world.

Are mountain bikes more stable than road bikes? ›

All you need to know is this: a road bike will typically have a steep head tube and larger fork offset to lower trail and quicken handling. Endurance mountain bikes typically have larger trails which improve stability and are better for high-speed handling on rough terrain.

Can mountain bikes be used for commuting? ›

Is a mountain bike good for commuting? A mountain bike is good for commuting if you value comfort and will be riding on rough terrain (streets in poor condition, dirt trails, etc.). Compared to other bikes, mountain bikes offer a comfortable upright position, absorb shock, and are built to be durable.

Is road bike good for beginners? ›

But if you're wondering what else is out there a quick guide is; an endurance focused road bike will suit most beginners.

What is the difference between cycling and mountain biking? ›

Most racing events and competitions are called cycling. Mountain biking is a sport that uses a bicycle but is done on rough terrain. It is sometimes simply referred to as biking. It involves different categories, such as free riding, dirt jumping, downhill, trail riding, and cross country.

Why are road bikes better? ›

Road bikes (occasionally known as racing bikes) are designed for speed. These are great options for commuters because the narrow tires can roll very quickly along paved surfaces as long as there aren't any obstacles in the way. They are becoming very popular and being made with disc brake.

What is a road bike good for? ›

Road bikes are good for fitness riding, commuting, event rides, touring and racing. Most have a drop-bar handlebar (curling down and toward the rear of the bike), which puts the rider in an aerodynamic position. This bent-forward riding posture can take a little getting used to.

What should you not do on a mountain bike? ›

Don't Do These Things When Riding! | Top 10 Things Not To Do On A Bike

Do you need chest protection for MTB? ›

How Much Protection Should You Wear For Mountain Biking?

Should you wear elbow pads for MTB? ›

A must for riders who are taking on downhill biking or tougher trails, elbow pads with impact protection provide valuable support in the event of a crash or fall. Impacts on hard or rough ground can cause bruising, tendon or ligament damage, or even fractures in this important joint.

Should I ride a bike with concussion? ›

Acute concussion management

There are clear steps to be taken to try to alleviate symptoms and minimise further damage. To start, the person should not be allowed to get back on their bike, and will need to be assisted home with someone to monitor them.

Is concussion a brain injury? ›

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury—or TBI—caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.

Can you ride a bike after concussion? ›

Cyclists coming back from a head injury should rest until free of symptoms before returning to work, let alone cycling. A medical expert should be kept updated along the way. If a return to work goes well, you can begin to reintroduce sport, slowly. First, pedal on a static trainer, away from risk.

Where do most bike accidents occur? ›

Nearly three quarters of all bicyclist deaths occur in urban areas. Failing to yield the right of way is the highest factor in fatal bike crashes, followed by bicyclists not being visible.

What time of day do most bike accidents occur? ›

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), most bicycle accidents occur between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., and they occur more in urban areas versus rural ones.

How do most bike accidents happen? ›

Collisions with motorists are one of the most common causes of bicycle accidents, often resulting in severe injuries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), most bike accidents occur due to falls or collisions with cars.

Is mountain biking more dangerous than road biking? ›

If you are cycling downhill, a mountain bike is more dangerous. But if the road you are taking is a simple terrain, a mountain bike is safer than a road bike because you will not have to ride with other vehicles, such as trucks, cars, and buses. Not to mention, but city road biking can be dangerous due to pedestrians.

Whats more dangerous skateboarding or mountain biking? ›

On the other hand, it also accounts for far fewer injuries than sports such as baseball and football. Mountain biking is over 10x as dangerous as roller skating, and it's statistically safer than cheerleading, BMX, and skateboarding.

What is more dangerous horse riding or mountain biking? ›

Figures from Stoke Mandeville hospital have revealed that horse riders are over 21 times more likely than motorcyclists to have a serious accident.

Is mountain biking considered an extreme sport? ›

Mountain biking is an increasingly popular outdoor activity on the extreme sport continuum.

Can a mountain bike be as fast as a road bike? ›

Road Bikes are indeed faster than Mountain Bikes. The difference averages out to around a 10%-30% increase in speed. This is impacted by many factors such as weight and aerodynamics. This article explores just how much faster Road Bikes are, and what that actually means for you.

How hard is mountain biking? ›

Yes, it takes effort to pedal uphill and you may feel like you're dying at times. Just like any form of exercise, mountain biking can be physically challenging especially when you're just starting out and your muscles aren't conditioned to riding a bike.

Why is mountain biking so popular? ›

Mountain bikers get a fantastic full body physical workout. Very regular exercise – after all it's just fun to get out on the bike, and as fitness increases, so does the enjoyment. Mountain biking gets you out in nature, experiencing the world.

Is mountain biking more dangerous than motocross? ›

Moto is way more dangerous. Even though these bikes are 200lbs+, they go down much easier than a MTB. Much easier to break 'em loose front or rear.

Is roller skating harder than biking? ›

Cycling requires balance mostly in 2 dimensions, ie side to side. Skating requires balance in the full 3 dimensions. So roller skating is technically more difficult, but that doesn't necessarily make it harder. In almost all circumstances riding a bike is going to require less effort than roller skating.

Is skating safer than biking? ›

Bicycling has a steeper learning curve, but after that, it's generally easier, faster, and more efficient than skateboarding. The same trip takes far less effort on a bicycle than on a skateboard, and may be safer, especially on rough terrain.

What is the roughest sport? ›

Sports with the most injuries
SportTotal injuries% change since 2017
8 more rows
11 Jul 2022

What sport has the most injuries in the world? ›

Football. Football is the sport that causes the most injuries, with an estimated 455,449 annually.

Is mountain biking good for mental health? ›

Raising your respiration and heart rate releases endorphins, a natural high that spreads a smile across your face. Start pushing harder or scaring yourself a bit, and adrenaline and noradrenaline kick in.

What is considered a long mountain bike ride? ›

What Is Considered a Long Mtb Ride? As a general rule, 50+ miles is considered a long ride on the road but on the trails is better to judge based on time because the terrain is more difficult to ride and every trail is different. A long trail ride is considered to be 3+ hours, this can be anywhere between 18-26 miles.

Why is mountain biking extreme? ›

Have you ever asked, “Is mountain biking considered as an extreme sport?” Mountain biking can be fun but it is a high-risk sport. Riders cycle across bridges, trails with tree roots, steep ascents, and downhill slopes. Though riding in mountainous regions is risky, cycling downhill can be more challenging.


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