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Mountain biking guide

HelmetGearsFrameSuspensionSaddleTyresWater bottle

By Liam Killeen
GB Olympic mountain biker

Frame: My bike is a US make, Specialized - one of the biggest bike brands in the world. It's carbon fibre and is very light for a mountain bike.

Admittedly, it's not like a road bike, which you can practically pick up with one finger, but it's still under 10kgs. It's good that it's light - it travels faster and it makes it easier to lift when necessary.

It's something us riders try to avoid but, if a climb in competition proves super steep, you just have to hop off and carry your bike.

I've been on this bike since the beginning of 2005 and it's been my best bike yet.

Gears: Every bike is different obviously, and every rider has different preferences. My bike actually has 27 gears on it - that's really very standard.

I only ever tend to use 18 of them, which is still a fair amount.

Helmet: This is fairly standard - the sort of thing anyone might wear if cycling to work or just going out for an afternoon ride.

Saddle: Right now, the saddle's a key part of the bike.

It's always in the same position, in fact I rarely change the set-up of a bike, particularly within the course of a race.

It's a fairly standard saddle, like on my road bike. I generally try to keep the saddle on my road bike in exactly the same position as my mountain bike.

Your body gets very used to your positioning on the bike. If you suddenly change, your muscles get confused and you're far more susceptible to injuries.

Suspension: There is front and rear suspension, which is imperative when you're contending with the rough and rocky terrains we have to rip through.

It lessens the pressure on both the body and the bike.

The tyres: It goes without saying that these are really important. I generally carry two or three sets to every event - whether that be the Commonwealth Games or a World Cup event.

You don't tend to decide which ones you're going to use until you test out the course. It's a very fine balancing act.

The thinner the rubber on your tyres, the quicker you go. But there is a negative aspect to that - if they're thin they're more likely to puncture.

You need to get that balance just right.

If you don't and you do puncture, there are pits or service areas dotted around the course where your team will hold spares for you.

Water bottle: Nutrition is very important on a race day, especially when you consider you're racing at your absolute maximum for over two hours.

Each rider varies their approach - I take a feed every lap of a race but there tend to be feeding stations twice a lap.

The stuff I take on usually consists of energy drinks or gels to make sure I can last to the finish with plenty of energy on board.

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