Tips for Biking at High Elevations

There’s a price to pay for all the gorgeous trails and mountain views in the Mammoth Lakes area, and its name is elevation.

While there are mixed findings on how to prepare for being at high elevations, one thing you can be sure of is that cycling and mountain biking will be more difficult for just about anyone visiting Mammoth Lakes. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to combat the elevation, which means more time outside and on your bike. The ASO Mammoth team has put together a quick list of tips for both road cyclists and mountain bikers visiting the Mammoth Lakes area. If you’re planning on biking in Mammoth Lakes, check out our list below and start drinking some water!

Know the Symptoms

There are general symptoms everyone visiting high altitudes will experience like shortness of breath and dehydration. However, there are more severe symptoms for acute mountain sickness (AMS) which typically occur above 9,000 feet. While the town of Mammoth Lakes sits below 9,000 feet, it is possible to experience AMS at lower elevations. Add in the fact that cycling is a physical activity which will wear down your body quickly at high elevations and many of the mountain biking trails and roads in the area rise well above 9,000 feet and you can see the importance of knowing AMS symptoms. There is no way to predict who will be affected by AMS, so it’s important to keep an eye out for these symptoms

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Exhaustion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 

Take Your Time 

We get it, when you see trails, mountains, and roads you want to put tires to the ground and start riding. However, when it comes to mountain biking or cycling at high elevations it’s best to pace yourself in both distance and difficulty.

Once you begin riding at elevation, it’s important that you give your body a chance to catch up as it’s working much harder to simply breathe. If you ride for too long early on, then you’re putting your body at an immediate disadvantage which will take longer to recover from. The same goes for if you push yourself too quickly. No matter how much you acclimate biking up a path or grinding up a mountain road is going to be hard, but if your body isn’t ready for it then you’ll struggle to recover.

If you plan on riding at high elevations, take your time and ride gradually until your body is ready for more rigorous riding.


Due to lower levels of oxygen in the air at high elevation your body is working harder even when you’re just walking. As a result, you need to drink more water to function. That’s why drinking extra water is important, but when you are mountain biking or cycling it becomes vital as the physical activity makes it even harder for your body to function at high altitudes. 

Prepare for the Sun

Simply put, the sun is stronger the higher up you go, so it’s important that you’re covered while biking. Always wear sunscreen on exposed skin. While Mountain Bikers may find plenty of shade on the trail, road cyclists could deal with heavy sun that saps their energy and possibly burns, so if you’re a road cyclists take extra caution while biking.

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