Mountain biking can be an intimidating sport to get into. High speed, big rocks, loose dirt, and other obstacles can make beginning mountain bikers shake in their shoes. For all the potentially scary things about mountain biking, though, there are the incredible views you get when you pedal into the wilderness, the rush of adrenaline that comes from a great descent, and the satisfying ache of muscles as you grind your way up a particularly steep hill.
If you’re looking to try mountain biking but just don’t know where to start, try these beginner tips and tricks related to gear, planning, and basic skills to start off on the right foot.
Why Mountain Bike?
The benefits of mountain biking are huge. Not only do you get to enjoy the fresh air and hard-earned views that come with being outside, but cycling can lessen stress and greatly reduce your risk for heart disease. Once you discover mountain biking, your days of riding the stationary bike at the gym will be a thing of the past.
Mountain biking is a great sport that can be adapted to fit almost any age or skill level. You don’t have to go off crazy jumps or weave through gnarly rock gardens if you don’t want to. And it’s best not to start off doing those things, anyway. There are plenty of other ways to enjoy the sport as a beginner, like riding a flat trail through the woods or taking a skills clinic.
Whether you’re into short after-work rides with friends or decide to expand your horizons and try your hand at multi-day bikepacking trips, these tips will help get you started.
Having the right gear and knowing how to use it is a big part of mountain biking. This doesn’t mean that you need to have the latest, greatest, and most expensive gadgets, but getting the basics is essential for a fun and safe time mountain biking.
First of all, you’ll want lightweight, sweat-wicking, breathable layers. Lots of riders like to carry a small backpack with water and an extra layer in case they get cold. Gloves are another essential, as they’ll provide padding for your palms on your handlebars and also protect your fingers if you fall. You’ll also want to wear a good pair of sunglasses that can shield your eyes from UV rays that could cause them harm. Above all, perhaps, is the importance of a high-quality helmet. If nothing else, you want your head to be safe and protected.
Now for the bike. You don’t need a fancy bike, but you do need one with reliable brakes, easy shifting, and safe components. You should be familiar with how to fix a flat tire in case you encounter one on the trail and also how to change your seat height. Changing your seat height is important because you’ll want it higher when going uphill and lower when you descend so you have space to get low over your bike.
Mountain bike frame and wheel size depends on your own physicality and the type of rider you are. Any good bike shop will help get you outfitted with a bike that’s proper for your stature and skill level.
Being familiar with basic mountain bike riding skills is important as a beginner to keep you safe and having a good time. Wherever you ride, you should always plan your mountain bike route and let someone know where you’re going in case of an emergency.
One of the most important mountain biking skills is cornering. Knowing how to effectively get yourself and your bike around a tight corner will make riding a whole lot more fun. The most essential thing to know is that you should look where you want to go. Look through the turn — not down at the ground right in front of your wheel.
Here’s another tip: Rather than throw your body weight around, you should focus on maneuvering the bike underneath you. Maintain a loose and relaxed body position and be sure to bend at the knees. This will help you be more stable and be able to take corners at a higher speed.
When descending, there are a few important things to keep in mind, too. Your body position should be low, wide, and centered on the bike. You want to be sure you are not leaning forward over your front wheel but also not riding way back over your rear. Remember to put your seat down so you have more space to get low. Having a dropper Seatpost is great for this, but not necessary if you’re on a budget.
When you go out for a ride, it’s best to choose one or two skills to focus on for your session. After you get comfortable with those things and they become muscle memory, you can move on and add new skills.
Learning to mountain bike is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, get exercise, and develop the skills to enjoy a lifelong sport. By following these beginner tips and tricks, you can have a fun and safe time riding your mountain bike.