Want to experience the beauty of hiking, but like to get your adrenaline pumping, too?
Mountain biking is the perfect answer. Exploring on two wheels lets you cover more ground than you ever could on your feet, and it’s also one of the most fun sports around.
Hopping on a mountain bike opens a world of possibilities, but it also comes with a whole new world of gear, techniques, and trails to navigate.
This may be confusing for beginners to navigate at first, which is why we’ve gathered some tips and tricks to help you get started mountain biking.
Choosing the Right Bike
The first, and most obvious, piece of gear you’ll need is your mountain bike. We recommend that beginner mountain bikers rent or demo some different bikes to get a feel for what will work best for you.
The first thing to think about is the type of riding that you will be doing, so you can pick the right style of mountain bike. These different types of mountain bikes are built for different types of trails. They range from cross country (XC) bikes built for speed and efficiency for long days pedaling, to downhill bikes made for fast, descents in a bike park.
Getting the right size mountain bike is super important, as well. Mountain bikes offer a low standover height, so the “traditional” method of standing over the bike flat-footed to size your frame doesn’t really help you choose the right size.
Instead, bikes are broken down into traditional Small, Medium, and Large sizing. For more, check out our mountain bike size chart. The best mountain bikes for beginners are the right type of bike for your trails, and ones that fit the rider well – don’t sweat the details.
Get the Right Accessories
What you wear is the next step. Padded liner shorts, called chamois in the bike world, are a must-have to keep your backside happy. Skip out on chamois and you might be walking like a cowboy after your ride. Pair these liners with a proper pair of mountain bike shorts, and you’ll be ready to hit the trail.
Your top is a little bit less important, but it’s a good idea to opt for something more breathable and moisture-wicking, avoiding cotton. Mountain biking is hard work, you’re going to break a sweat.
Aside from your clothing, it’s important to carry some basic tools, and know how to use them. One of the best parts about mountain biking is the ability to get away from it all and travel deep into the backcountry, but there are no bike shops out there. At the minimum, your kit should include, a spare tube, tire levers, a patch kit, a multitool, and a pump or CO2 inflator.
Learn Basic Technique
These basics will help you learn more quickly and hit the trails with confidence.
Taking a class can be a good way to learn new skills quickly and can also help you meet other new riders, mountain biking with friends is more fun anyway. Check your local bike shops and trail organizations to find a class.
For riders that can’t make it to a class, we’ve outlined some basic technique tips below:
Going Uphill, Climbing, or Riding Flat Terrain
- Raise your seat: Your legs should be almost all the way extended at the bottom of your pedal stroke. This gives you the most power and requires the least amount of energy while pedaling.
- Stay Seated: Standing up on steep climbs might work well on the pavement, but on loose dirt the lack of weight on the rear wheel will often result in it slipping.
Going Downhill or Descending
- Relax: Try not to tense up and death-grip the handlebars. Not only will this make you tired, but it will also make you less able to deal with obstacles on the trail.
- Drop your seat: You don’t need the pedalling efficiency of a high seat on the way down, so drop it and get it out of your way. Dropping your seat gives your body more room to maneuver.
- Stand up: Even though your bike has suspension, your legs and arms are some of the best shock absorbers you have. Standing up on the pedals and getting your butt out of the saddle allows your (relaxed) body to help smooth out your ride.
Mountain biking can be intimidating for new riders, but fear not, with the right bike, and some practice, you’ll be ripping up the trails in no time. With any new sport, there’s no substitute experience, so get out there and ride!
More on Technique
For more on techniques, check out the following videos.
How to Corner on a Mountain Bike
How to Jump on a Mountain Bike
How to Hit Drops on a Mountain Bike
Big thanks to Matt Sklar from evo.com for this guest post. Mountain Biking is definitely something I want to do more of and this has really helped me navigate the different things to consider, when I finally get around to getting a bike.