These tips for beginner mountain bikers will help you to elevate your riding whether you are brand new to the sport or have a couple riding seasons under your belt.
Play on the Trails
Jump that stick in the trail, turn that random rock into a jump, do wheelies and stoppies. Cultivating an attitude of playful exploration on the trails is the fastest way to improve your bike handling and confidence. Playing around on the trail lets you practice critical riding techniques in a low-consequence setting. That way, when you need to bunny hop an obstacle, catch some mandatory air, or get your wheel up over something, you have the skills and confidence to execute. So, next time you hit the trails, let loose and have some fun.
Be Prepared for Flats
Flat tires are not a matter of if, but when, in the world of mountain biking. A spare tube, an emergency pump, and a set of tire levers will prevent your ride from turning into a hike. So, before you hit the trails, make sure to pack these items, ensuring a smooth and uninterrupted biking experience.
Check Your Tire Pressure
Staying on the theme of tires, make sure you check your tire pressure before every ride. Low tire pressure is the number one cause of flats. This is called a pinch flat and occurs when you hit a bump hard enough that the tire and tube are pinched between your rim and the ground. However, lower tire pressures will also yield a smoother ride and better traction. The trick is to find the happy medium. The ideal tire pressure depends on a variety of factors including the volume of your tires, the terrain you're riding, your weight, and the aggressiveness of your riding. Check the side of your tire for a recommended pressure range or ask at your local bike shop!
Shift Before You Need To
Bike drivetrains do not appreciate abrupt shifting, especially when you're exerting maximum force on the pedals. Instead, focus on the terrain in front of you and try to shift in anticipation of what is coming. This will lead to a more efficient and smooth ride, saving your energy and reducing wear on your bike.
Look Where You Want to Go
It can be tempting to fixate on the terrain right in front of your tires. However, if you redirect your gaze down the trail at least 15 feet in front of you you will notice an immediate improvement in your riding. Focus on the line you intend to ride and avoid looking at the obstacles you mean to avoid. Where your eyes lead, your bike will follow.
Keep Your Pedals Level
Avoid striking rocks and logs with your pedals by keeping them level and evenly weighted while you are coasting on the bike.
Eat Before You're Hungry
This tip is especially important on longer rides. Pack lots of snacks for your ride and eat when you can, not when you need to. Everyone has a different fuel they like to pack for their rides. The important point here is not to wait until your energy levels start to drop to eat it. It takes time for your body to break down food into useful energy. Keep a constant flow of fuel coming into your body to avoid the dreaded "bonk" on your epic rides.
Choose the Proper Fabrics
What you are wearing will have a major impact on your comfort and enjoyment while on the trail. Avoid wearing cotton materials because they absorb moisture and will leave you feeling wet. Polyester and wool are both materials that wick moisture away from the skin and allow it to quickly evaporate leaving you feeling dry and comfortable.
Gloves will help you maintain your grip on the handlebars even when your hands begin to sweat. They can also help protect your hands from thorns and from scrapes in the event of a fall. Full-finger gloves are generally preferred in mountain biking due to their superior protection and grip. Whether you should get gloves with padding in the palms comes down to personal preference but on a modern geometry mountain bike, most riders choose gloves without palm padding.
Wear Padded Cycling Shorts
Investing in padded cycling shorts can make a world of difference in your mountain biking comfort and performance. While the allure of big, cushy seats may seem appealing, they can impede your mobility on the trails. Moreover, large saddles have the potential to cause chafing. Padded cycling shorts, equipped with strategically placed cushioning, provide a more streamlined and effective solution. The padding moves seamlessly with your body, offering both protection and flexibility. For optimal results, it is recommended to wear these shorts directly against your skin.
Practice Good Trail Etiquette
The rider traveling uphill always has the right-of-way unless trail markings indicate otherwise. Yield to faster cyclists, providing them the space to overtake. In the event that you fail to navigate an obstacle, swiftly move off the trail to allow cyclists behind you to maintain their momentum. On single-track trails, get completely off the trail to allow safe passage.
Respect hikers by alerting them to your presence with a friendly greeting and slowing down to a safe speed while passing.
When encountering horses, come to a complete stop, dismount, and step off the trail. Engage in respectful communication with the horseback riders, following their instructions to ensure a calm and safe passage.
Follow the local ethos when it comes to riding wet trails. Riding wet trails can rut and erode them quickly. In many trail systems, riders are asked to allow the trails to dry out before riding them.
Upholding these trail etiquette principles not only contributes to a harmonious shared-use environment but also enhances the overall safety and enjoyment of everyone on the trails.
Every Bike Comes Equipped with a Hiker
There is no shame in hiking your bike through a section of trail. You will need to do this often when you are beginning your mountain bike journey. When in doubt about a section of trail, hike it and live to ride another day.
Ride with Fast People
It can be majorly discouraging to be the slowest person on a ride. However, you will improve much faster if you push yourself to ride with better riders. Communicate openly with your riding partners about your abilities and make sure you are all on the same page about what type of ride it is. Is it a drop ride? Where are the regroup points? Will the ride stop at trail intersections? Etc.
Above all, believe people when they say they are okay with waiting. Too many beginner riders talk themselves out of a ride because they feel like they are keeping the rest of the group from having fun. As long as you have communicated openly with your riding partners ahead of time about your ability level and you’re not crashing what was supposed to be an advanced ride, then your riding partners will be happy to take it slow with you.
Don’t Get Discouraged
Mountain biking can be uncomfortable, especially when you are new to the sport. You’re winded and your butt hurts and your legs are burning from lactic acid build up. These unpleasant feelings are all a part of the sport and they always will be. However, you will be amazed at how your body will adapt if given the opportunity. Give yourself a few weeks of consistent riding and you will find that these sensations don’t bother you the way they did when you first started. In fact, some people even come to enjoy the hurt (Well, maybe not the sore butt). You’ll also notice a rapid improvement in your cardio, strength, and bike handling in the first few weeks of riding.
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