The sun is out, the snow is melting, and spring is in the air. Pretty soon ski resorts are going to be turning into mountain biking resorts, trading in snow for dirt and smooth, steep slopes for winding, bumpy trails. If you’ve never been mountain biking, it can feel a bit intimidating. You’re navigating difficult and ever-changing terrain while speeding up and down hills and balancing on two wheels. But mountain biking can be a fun and invigorating experience as well as an excellent workout. In this post, we’ll go over our top 10 tips for mountain biking that will be especially helpful for beginners.
1. Stay loose and let your bike do its thing.
When mountain biking, it’s important to keep your body loose so you can roll with the punches, keep your balance, and absorb all the bumps. Drop your center of gravity by loosening your shoulders and elbows and lowering your chest down toward your bike. Make sure you’re moving your body independently from your bike so you can let your bike move beneath you and do its job of rolling over difficult terrain.
2. Keep your momentum.
It can be scary at first to learn how to ride over rocks and roots and around turns at speed, but it’s actually much easier for your bike to roll right over everything and keep in the right direction if you maintain your speed or even speed up. Many beginners actually fall because they don’t have enough speed and momentum to get them over tough parts of the trail. Momentum is your friend and you’ll become more and more comfortable riding at speed as you go.
3. Shift often.
As a mountain biking beginner, it may seem like there are a million things to concentrate on all at once. However, shifting should definitely be one of your key focuses and it will become easier and more natural as you practice. Try to look ahead and anticipate changes in the terrain so that you can shift accordingly and keep your momentum going, which again, will aid you in getting through tough terrain.
4. Use your brakes strategically.
Many beginners are scared of speed and find themselves with both hands on the brakes, keeping a slow speed that feels comfortable. Although it’s important to feel in control and work your way up to faster speeds, try and lay off the brakes. Adjust your speed before hitting parts of the trail like turns and then maintain that momentum throughout the turn. If you are going into a turn too fast, make sure to use your right brake (which is your rear brake) rather than your left brake (your front brake) because slamming on the front brake could cause you to fly over your handlebars. Additionally, keep in mind that mountain bike brakes are powerful, it only takes a finger or two on the brake to slow yourself down.
READ MORE: 6 Key Tips for Hiking Safely
5. Adjust your suspension.
This is something many new mountain bikers don’t think about or don’t even know exists. But it can make a huge difference in how smooth your bike rides over bumpy terrain if it’s able to rebound your weight correctly. If you don’t know how to set your suspension, your local bike shop can help you or you can find resources online for your particular bike model. It can make a world of a difference when you’re not taking on challenging terrain with a rigid bike.
7. Wear the right gear.
Of course, this varies for everyone, but take some time to do your research and figure out what is the most comfortable set-up for you to ride in. Make sure to wear a helmet to protect your noggin from potential falls, and don’t forget to carry along some water to stay hydrated — whether that’s a water bottle attached to your bike or a Camelbak on your back — in addition to a snack.
8. Challenge yourself.
Although mountain biking can be scary, it challenges you to get outside your comfort zone and push yourself beyond what you thought you could do. The only way you can grow is by challenging yourself. Whether this means trying a new line or biking with someone who is better than you, never stop challenging yourself and you’ll slowly gain comfort and become a better rider.
9. Maintain your bike & carry along maintenance tools.
Just like cars, bikes require regular maintenance. Check your tire pressure, your brakes, your shifting, your pedals, your bolts and screws, and adjust the height before riding. After riding, make sure to inspect your bike, clean your bike, and lube your drivetrain. There are plenty of online resources that can help you with bike maintenance, and I’m sure your local bike shop would be happy to provide you with help as well. As for carrying along maintenance tools, you should always have a spare tube, pump, and multi-tool so you’ll have everything you need in case something happens while out on a remote trail.
10. Enjoy it.
Mountain biking is an opportunity to get outside, hit the trail with friends, see and explore beautiful places, build confidence, exercise, and relieve stress. Don’t take yourself too seriously and enjoy your time out on the trail. As long as you’re safe and prepared, it’s all about having a good time and getting the most out of your mountain biking adventure.
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