Mountain biking is a very popular extreme sport. It’s amazing biking through trees and beautiful mountains, enjoying the view. It can involve cycling in extreme environments like steep hills and sharp rock paths. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it will quickly become one of the most wonderful experiences you can have.
If you want to try out mountain biking, you need to start at the basics.
Tips to Become a Mountain Biker
Having good bike-handling skills and confidence will give you a much better experience and help you avoid any mishaps. To become a mountain biker, read our Cycling 101 advice.
To have a good and safe riding experience, your bike needs to be in top shape. It takes only a few minutes to maintain your bike regularly, and it can save you from any accidents happening. Even if you don’t know how to fix your bike, just looking over it and noticing what is not working can give you a chance to take it to the bike shop.
Look out for any part of your bike that is worn out, broken, rusty or just not working right. Even problems that seem small to you can turn into something big on the trail.
Make sure that the bike you want to ride is the right size for you.
It’s only natural that on your first rides you will have some scratches and bruises, and you may even fall off your bike multiple times. That’s why having safety gear is very important.
First things first, having a helmet that fits you properly is essential for mountain biking. Never go biking without a helmet on.
It can save you from very dangerous hits if you fall off your bike.
Your helmet should fit you snugly, but it can’t obscure your vision or pull down hard over your ears. Other safety equipment you will need is gloves, shinguards, and arm braces.
See Also: Mountain Biking Gear for Beginners
Prepare For Falls
Since falling off a bike is sometimes inevitable, and even the best riders have had this happen to them, you should be prepared to take a beating. Biking involves riding over rocks and bumping again branches. It’s normal to have some scratches and bruises on your first rides until you get the hang of things.
Make sure you have a kit of things that can help you. You should carry band-aids and blister kits, a small air pump, rain gear or warm clothes, flash-light, plenty of water and even an external battery.
All these small items may come in handy if something doesn’t go as planned on your biking trip.
Get In Shape
Mountain biking is a sport, and an extreme one, so being in top shape will make your adventures a lot easier. Mountain biking is part walking, aerobics and BMX riding.
A good bike will not help you as much if you don’t have a healthy body to withstand all the exercise you will do while biking. If a trail is very steep, you will need to be in great condition if you want to get back in the same direction.
Even experienced bikers will often get off their biked and walk if the trails are very difficult or there are difficult turns. But it’s generally easier to stay on your bike and keep your momentum. If you are out of shape, stopping and starting the ride multiple times will make the ride ultimately more difficult.
Besides biking, you should exercise often, including strength training and cardio.
If you are out of shape, you should go on long normal rides to get comfortable on the bike again.
When you are just starting your biking journey, it’s good to start slow so you can get used to your new bike. Get comfortable on your bike and adjust the seat and handlebars so you’ll feel good and steady while biking.
Because you are just starting, you don’t have to hit up some extreme paths and trails to start your mountain biking skills. First, you can find and unpaved path on level ground to get used to the feeling of not riding on a perfectly smooth road.
Ride your bike on the grass to adjust to softer paths and make some adjustments to your bike if needed. Work your way up on some hills to practice your balance and shifting.
Focus On Your Path
When you are on a trail with difficult obstacles, especially if it’s a new trail, keep your eyes on the road up front. Never lock your eyes on a specific patch of the road directly in front of you because you can not notice a big branch or a difficult turn ahead of you. This can be very dangerous and you will not have time to act properly at that moment.
You can even lose your balance and fall off and hurt yourself. Look ahead for obstacles, low-hanging branches, and steep turns. Focus on the line you want to take instead of a specific obstacle.
This is called target fixation. It will help you navigate better and your ride will be smoother.
One of the most important skills in mountain biking is knowing when and how to use your brakes properly. Many experiences bikers shift their weight to increase the breaking without braking for very long.
When going downhill push your bottom back in the saddle and apply your brakes evenly.
If you press too hard on the front brake you can flip over your bike.
If you press too hard on your back brake you can go into a skid.
The bikes are made to take the beating of an obstacle or sharp turn, so you need speed to avoid many of them. It ‘s easier to lose your balance at slower speeds making the obstacles more dangerous. Controlling your speed involves feathering the breaks, meaning putting slight pressure on them at the same time.
Uphill and Downhill Techniques
When you are going uphill, stay seated and lean forward on your bike. This will give you the necessary push to combat the incline. On dirt parts of the road, stay in the seat and go easy on the pedaling.
Downshift before you hit the hill and then pedal as fast as you can. When you are going downhill you must relax. Lower your saddle and try not to control things too much. You need to be focused on your obstacles and stand up off the seat.
Be light in the control of your bike. If you are too tight and controlling, your bike might get stuck or you can jam a tire or flip over.
Cadence is another very important part of cycling. You will have to spend a lot of time developing a good spinning technique. If you pedal in jerky strokes or squares, you are throwing yourself out of balance. Spinning your pedal helps you keep traction on loose trails. Proper cadence is pedaling in circles in the right gear.
If your gear is too high it will be difficult to power over obstacles. If your gear is too low, you can spin out and jerk the bike and fall. Learn to change gears to keep the same pedaling RPMs, from 70 to 100.
This speed will make it easier to climb and pedal through rough sections and obstacles.
Having proper skills and the ability to come to a stop and then start again without putting your foot down will make it easier to keep your momentum while riding. You will need hopping and balancing skills. These skills are both done while standing still and you may need some time to get used to them. This balancing is done without holding on to the brakes.
Practice going as slow as possible and feather your brakes to slow down. After some time you will be able to balance by shifting your weight and moving the bike beneath you.
Hopping is done with both brakes locked while you pick up both wheels to keep the bike beneath you. Center your body, compress it, then push down the bike to raise your body up and then pull with your arms and legs.
Finding a Proper Bike
You have read about all the rules and techniques and now you are eager to start your mountain biking journey. There are many types of mountain bikes on the market, and it can be difficult to choose which one is best for you and your skills.
You may also consider how much is worth investing depending on how often you will go mountain biking.
Bike prices can get pretty high very quickly, especially if you want custom or special features. Remember that you can always look up discount bikes online for great bikes at an even better value. Consult with professional bikers what is the best option for you.
Ride With Better Bikers
Mountain biking can be difficult, and having some training with experienced bikers can help you ease your nerves and help you learn new biking techniques. It can also help you push yourself a little harder. Watch how they position their bodies while biking, like going downhill or uphill. Also, watch how they handle rocky sections that may be difficult to ride on or over.
You can pick up some valuable skills like fixing a flat tire or handling some minor injuries. These are the skill that will be invaluable to you when you start your first bike ride and for many rides after.
Remember to always go at your own pace and skill level, and don’t try to do every advance movement your experienced mates do. You will get to that point after practice and experience.
Concluding Thoughts – Becoming a Mountain Biker
Mountain biking is a very exciting extreme sport that can give you amazing experiences outdoors. Remember that it’s an extreme sport, so you will need a lot of preparations and practice before you go on your own.
First, try yourself out on beginner trails to get the feel of the land and slowly move up to more difficult ones. Always be mindful of your surroundings and keep your eyes on the road.
Try biking with your friends, and most importantly, have fun.