Thinking about getting into mountain biking and/or riding for the first time in a long time? Maybe you already have a bike but you feel a little bit rusty about mountain biking basics?
Have no fear! We know how daunting cycling may seem when you haven't done it for a while. And, we love beginners and are always happy to offer pointers on how to best use your bicycle. Since we aren't available 24/7 at the shop, here's an article with some basic tips. They're designed to quickly get you back up to speed to start enjoying the wonderful world of off-road cycling again (be sure to click the photos too).
First off, the beauty of a mountain bike is its versatility. No other machine is as capable on so many different surfaces. You can pedal on the road, on paths and most importantly, on trails. It's an amazing vehicle for escaping the buzz and craziness of city life and cars. And, just like you, animals and nature tend to embrace those places further away from the metropolis. Plus, with a mountain bike you can travel faster and much further than you ever could just by hiking.
Every Ride Starts The Same
Every bike ride, regardless of what type of bike you're riding, should start with the buckling of a proper fitting helmet. Modern helmets actually keep your head cooler through the use of innovative vents that channel the breeze onto your head. And, today's helmets have updated styling, too. Trust us, you will be the exception if you think helmets are dorky. People notice the person without a helmet more than anybody with one. It's like being the shirtless skier at a ski resort. Don't be that guy. It's not tough, it's not cool, in fact, you and Mr. Soon-to-be Lobster Back could both end up in the hospital.
Tip: Helmets do more than protect you in a crash. They often include visors to protect your eyes from glare and any branches or brush you might ride through. Plus, they feature excellent vents so you stay comfortable.
Assuming you already have a mountain bike and a helmet, the next thing you need is a trail. The good news is that there are trails everywhere. There are probably trails all around you already. Practically every neighborhood has shortcuts that kids and adults have worn in to connect to schools, stores, parks etc. In less congested areas, there are often trails cut by fishermen along streams. If you are outside of an urban area, you're still in luck for finding trails, as livestock and animals (such as deer) tend to walk single file, creating beautifully narrow trails. You'll want to be sure that you're not trespassing on private land at all times.
Visit our Mountain Rides page for great trails to start out on.
Tip: Of course the quickest and easiest way to find legit mountain bike trails is to visit us. We'll be able to hook you up with the information on what trails are in the area, which might be best for you, which direction to ride them and we even have maps and books.
Even though you're rocking a helmet, it's always a good bet to try to avoid actually using it. The biggest trick to cruising the downhills is to lean back. Moving your body behind the saddle on the downhills will keep you riding smooth, fast and confident. Most mountain bikes have very powerful brakes, so powerful that they can lock up a wheel almost instantly. So by leaning back, you keep your center of gravity more in the middle of the bike and are less likely to take a trip over the bars. But, even if you do go over the handlebars, don't worry, we've all been there.
Tip: Moving your weight around on the bike helps make the unrideable, rideable. Lean back on the downhills and lean forward on the steep uphills. It's all about balance.
Look Up and Go Where You Look
Once you've ridden a few times, you can employ this simple tip to make riding trails more enjoyable and less intimidating. It tends to slow everything down a little. While riding, look up, see ahead 20 feet, or try looking around the next corner. Try to avoid looking at or just in front of your front tire. Don't worry about hitting rocks and roots, your big tires will roll over most obstacles, especially if your bike has front (and rear) suspension. Also look where you want to go. This is a hard one, even for experienced mountain bikers. Basically, if you stare at a rock, tree, bush, whatever, you're trying to avoid, that is where you are going to end up. So you have to look past the obstacle, look where you want to go and you will go there.
Tip: If there are 2 rocks or trees on either side of the trail, look through the rocks or trees to where you want to end up. Look where you want to go.
Improve Your Bike Inexpensively
If you feel like your bike could ride better, a simple and zero-cost upgrade is lowering the pressure in your tires. Softer tires make a world of difference in your confidence and your bike's ability. Low pressure also increases the comfort, smoothness and traction of your wheels. You'll want to run the lowest pressure you can without risking flatting. Start at around 45 psi in the rear and 35 in the front. With the additional traction, you'll be able to climb loose sections easier and corner with more control too.
While not free, upgrading to wider tires, such as 26 x 2.3-inches and bigger, work for you by absorbing more bumps and providing even more traction. They also let you ride with lower air pressure, too. But just like most things, there are trade-offs. You pay for those advantages with slower rolling typically and increased weight as the tire size increases. Swing by our shop and we'll tell you what tires work for our terrain.
Tip: Put a bigger, meatier tire on the front with lower air pressure than the rear tire for awesome steering in the dirt. Combine that with a smaller knobbed tire on the rear for low-rolling resistance.
Make The Most Of It
Mountain biking is one of those activities were the journey is always more important than the destination. So take a little break and soak in the nature that's all around you. Mountain biking is one of the few things that allow you to escape traffic and the constant buzz of everyday life and get further out in nature. This downtime is an excellent time to eat and drink, so bring plenty of fluids and food. Real food (such as sandwiches, pizza, cookies, fruit, etc.) is a welcome treat on most every ride.
Tip: You will be the hero if you can hook your riding buddy up with something sweet to eat while out on a ride. Leave your place 15 minutes early and swing by a bakery and magically turn into everyone's favorite riding buddy! Have fun out on the trails, wherever they may be!