How do I start mountain biking?
How hard is mountain biking?
What is the best starter mountain bike?
These are some of the many questions beginner mountain bikers ask. If you are new to the sport and have similar questions, you’ve come to the right place.
Mountain biking is a fun activity that tests your skills and endurance while giving you an exhilarating thrill. The rush is unlike any other, especially after conquering a hard trail. It’s no wonder why mountain biking enthusiasts are always on the hunt for their next challenge.
For all the mountain biking beginners out there, you need to understand several things to be successful in this sport.
Because trails can be full of drops and obstacles, you’ll need a special bike designed to give you more traction and control. Mountain bikes, or MTBs, usually have thicker, stronger, and more durable tires than regular bikes. With the right bike, you can stay comfortable and safe on the roughest trails.
Although everyone wants to become a pro someday, you need to start small. Read on to see our guide on mountain biking for beginners!
Start With The Basics
Once you have your bike, you will need to get to know the trails in your area. It’s important to find beginner mountain bike trails that will be more forgiving if you fall or misjudge a turn.
Transitioning to trails can be hard for roadies, so do not let your road cycling experience give you false confidence.
It’s best to start with short trails with minimal elevation changes. It would help to use trail apps to determine trail features such as difficulty level, elevation gain and loss, mileage, and average slope grade.
Pay close attention to trail length since it can be deceiving. A 6-mile ride on single track with elevation gain and rocky technical sections may take you much more time and effort than a 10-mile smooth road ride.
Ask The Experts for Guidance
It isn’t easy to learn all the mountain biking skills on your own. Once you learn the basics and can ride comfortably, getting tips from better riders will be the best way to advance in skill level. Have a riding buddy with you to critique your technique and offer advice.
You can also research reputable bike riding sites and YouTube channels for more information and tips from coaches. If you are riding alone, you can record yourself and submit it to forums to get feedback.
All advice isn’t good advice, so try to work with experts instead of a friend or relative. A professional coach can give you comprehensive training plans to ensure you push your boundaries safely.
Your Safety is Paramount
Buying safety gear should be one of the first things to do when getting started with biking. You will want to buy a helmet, hydration pack, and proper mountain bike shoes to start out.
It is also worth investing in high-quality gloves to avoid scraping your hands against trees, rocks, and other obstacles. As you gain confidence and start venturing onto more challenging trails, you may need to get more gear like knee and elbow pads.
Protecting your bike is just as important as protecting yourself. Consider getting a backpack or a saddlebag with some basic tools to fix simple mechanical issues. This bag should include a chain breaker, a few extra chain links, tire levers, and a multitool.
For your tires, make sure to get a portable tire pump with an air pressure gauge. If your bike doesn’t use a tubeless tire setup, you might want to carry a spare tube in case the pump doesn’t help.
Choose The Right Mountain Bike
When you visit a bike shop, you’ll find a wide selection of mountain bikes and road bikes, but what is a good starter mountain bike?
When choosing the best MTB for beginners, you need to consider factors such as rear wheel and front wheel diameter and suspension type. Let’s take a deeper look at these factors:
There are three primary types of suspension:
- Rigid suspension: Rigid bikes don’t have any suspension. They’re usually less expensive and easy to ride for mountain bike beginners. However, these bikes are less comfortable compared to bikes with suspension.
- Hardtail: Hardtail bikes feature a suspension fork to help absorb shock on the front wheel. They have no suspension on the rear. These bike types are usually less expensive than their full-suspension counterparts. As a new mountain biker, you will find these easier to maintain, thanks to their fewer moving parts. Some hardtails can lock out the front suspension when you need a fully rigid bike.
- Full suspension: These bikes have suspension in the front and rear, tremendously reducing the impact on the rider, improving traction, and delivering a more forgiving and enjoyable ride. Since a full-suspension bike can make you lose some energy when going uphill, most of these bikes are designed to lock-out the rear suspension to ensure better power transfer and more efficient trail riding.
You have a vast range of options when it comes to wheel size:
- 24 in.: Children’s mountain bikes usually come with 24-inch wheels to accommodate the kids’ shorter legs. They’re ideal for kids ages 10 to 13 and are generally cheaper than adult mountain bikes.
- 26 in.: Most mountain bikers prefer 26-inch wheels because their small makes them exceptionally responsive and maneuverable.
- 27.5 in.: If you need the best of both worlds, 27.5-inch wheels are ideal. They are easier to turn than 29-inch wheels and are more robust than the smaller sizes.
- 29ers: 29-inch wheels are usually heavier and need more power to generate momentum. Nonetheless, once you start moving, you will notice how easy it is to conquer rugged terrain.
Play With Your Weight
Mountain biking involves going up and down extreme terrain. When ascending a tough site, be sure to shift your weight forward and lean into the hill. This pose helps you maintain the center of gravity over the rear wheel to uphold traction and momentum.
When the trail starts descending, shift your weight behind the saddle and lean backward over the rear wheel.
Be Gentle With the Brakes
Mountain biking can sometimes be so scary that you’ll find yourself grabbing both brakes and pulling them with all your might. Being hard on the brakes is one thing new riders should avoid. Mountain bike brakes are so powerful that you need only a gentle pull to regulate your speed, whether on single track or challenging terrain.
You never know when a hill might appear, so you will want to maintain your speed as much as possible.
It’s always advisable to regulate your speed before venturing into more challenging areas like sharp corners and rock gardens. When approaching a tough corner, keep your hand off the front brake and gradually coast into the turn.
When going downhill or on a flat surface, hitting the front brake will cause the front wheel to slide, which may throw you over the handlebars and onto the ground. Apply the rear brake instead. You may still skid to a stop, but you reduce your risk of falling and hitting your head.
Use Your Pedals Wisely
When you are new and hesitant to speed through course, you may need to peddle through technical areas like rocky gardens. Chances of a pedal strike are high when pedaling through such areas. While it’s sometimes inevitable, you can lower the risk by changing to the right gear.
When you need to pedal, shift up to a harder gear than you were using before venturing into a technical site. While this higher gear will strain your muscles a little more, it will lower your cadence and minimize the risk of a pedal strike.
Whether on flat or clipped in pedals, the way you place your feet on the pedals can significantly affect your riding ability. Although it may feel natural, don’t place your toes on the end of the pedal. Using platform pedals can help you avoid this.
While it’s always easy to balance on your toes, it can put unnecessary strain on your leg muscles. Move your forefoot forward and position the ball of your feet right in front of the pedals’ axle. This position will help engage the appropriate leg muscles for a sturdier position, especially in gravity riding.
Understand That Falling is Inevitable
While falling is one of the biggest fears among riders regardless of their skill level, you will need to get used to it. As you are learning mountain bike riding, be conscious of how you fall.
Never stick out an arm to stop a fall since this can break a bone. Instead, curl into a ball and shield your head and body.
Most importantly, you can prepare for falls by wearing the right gear. Aside from wearing a helmet, you need to dress for the terrain and the weather. If it’s rocky and raining, wear goggles and long pants. If you are road riding on a sunny day, you can get away with sunglasses and a loose shirt.
Learn Some Basic Bike Repairs
Compared to easygoing road riding, mountain biking causes a ton of shock to your bike. Hitting the wrong obstacles can pop a tire or bend a rim. Repairs will be inevitable, and you don’t want to be stranded in the wood with a broken bike.
First, make sure you can fix a flat tire. Whether you have tubeless tires or regular tires, punctures will happen. In addition to using a pump, learn how to remove a tire from the rim and swap the inner tube.
Secondly, you need to learn how the gears and brakes work. Start by learning how to fix a broken chain and run a new brake line. After this, move on to replacing a cracked or bent derailleur hanger and swapping out gear cables.
How Much Should You Spend on Your First MTB?
While the final decision depends on how much you can afford to spend, you should know that you’ll always get what you pay for in terms of quality.
How often do you plan to ride? Where will you go? Do you want to compete in events? Choose the bike that fits your purposes best.
If you go for a $500 mountain bike, it may have fewer technical features than a more expensive option, but it will do well for a fun trail ride with a friend. If you want to enjoy hundreds of riding hours with superb comfort and minimal breakdowns, you may need to spend several thousand dollars on a fully-loaded bike.
We hope these mountain biking tips for beginners have helped! Be sure to visit MTB Space if you need a beginner mountain bike buying guide or more information about mountain bikes, bike pedals, bike helmets, or any other bike-related product.