Tips for New Mountain Bike Riders

8 Tips for New Mountain Bike Riders: How to Get Started and Improve Your Skills

5 minute read.

Mountain biking can be a thrilling and rewarding sport, but it can also be intimidating for beginners. Mountain biking is all about having fun, challenging yourself, and enjoying beautiful places.  If you're new to mountain biking and looking to get started, here are eight tips to help you get the most out of your rides.

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Start slow

Starting out mountain biking

Don't try to ride too aggressively right away. Take the time to get comfortable with your bike and the trail before you start pushing your limits. This will help you build confidence and prevent injuries.

Wear protective gear

Mountain biking can be rough on your body, so it's important to wear protective gear such as a helmet, gloves, and pads. This will help you stay safe in case of a fall or crash.

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Learn proper body position

Your body position on the bike is crucial for balance, control, and power. Keep your feet on the pedals, your elbows bent, and your upper body relaxed. This will help you stay in control and make it easier to navigate rough terrain on a mountain bike trail.

Shift your weight

As you ride, pay attention to your weight distribution on the bike. Making sure that you are properly distributing your weight on your mountain bike is something that is very important to your safety on the trails. Keeping proper bike weight distribution in mind when mountain biking helps to increase your speed, as well as your safety when riding your bike.

Learn how to mountain bike

You may notice that a mountain biker may shift their weight backwards when descending a steep hill and forwards when going up a hill. The reason for this is simple: With physics in mind, mountain bikers need to be able to move their weight back and forth in order to adjust to the angle of the terrain in order to thrust the forces that are moving them forward in the most optimal direction possible.

In essence, if a rider can place more of their weight on the front wheel, then this will create extra friction and traction between that wheel and the road which will allow for high-speed cornering, and when a rider moves their weight back, then they can descend downhill with the center of their mass between the wheels, and this in turn makes it more difficult for riders to end up over their handlebars.

Practice braking.

Braking is an essential skill for mountain biking, and it can take some time to get the hang of it. Practice braking in a controlled environment, such as a parking lot or empty field, to get a feel for how much pressure you need to apply to the brakes to slow down or stop.

Keep your bike in good condition.

Regular maintenance is key to keeping your bike in good working order. Clean and lubricate your chain, check your tire pressure, and make sure all of your components are tightened and properly adjusted. This will help you avoid mechanical issues on the trail.

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Respect the trail and trail etiquette.

Learn how to ride your mountain bike

Always be mindful of other trail users and follow any rules or regulations in place. Stay on marked trails and don't create new ones to help protect the environment.  You are sharing the trails with others and there are certain (sometimes written, but often unwritten) rules and general etiquette that you should follow to be a responsible rider.

  1. Greet fellow trail users. It’s just common courtesy. Whether it’s saying “Hi”, giving a smile, a nod or a wave (or all of the above), these gestures don’t take much effort and you’re immediately putting everyone at ease.
  2. Respect signage. Some trails are directional and they will be signed accordingly.
  3. Get involved. If you spend any amount of time shredding your local trails, remember that they don’t build and maintain themselves and you’re enjoying their awesomeness thanks to the hard work (usually primarily by volunteers) and dollars from others.
  4. Respect the environment and the trail. When you’re riding, practice the “Leave no trace” code of conduct and don’t litter. Beyond that, it’s a big no-no to modify the trail in any way (ie. cutting corners or creating rogue lines, cutting or damaging trees). And always try to adhere to the “Ride, don’t slide” guideline. Respect the hard work of trail builders. If there is debris that has fallen on the trail, it’s always good etiquette to move it aside, if possible.
  5. Ride in control. It’s a good rule of thumb to anticipate that there is someone around that next blind corner (because it’s very likely that there is!) and ride at a speed that will allow you to stop safely whenever you need to. Remember, to hikers, it may seem like you’re going faster than you feel you are, so be mindful.
  6. Right of way. On a two-way trail, the uphill rider always has the right of way. (Imagine how much harder it is to get rolling again if you’re pointed uphill than if you’re headed down.) If you encounter a horse, dismount and move off the trail to let it by, since they spook easily, which is dangerous for everyone.
  7. Don’t block the trail. Before you drop in, when you get to the end of a trail or if you stop for whatever reason in the middle of it, move yourself and your bike completely off of the trail to avoid getting in other people’s way.
  8. Passing. If you’re riding and someone has caught up to you, it means they’re going faster and you should allow them to pass the next chance you get to do so safely. On the flip side, if you catch up to someone, be polite and patient and allow them to indicate when it’s okay to pass. Be sure to leave lots of space and don’t forget to say “Thank you!”
  9. Be prepared. It’s always a good idea to inform yourself of the trail area you’re planning to ride so you’re on top of anything specific you should know about that area, like trail closures, wildlife alerts and weather. If you’re new to a particular riding area, it never hurts to ask a local in the parking lot or the mountain bike trailhead if there’s anything specific you should be aware of. Chances are, they’ll also give you tips on the best trails. Also, be self-sufficient when it comes to appropriate clothing, water, food and other supplies, as many areas don’t have facilities. Make sure your bike is in good working condition, your phone’s battery is fully charged and you have taken safety precautions, like informing someone of where you’re going, as well as packing basic bike tools and first aid equipment with you. 

By following these tips, you'll be well on your way to becoming a confident and skilled mountain biker all the while have a ton of FUN!  Happy trails!

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