How to Mountain Bike for Beginners

Taking a good mountain bike out for a spin on a challenging trail is a lot of fun – but there’s no denying that mountain biking is one of the most difficult subcategories of cycling. Before hitting the road, it’s essential that you’re familiar with the basics of mountain biking – and perhaps even a bit more.

We’ve prepared a quick, helpful guide that covers all of the most important points so that you can confidently set out to conquer difficult trails – safe in the knowledge that you know what you’re getting yourself into.


Riding a Mountain Bike

Most people learn how to ride a bike in relatively safe and controlled environments. In fact, a vast majority of cycling takes place over unchallenging terrain – and while cycling over pavement or a bike path is quite fun, it isn’t really difficult per se.

mountain bike on the cliff

Mountain biking is a completely different ball game. With mountain biking, the terrain that you will encounter is incredibly varied – from steep inclines, wooded hills to narrow, gravelly paths.

If you’re just getting into mountain biking, the difference can prove to be a bit of a shock. But there’s nothing to worry about – if you take the time to prepare properly, and have a good grasp of the potential challenges, everything will turn out fine.


How to Mountain Bike

Preparation

Luckily, there’s a lot of stuff that you can take care of before even setting out. Before we get down to concrete advice and tips, let’s go over a brief overview of what to do to properly prepare for mountain biking.

Your Choice of Bike

You probably already have a mountain bike. Obviously, if you don’t – get one.

Mountain Bike on White Background

All jokes aside, take a moment to consider your choice of bike. For starters, what kind of bike is it? Mountain bikes have several subcategories, such as gravel bikes or hybrid bikes.

All of these bikes perform differently, and so does every specific bike – pay attention to your bike’s strengths and weaknesses. This will give you a better idea of what kind of trails your bike can handle – and who knows, perhaps some of your bike’s weaker points can be fixed or addressed.

The most important area to focus on is your bike’s suspension – we wouldn’t recommend trying to mountain bike on a difficult, technical trail without a full suspension bike. Your wheel size also plays an important role in how your bike will handle.

It’s very important that you’re familiar with your bike – and that it’s the proper size for you. If you’re planning on purchasing a new bike, don’t be afraid of experimenting – think back to the pros and cons of your current bike – it’s possible that a different style of bike would suit you better.

Bike Maintenance

Keeping your bike well-maintained is a huge priority. Hitting the trails with a bike that hasn’t seen any upkeep in a long time is a recipe for disaster.

Make sure that your tires are properly inflated, that the handlebar isn’t loose, and that your chain is properly lubricated.

Maintaining a Mountain Bike

Ideally, you should get your bike serviced once every three months. This will allow you to take care of any issues, big or small – before they become a big problem on the trail. Likewise, you should also carry an emergency bike repair kit with you.

Equipment

Once you’re comfortable with your bike, think about the rest of your gear. There are a couple of absolutely non-negotiable pieces of equipment.

For starters, always wear a helmet. Falling off your bike always hurts, and it is always potentially dangerous – but due to the rough terrain that is common in mountain biking, the risk is much higher.

Depending on your skill level and the difficulty of the terrain, you should also think about getting a pair of cycling shoes, and even some clipless pedals.

Your clothing is also important – ideally, you should be wearing a pair of padded shorts, a moisture-wicking jersey or top, and a pair of gloves. All of your clothing should be comfortable and unobtrusive, allowing for a full range of motion.


Once You’re On the Road

Now let’s move on to some general pointers and tips that will help you have an easier, more enjoyable time when mountain biking.

Relax – And Take It Easy

If you’re a novice, actually getting out there can seem a bit daunting at times. But don’t worry – there’s no need to rush in – go at your own pace. It’s always better to start with the easier trails and routes and work your way up.

But even if you’ve got some notches on your belt, it’s still important to remain calm and collected. Once you’re out there, whizzing past rocks, gravel, roots, and branches, it’s startlingly easy to lose your cool and panic.

mountain bike handlebar

Remember, you’re not in a competition – if you feel like things are getting out of hand, slow down, take a break, collect yourself – and then move on.

Posture

Mountain biking is dynamic – and this means that you’ll be changing your posture as you go along the trail. If you’re going through the easier parts of a trail (often called the non-technical sections), keep your body relaxed, with a slight bend in your knees and elbows. Keep your index finger, or both your index and middle fingers on the brakes – just in case, and always look approximately 15 to 20 feet ahead of where you are at any given point.

If you notice that the terrain has become a bit more challenging, switch to the ready position. Shift your hips backward, and take your rear end off the seat. Your knees and elbows should have a deep bend.

Keep your eyes on the path that you will take – don’t focus too much on obstacles or barriers. Put simply, don’t look at what you’ll be avoiding – look at where you will actually end up going.

Turning, Braking, Shifting and Rhythm

It’s not uncommon to come across sharp turns when mountain biking. Because these bikes often feature forgiving suspensions, don’t be afraid to shift your weight when you want to make a turn – it’ll help you immensely.

When it comes to braking, don’t forget that mountain bike brakes are, on average, quite powerful. Always keep your fingers on the brakes, but don’t ever slam down on them – apply a smooth, even amount of pressure on both brakes, and do so proactively – slowing down slightly ahead of time can make a huge difference.

Mountain Bike Brake

If you do find yourself in a tricky situation, always use the rear brake – you might slide a bit, but it’s much better than ending up over the bars.

Maintain a good pedaling rhythm and enough momentum. Ensuring a good cycling cadence means that you’ll have a much more efficient pedal stroke and that your tires can provide an appropriate amount of traction. Having enough momentum is crucial for getting over obstacles or going over inclines.

When it comes to shifting, you should shift often – preferably ahead of time. If you see a change in terrain up ahead, adjust your gears – you’ll have a much easier time, and you’ll be able to keep a lot of momentum that would otherwise be lost.

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How to Mountain Bike for Beginners — Bike Hacks