Mountain biking is having a moment. Amid a larger surge in cycling popularity, mountain biking has become an attractive sport for people who want to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors without risking their health in crowded or congested environments.
As Forbes.com reports, “Mountain bike trail counts across the United States are showing increases of 100% to over 500% compared with the same time in 2019. And bike makers continue to see a surge in sales, from entry-level mountain biking options right through the most expensive boutique brands.”
While some of the increased activity is due to mountain bikers increasing the frequency of rides, much is due to an influx of new riders. And if you’re one of them, you’re likely feeling a mixture of excitement and stress. Excitement over the exhilaration of riding, but stress regarding the myriad of different tips, techniques, gadgets, and advice. (And, to be honest, that’s totally normal.)
Without trying to overload you with even more information, here are several tips newbie mountain bikers, like yourself, can use to have more fun as you become better acclimated to the sport.
Rent before buying. Mountain bikes can be expensive – ranging from several hundred dollars to as much as $10,000 or $15,000-plus for a fully loaded model with all of the bells and whistles. Having said that, this isn’t a purchase you want to make without doing a little bit of research. And the best research comes in the form of trying before you buy.
The best thing you can do is rent a mountain bike and see how it feels. If you like it, you can buy the same model. But if you don’t like it, you can simply return the bike and try another model the next time you go for a ride. This is a much cheaper way to find the right bike.
Get in shape. A lot of people assume that mountain biking will get them into shape. And while this is true, you have to be in pretty decent shape to begin with. Otherwise, you won’t be able to sustain long rides. So if you’re serious about pursuing this as a sport, you need to begin by getting in shape.
Leg and core strength are integral to mountain biking. Include plenty of planks, squats, sit-ups, and lunges in your exercise routine. Cardio is also important, so be sure to spend some time jogging on the treadmill or using the elliptical.
Get your bike set up properly. It’s not enough to buy the right bike. You also need to set it up properly for your body and the types of rides you’ll be doing.
Pay especially close attention to saddle height. When your foot is resting on the pedal in the six o’clock position, your leg should have a slight bend in the knee (rather than being extended straight out). You shouldn’t have to reach or push to get to the bottom of your pedal stroke.
Tire pressure, suspension, seat position, and handlebar alignment are also very important. Tweak these until you have a comfortable and supportive setup.
Master the front-wheel lift. There are dozens of different mountain biking maneuvers to learn, but none will be used more frequently than the basic front-wheel lift. Practicing and mastering this move will make your riding experience so much better.
The front-wheel lift is ideal for clearing midsize objects like logs, rocks, or anything “hub height” or lower. And while it’s simple, it does take some practice. It’s a three-part move that consists of loading, exploding, and lifting.
- Load: Compress your bike’s front shocks by loading the handlebars down with your upper body. Aggressively bend your elbows if necessary.
- Explode: When the shock rebounds, straighten your arms out. (Be explosive – almost like doing a clapping push-up.)
- Lift: When your front wheel lifts off the ground, bend your arms and lift the handlebars up.
While nothing beats trying this on an actual trail, you can practice with a concrete curb in a parking lot.
Ride as much as you can. You can read blog posts, buy gear on Amazon, and spend time chatting with friends about mountain biking, but there’s no better teacher than experience. In the early days, you should aim to do at least two rides per week (if not three). This repetition will lead to strength, endurance, and muscle memory.
Ready, Set, Bike!
Millions of people are flocking to cycling and mountain biking as a healthy outdoor activity. And if you’re a first-timer, we’re glad to welcome you into the community. Take these tips to heart and remember that practice makes perfect.