Mountain biking evokes images of fit people tackling rugged terrain, while enjoying the beautiful outdoors. It is true — mountain biking is a great way to get your workouts surrounded by nature.
If you’ve decided that you want to give mountain biking a go, you might wonder how to actually get started. Taking your bike on single track trails or on roads through the wilderness offers a unique sense of freedom and the opportunity to admire wonderful scenery while getting that great adrenaline rush. But, as with any other outdoor activity, there are certain aspects to keep in mind and steps to follow in order to do it right to enjoy an adventure that won’t end up being dangerous. We’ve put together some essential tips and tricks any mountain bike newbie should be aware of.
Invest in a reliable bike
The most important step of actually starting to mountain bike is, of course, buying a bike. And the good news is that you don’t need to spend a fortune on an expensive bike. Your first routes will be beginner-friendly, thus rather smooth. Once you’ve gained a bit of experience, you’ll know when and how to upgrade to a more advanced (and costly) bike suitable for the advanced routes. But for starters, all you need is an affordable and trustworthy bike. Craigslist is a great place where you’ll find used mountain bikes for pocket-friendly prices, as as long as you can find one that fits well and is not damaged from prior use or improper maintenance.
Keep in mind that the bike you choose has to fit your height. Therefore, one of the key features to pay attention to is the frame. Opt for a 13″ – 14″ frame size (x-small) if you’re height is between 4’10” – 5’2″, a 15″ – 16″ frame size (small) if you are between 5’2″ – 5’6″, a 17″ – 18″ frame size (medium) if you are between 5’6″ – 5′ 10″, a 19″ – 20″ frame size (large) if your height is between 5’10” – 6’1″, a 21″ – 22″ frame size (x-large) if you are between 6’1″ – 6’4″, and a 23″ – 24″ frame size (xx-large) if you are 6’4″ too 6’6″ in height. In terms of materials, mountain bikes frames are made of steel, aluminum or carbon fiber. Go for a lightweight bike that will allow you sink into the awesomeness of the outdoors and make sure you pick a strong, maneuverable vehicle that will provide you a safe, reliable and smooth ride.
Get your hands on the protective equipment you need
Gear is always important for cycling, and in mountain biking your odds of a spill are higher than they would be on the road. Start with a helmet and wear it all the time. We can’t stress this enough: a good protective helmet is, together with your mountain bike, a key thing to purchase. As a beginner, you will deal with a number of minor accidents, such as crashing or falling off your bike. Sometimes, these can go from minor to serious; therefore, a helmet can make a real difference between you being safe and injured. Choose a high-quality mountain biking helmet that fits your head size and is easy to adjust. Other products to get are gloves (that will protect your hands from scratches) and mountain biking glasses (that will protect your eyes from strong light and trail dirt).
Find easy, local trails
As a newbie, riding on difficult trails is very risky; due to the lack of knowledge and experience, you can get injured in a number of ways. So it’s best to start with smooth, local routes and always keep your fingers on the brakes. If there are no beginner-friendly trails in your area, trail centers are a wonderful option. Their routes are graded, so you’ll know exactly what to choose and what to expect.
Remember: there’s no shame in getting off your bike and walking whenever the trail becomes to challenging for you. Don’t risk any kind of injuries just to test a route that’s obviously a bit too difficult for rookies. Start easy, stick to the smooth trails and if you feel tired, take a break.
Get familiar with the basic first aid rules
We’ve said it before, we’re saying it again: as a newbie, you are going to be prone to get injured than a seasoned cyclist. When this happens, you must be prepared and knowledgeable. Even if we’re talking about a simple scratch, applying some basic first aid rules will keep your injury from turning into something really serious. Research and familiarize yourself with the steps to follow in case of an accident. You can even attend special classes, both online and offline. Oh, and always carry a first aid kit with you. Even if you don’t get into an accident, you might come across someone who has.
Find a riding group
Like-minded individuals, whether beginners or advanced, will not only help you get useful advice, but they can also become your mountain biking partners. Did you know that are lots of riding groups out there? And most probably, a few of them are right in your area. Do a quick search online and join the mountain biking community in your area. Share your thoughts, ask for opinions, and join the riding events they organize. It’s always more fun and safe to explore trails with other mountain biking aficionados.
Gift yourself a bike carrier for your car
If you’ve decided that you want to explore places outside of your local area, consider investing in a mountain bike carrier for your car. This way, you can take your beloved bike safely with you wherever you want to ride.
There are a few types of carriers, but from least to most expensive, the common ones are:
- A trunk or hatch carrier that straps on the back of your car.
- A hitch carrier than attaches to the hitch receiver of your vehicle (if it has one)
- A rooftop carrier that sits on top of your roof.
All of these essential steps are easy to follow and will help you improve your outdoor riding skills in no time. That’s it! Good luck with your mountain biking adventure!