Dirt trails, tough climbs and epic descents—it all seems so incredible, thrilling—and downright terrifying. Mountain biking may not seem like the most beginner-friendly sport, but with a few tips, the right gear and maybe some expert instruction, your first experience can be a great one.
Get Comfortable with Shifting
Experts often tell beginners to “shift early and shift often,” what this means is that you should shift (while pedaling) into the gear you’ll need before you actually need it. For example, don’t shift to a lower gear once you’re on a steep hill, shift into that gear before you hit the hill. Practice shifting—it’s a key part of conquering the mountain.
Use a Light Touch on the Brakes
Slamming on the brakes is one of the surest ways to end up in the dirt. Having a light touch and using both front a rear brakes will increase your chances of staying on the bike and coming to a steady stop.
Change Your Stance
Generally when you’re heading up hill, staying seated will help the wheels keep traction, but on descents you’ll want to stand on the pedals with your knees slightly bent to absorb the bumps and stay in control.
Know When to Shift Your Weight
When climbing you might find your front wheel losing traction, leaning your body forward will help the wheel stay grounded. During descents, it’s a good idea to keep your weight toward the back of the bike to avoid over-the-handlebar accidents and on sharp turns leaning into the curve will help with balance.
Keep Your Head Up
Paying attention to what’s in front of you is probably the most important element to staying safe on the trail. Remember that where you’re looking and your body angle will determine where you go.
Get the Right Gear
Not only should you have the essentials (like a quality helmet), but your gear should fit you and be suited to the terrain you’re tackling. Visit a reputable bike shop with experts that can help you get the right stuff and the right fit.
Get Some Help
Whether you turn to a local club or sign up for some mountain biking classes, there’s nothing like some in-person expert advice. It’s also nice to have someone there to help you pick yourself up and dust off when you experience your first wipeout.