Mountain Biking for Beginners
What is Mountain Biking
Mountain biking is a sport that was developed to allow one to enjoy biking off-road. The sport is usually enjoyed venturing over rough terrain, up hills and down, and sometimes maneuvering jumps.
Special bikes and equipment are designed for this sport, and can be enjoyed anywhere from the backyard to the rockiest of roads.
The sport can be shared as a hobby with the family, or in a group with friends. Some people prefer to go it alone, and others like the thrill of a competition.
Most riding styles of mountain biking are considered to be trail and cross country, but they may also fall into the categories of mountain, downhill, free ride, and dirt jumping.
Know Yourself and the Trails
You must have a lot of strength, along with endurance, self-reliance, balance, and bike handling skills in order to be successful in the sport of mountain biking.
Before you set out on your adventure through the trail, you should take some time to familiarize yourself a little more with the sport. Think about what type of riding you want to do, where you want to go, and what time of year would be best for you to do it.
Take some time to learn about the type of mountain bike that would best suit your needs.
You will need safety gear, tools, and other equipment, along with a suitable backpack that will allow for easy mobility.
Proper clothing for your adventure is not meant to be a fashion statement, but rather, it is a necessity.
The following compilation was designed as a tool geared toward mountain biking for beginners to help you better understand your needs.
Types of Mountain Bikes
Once you have decided what type of riding you will be doing, it will then be time to decide on which mountain bike you should purchase.
Mountain Bike Suspension
Things such as suspension, frame construction, and tire size are just a few things to take into consideration.
When it comes to suspension, if you are planning to get serious in the sport, choosing a full suspension bike would be the best choice for you.
For a bike with only front shocks, choose a hardtail suspension, but if you dare to ride with no shocks at all then you can choose a rigid frame mountain bike.
The frame construction is something else you will want to factor into your decision making, do you like aluminum or steel? Of course, your size and the weight of the bike will help to determine that choice.
The standard tire size on a mountain bike is 26 inches, but 27.5 inch tires are a popular choice, along with the choice of the larger, 29-inch tires. Keep in mind the type of biking you will be doing when making your decision.
Now that you have thought about how serious you want to be, you need to choose a bike. With so many types of mountain bikes available, the last thing you want to do is to make the wrong choice.
If you are still undecided as to where you want to go with your bike, or how serious you want to become, you might want to consider a cross country mountain bike. The versatility of this bike makes it one of the most popular in its class. It is lightweight and can be used for many different purposes. There are usually two types of these bikes, one being a race xc bike that is designed to give you more speed. It is lightweight and offers either a hardtail or full suspension. The second is the trail bike. This one delivers a little more weight, but is still lightweight enough for versatility. It is usually offered with a full suspension.
If you are looking to do a multitude of uphill and downhill riding, then you will want to look at the all mountain bikes. These bikes are much like the cross country, but they are designed to go up and down hills smoothly. The bike is somewhat heavier than the cross country, and it is designed with a front and back suspension.
Downhill Mountain Biking
If you enjoy the thought of gliding at a fast speed, downhill, then you will want to consider the downhill mountain bike. This one is heavy and not designed for riding uphill. You might see these bikes floating through the air on a chairlift, or maybe traveling to the top in the back of a truck. Definitely not one that you will want to carry all the way to the top.
For the excitement of riding downhill and jumping over obstacles at the same time, the freeride mountain bike might be your pick. A bit lighter than the downhill bike, this one was designed for greater maneuverability with easy handling.
The Single Speed Mountain Bike
The single speed mountain bike holds true to its name. You must be in great physical shape to conquer the hills with this single speed bike. It is light and quiet and it usually requires less maintenance than the others. Built with a hardtail or rigid suspension, this bike will deliver a positive performance on every ride.
When it comes to obstacles, the 29er mountain bike will do just that. With the larger, 29 inch wheels, this bike is built to ride over, and around obstruction at an easier pace. You will find that these bikes are built with a hardtail, rigid, or full suspension, with the most rigorous trail in mind.
Get Mountain Bikes Specific to Your Needs
As a female, finding the right fit for your petite frame could pose a problem, so try looking for a mountain bike that is specially designed just for women.
Mountain bikes for big guys are built with a larger wheel size, a heavier frame and a larger saddle. The OEM handlebars on these bikes are stronger than the average carbon made handlebars.
If you live in an apartment and you have limited space for storage, or if you will be traveling with your bike, but you have no easy way to haul it, you might want to consider a folding mountain bike. These bikes are lighter in weight and make it a more versatile companion.
Mountain Biking Safety Gear
Once you have decided what type of riding you will be doing, and you have chosen the right bike that is suited for you, then you will have to consider some of the things you will need to keep you safe while on your adventure.
You will need to begin selecting some of the following items:
- Mountain Bike Helmet
- Body Armor and Pads
- Glasses/ Eye Protection
- Hydration Gear
- First Aid Kit
Mountain Bike Helmets
No matter what extent your ride might be, a mountain bike helmet is one of the most crucial pieces of equipment you will need for your adventures. Your brain is a precious part of your body, not to mention the most important, so you will want to be sure you keep it protected from even the slightest of falls.
Choose a helmet that will incorporate properly with the kind of riding that you will be doing. You will want to buy either a full face helmet or a half shell bike helmet.
The full face helmet is designed for downhill riding and dirt jumping. It will cover your entire face and provides a chin guard for extra protection.
The half shell mountain bike helmet can be used for almost any type of mountain biking. Depending on your riding preference, you might choose a helmet that is designed with an extra amount of protection in the back of the head, and it might also be equipped with a visor. You can also choose a half shell helmet that is lighter in weight providing more ventilation holes.
Finally, you will want to understand these important factors before making your final decision:
- Be absolutely certain the helmet is intended for the use of bicycle riding. The package should clearly display that information.
- The helmet must meet the standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Look for a label on the inside of the helmet and read the package.
- Be sure the helmet provides some amount of ventilation.
- It is very important that the helmet fits properly. Measure your head by using a tape measure before you begin to shop for your helmet. The size should be properly marked on the package. If the helmet is not properly fit for your head, you will risk gaining injury, and you will be defeating the purpose of the helmet.
Body Armor and Pads
You never know when you might hit an unexpected obstacle along your route that suddenly has you on the ground. It is important to keep your valuable limbs protected by wearing the proper safety gear.
The following is a list of must have gear for your protection:
- Upper body armor for the protection of your chest, ribs and spine. This is a must have if you plan to ride downhill or jump over obstacles.
- Knee and shin pads are a must for every rider. These pads are designed to protect you from injury and cuts when you end up laying in a pile of rubble that you never expected to find.
- Elbow pads will not only keep your elbows safe in that pile of rubble, but your forearms will be safe as well.
- Wrist guards add extra security and protection if you are recovering from a past wrist injury.
- Neck braces are very important for downhill riders that find themselves bouncing around in every direction.
Mountain Biking Glasses/Eye Protection
Your eyes are just as important as the rest of your body, therefore, you will want to be sure they are protected from injury as well.
You will want to purchase glasses to protect you from unwanted debris, while at the same time, they are also shielding you from the sun and changing light throughout your trail.
You might choose to purchase a multi-lens pair of glasses that will be flexible and self-adjusting to the numerous light changes, or perhaps you would like to have single lens sunglasses that will give you the multiple UV protection and visibility that you will need on your trip.
Don’t become the victim of eye strain, remember to protect yourself against the effects of changing light.
Mountain Biking Hydration Gear
Staying hydrated is a must while you are traveling on your adventure. You will want to have a supply of water with you, and you must remember to drink it often.
A camelback with at least a 2-liter bladder is recommended for a two to three-hour ride. For longer rides, a larger bladder is highly recommended.
Using a camelback is the easiest, and safest way to stay hydrated on your journey. With a camelback, you can keep your hands safely on the handlebars while you drink.
Select a backpack with an attached camelback or one that a camelback can be easily attached to.
Remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Mountain Biking First Aid Kit
You never know when your bike might kiss the rocks, so having a first aid kit when you are miles away from civilization is a must.
The essential items that should be in your first aid kit include:
- Sanitary Wipes
- Waterproof Band-Aids
- Antibiotic cream
- Insect Bite Ointment
- Gauze Pads
- Waterproof Tape
- Elastic Bandage with Clips
- Cold Pack
Mountain Biking Backpacks
Whether you are on a trip for two hours or two days, you are going to need to take along some essentials. You will need to carry everything from hydration gear to a change of clothing. Not to mention the tools you will need to take with you just in case you have to make a repair when you are miles away from civility. You are going to need to take along a mountain bike backpack for all these important essentials.
You will want to look for a backpack that is narrow, leaving you the mobility of your arms and legs. If it is too awkward, you will be more confined, and you will not be able to glide along your path safely.
If you are planning a day trip, a lightweight pack will be satisfactory, but if you are planning a lengthy trip, you will want to consider one that is a little heavier and more durable.
Remember, the weather can change within minutes, so be sure and choose an all-weather bag for security.
Read the packaging carefully to be sure the backpack you choose is made for mountain biking, and check for expandability. You will want to be sure it will expand comfortably when you add additional supplies. Also, check for inside pockets and expandable pouches for extra storage.
Most importantly, remember that you will need to carry a source of hydration. Look for a backpack that has an installed water bladder, or the ability to add one at a later time.
Tools for Repairing Your Mountain Bike
You will want to make sure you have access to any tools you might need for repairs along the way. There is nothing worse than being stranded miles away, in the middle of nowhere, with no way to repair the parts that come loose, or fix a tire that has lost its air.
This is a list of some of the tools you will find necessary to have:
- Tire Pump
- Spare Tube (Some backpacks have a special compartment for these)
- Patch Kit
- Pressure Gauge
- Multi Tool with Allen Wrenches
- Chain Tool
- Chain Link Replacements
- Chain Lube
- Spoke Wrench
When you are shopping for the perfect backpack, you might want to look for one that has additional storage for some of the essential repair items you will need to carry with you.
GPS Navigation Device
You will want to pre-plan your trip, or maybe keep track of your progress along the way. Either way, you will need some form of a GPS navigation device. One of the best ways to keep track, and to keep your eyes on the trail at the same time, is to look for a device that clips right on to your handlebars.
High- Powered Lights
Remember that your safety is always the most important part of your mountain bike adventures. You will need to install high powered headlights and taillights to your mountain bike. Never ride in the dark without your lights, and you might even want to consider using them during the day for added safety on some parts of your trip.
What to Wear Mountain Biking
Just like any other sport, you will need the proper clothing and safety gear for your mountain biking adventures. You will need to have:
- Proper Clothing
- Proper Socks
- Proper Shoes
Proper Mountain Biking Clothing
The proper mountain bike clothing is a must. Wearing the type of clothing that a road touring bicyclist would wear is not practical because of the type fabric it is made from.
You will want to wear something with comfort that will have room to breathe during the heavy exercise your body will endure on your mountain bike trip.
Also be sure that the clothing will be strong enough to handle a tumble across the rocks just in case you should fall.
Be sure to take along an extra set of clothing for planned trips lasting longer than three hours.
To avoid blisters, always wear socks and be sure they are appropriate for your mountain bike adventure.
Look for socks that are lightweight with breathing room to allow your feet to sweat without discomfort.
Don’t forget to put extra socks in your backpack, because if your feet are not happy, you cannot be happy.
Shoes made for mountain biking are different from road touring shoes. You will need shoes that are flexible, with shanks such as hiking boots, so that they can maneuver over rocks and rough terrain.
Keep in mind that you will need something with built in comfort that will handle the pedals of a mountain bike, as well as walking through any area that is not ridable.
Your hands will endure a lot of stress during your trip, so remember to protect them against blisters, and allow extra comfort by purchasing the proper pair of mountain bike gloves.
You will want the freedom of finger movement to be able to drink, eat and use the touchscreen of your navigation device. For these reasons, you will want to look for a pair of fingerless gloves.
Remember that insulation and padding are also important to protect your skin from rash and blisters, and having gloves that are waterproof are as equally important.
Keeping your hands comfortable is a necessity.
When you are traveling on your mountain bike adventure, you must be prepared for anything, and that includes weather that can change from one tree to the next.
You will want to carry a lightweight rain jacket that is easy to stow away in your backpack.
For added security and visibility you might opt for a jacket that is reflective or bright in color, and you may even want to purchase one with an attached hood, making sure that it will not restrict your movement.
Depending on the climate, you will need additional comfort under your helmet, thus you will want to consider wearing additional headwear. You will want to do this for various reasons.
In the summertime you will have to deal with the hot sun and perspiration. You can choose to wear a cap with a bill to avoid the sun beaming in your eyes, and a headband or bandana will keep the perspiration from running down your face.
If you are riding under a rain cloud, a cap with a bill can aid in the assistance of keeping the rain from splashing in your face.
In colder climates, a skull cap under your helmet will keep your skull toasty and warm for added comfort in your ride.
You should now be prepared to begin your adventure of mountain biking. Always be prepared for the unexpected, and remember that your safety is just as important as the bike you choose to ride.
This post on mountain biking for beginners is sure to help you get up and riding quickly.