It’s a rough life being the Mountain Biker Noob ;) While I thank my friends for introducing me to the sport, it’s no fun getting left behind! That’s why I’ve been heading out solo lately to hone my skills. My goal has been to climb better, descend faster, and clear obstacles without fear (or… less fear). Here are the basic tips and techniques that have helped me transition from total noob status to a more confidant beginner-intermediate rider.
What to Wear:
The most important things you need are a helmet and gloves. Beginner’s don’t necessarily need the whole Mtn Biker “kit” consisting of loose MTB shorts, a jersey, and knee pads. It’s wise to choose cycling shorts/capris with padding! Since I haven’t made the commitment to invest in a MTB kit yet, I wear my road cycling capris, a workout top, a windbreaker jacket, and a small daypack. Protective eyewear is a good idea too. If any of you girls are experienced on this front and have photos or suggestions for a rad set-up, comment below! It’s difficult to find cool MTB wear for women (why is it all pink and purple or covered with flowers?!).
What to Bring:
Bring lots of water and a snack. It’s important to frequently hydrate. For some reason cycling makes me more hungry than any other sport. Also make sure that there’s an emergency kit on your bike with a spare tube and pump in case you blow a tire.
One of the first improvements most beginner Mtn Bikers can make is to stop braking with fear, and start braking with technique. A tire has more breaking power when there’s more weight on it. When going downhill, your front wheel carries more weight then the rear. Using the front wheel to break will offer more control, but be careful not to pull it too hard and fly over the handle bars! Shifting your weight back over your rear wheel while descending will give the rear more breaking power. You can do this by standing out of the saddle and pushing your butt back behind the seat. This balances the power of both breaks and gives you more control.
Shift into a low gear! Make it easy for yourself! Find the gear that matches the terrain and steepness of the climb.
Lean forward. On steep hills the front wheel might become unweighted and lift up a little. Lean over the handlebars to prevent this from happening. More weight on the front wheel will keep you grounded.
Keep Pedaling over rocks and tree roots. You will lose control if you slow down. Keeping the pressure on the pedals and actually pedaling faster through obstacles makes it much easier! This was the most important break-through for me.
Shift Into the big chain ring before descending. This keeps the chain from bouncing off and prepares you for flatter-downhill sections where you might need to pedal.
Stay Loose. Locking up your body will make you uncomfortable on the ride down and leave your body sore afterwards. Your elbows should be loose and you should let your body steer while absorbing the shock.
Rise above the saddle. You should be standing on the pedals and straddling the seat, allowing your legs and knees to absorb the rocky trail.
Lower your saddle. For super steep descents you may want to drop your saddle 2 or 3 inches. This lowers your center of gravity, giving you more room to bounce around.
Stay Focused. This is a given…but traveling at high speed requires more attention than usual. Keep your eyes and your mind on the trail.
Hope this was helpful! Please ask any questions or provide any additional tips in the comments section below!