Outdoor Sports 101: Mountain Biking

Mountain Biking 101

Not everyone is naturally outdoorsy; for some, the world of outdoor sports can seem intimidating. In this series, we will give you tips to get started.

By starting out slow, getting the right gear and growing your skill and comfort level, you can be a regular on the trails. Here are some tips for getting started with some of the most popular outdoor sports- mountain biking!

The Bike

The most important thing when you’re starting out is getting the right bike. There are several different types of mountain bikes, depending on what kind of terrain you plan to ride on. A rigid bike has very little suspension which makes it a more lightweight bike. This type of bike works well for off road dirt trails but is not recommended for rocky or rooty routes. It also is the simplest with the fewest moving parts.

A hardtail bike has a hard backend and a suspension fork in the front. This type of bike is better than a rigid bike if you’re riding on bumpy terrain. It’s a big heavier but has better handling.

A full-suspension bike has suspensions in the front and back which helps make rough terrain more comfortable for the rider. It costs a bit more than rigid and hardtail options and might not be the best choice for a new rider; it has more parts to deal with.

The Gear

There are tons of different products for mountain biking from clothing to mountain bike phone accessories. Safety is always the most important thing when riding a bike, regardless of if you’re on the street or on a trail. A proper helmet should be your second purchase right after your choice of bike. Try it on and make sure it fits properly; it shouldn’t cover your ears or your vision.

If you’re new to biking, gloves are recommended. Gripping the handlebars can cause some hand soreness if you’re not used to the vibration.

Flat tires and other unexpected bike repairs are inevitable so it’s always a good call to carry a repair kit, pump and multi-tool with you so you’re not stuck with a broken bike in the middle of the trail.

A water bottle or better yet, a hydration pack is a good way to prevent dehydration on the trail. A hydration pack also provides additional storage for snacks, your phone, your ID, a first aid kit, etc.

Speaking of phone, consider a Lifeproof bike bar mount to keep your phone handy if you’re using it as a map or listening to music on your ride.

The Skills

Braking is probably the most important skill you need when you’re first starting out, especially for those downhill areas. Braking too fast can send you over your handlebars. Practice prior to hitting the trail to figure out how much or how little you have to squeeze the brakes.

When you brake downhill, your front tire has more weight. To keep control of the bike, brake using the front brake. For more control over the back of the bike, shift your weight back to help control the back tire while using the rear brake. Make sure that even if you’re favoring one brake that you’re still using the other. Ideally, you’ll find the right balance between both brakes to slow you down without skidding out or flipping.

Whether you’re a city biker or a mountain biker, hills — uphill and downhill — can be intimidating. But with the right gear and braking technique, getting up and down them should be easy…or at least, easier.

When going uphill, ease up on your pedaling and shift into a low gear. You make feel like you should stand up and pedal but staying seated keeps your back tire grounded and gives you more control. You’ll need that control for more traction, especially on dirt. If you feel unsteady on steep hills, try sliding forward and leaning over your handlebars a bit to add more weight to your front wheel/

When going downhill, shift into a bigger chain ring to keep the chain in place if the way down is a bumpy ride. This is also helpful if you crash; the chain keeps the teeth of the big ring from injuring you. Relax and try to not lock up. Keep a firm grip on the handlebars and steer with your body. Let your shoulders guide you down the trail.

Uphill or downhill, it’s important to stay focus. Depending on your speed, rocks, roots, or other obstacles can pop up and throw you from your bike if you’re not paying attention. If do feel like you’re going to fall on your bike and you’re on flats/platform pedals, then push the bike away and try to roll/slide towards the direction you’re falling without putting your arms out. Putting your arms out can lead to broken or injured wrists, arms or collarbone, all common biking injuries.

Take it slow to start; you don’t need to be a hero. Start off on some beginner routes and build up your skills. The better you get, the more difficult terrain you’ll be able to fly through!

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