Mountain biking is an amazing way to explore the outdoors, and also an awesome offseason sport for skiers and snowboarders. With the great opportunities the sport presents, comes an equally large set of gear, techniques, and trails to navigate. While getting started mountain biking may be confusing at first, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the sport and its gear before you hop on the bike and start riding. Once you’ve got the basics nailed, there is a world full of amazing trails to explore.
Picking the Right Bike
Mountain bikes are expensive, but the investment unlocks a whole new world of fun, exercise, and adventure. Before breaking the bank, however, it’s important to do some research. The first thing to consider is the type of riding that you will be doing, so you can pick the right style of mountain bike. There are different types of mountain bikes for different types of trails and riders. These range from cross country (XC) bikes built for speed and efficiency for long days pedaling, to downhill bikes made for fast, precise descents—you definitely won’t want to pedal these bikes to the top of a peak.
Getting the right size bike is super important, as well. Mountain bikes have a low standover height, so the “traditional” method of standing over the bike flat-footed to size your frame doesn’t really work. Mountain bike manufacturers still use Small, Medium, and Large sizing, however, and often give their own size recommendations based roughly on your height. For more, check out this mountain bike size chart.
Get the Right Accessories
There are a couple more pieces of gear you need to be trail ready once you get your new bike picked out. These mountain bike accessories are important, helping to keep you comfortable and safe. Proper mountain bike clothing is the first step. Padded chamois liner shorts are a must-have to keep your backside happy after a long day in the saddle. Skip out on chamois and you might be walking like a cowboy after your ride. Pair these liners with a proper pair of mountain bike shorts, and you’ll be ready to hit the trail. Shorts and pants not made for biking tend to wear out quickly in the backside, and don’t provide the same level of padding or protection. A nice breathable mountain bike jersey is a nice addition, too, but not as essential as good shorts and chamois.
It’s important to carry a basic tool kit so that you can fix problems like flat tires. At the least, your kit should include, a spare tube, tire levers, a patch kit, a multitool, and a pump or CO2 inflator. Check out this guide to what to pack for mountain biking for a full list.
Learn Basic Technique
Sure, you can go out and learn by yourself, but a class is a great way to learn some basics to help you navigate a mountain bike trail. These classes will help teach you the best way to climb, descend, corner, and how to approach rough technical sections. Taking a class is a great way to meet some riding buddies that are the same skill level as you. For riders that can’t make it to a class, we’ve outlined some basic technique tips below:
- Raise your bike saddle: Your leg should be almost all the way extended at the bottom of your pedal stroke. This gives you the most power and is the easiest on your muscles.
- Stay Seated: Standing up on steep climbs might work well on the pavement, but on loose dirt the lack of weight on the rear wheel will often result in it slipping.
- Relax: Don’t hold onto your bike handlebars too tight, it will tire you out and make your ride more harsh. Try to remain relaxed throughout your body. This will smooth out the ride, and actually give you more control.
- Drop your seat: You don’t need the pedalling efficiency of a high seat on the way down, so drop it and get it out of your way. Dropping your seat gives your body more room to maneuver.
- Stand up: Even though your bike has suspension, your legs and arms are some of the best shock absorbers around. Standing on the pedals and getting your butt out of the saddle allows your (relaxed) body to help smooth out your ride.
While a fancy new bike and a couple technique tips are a good start, nothing beats more time in the saddle. The absolute best way to get better mountain biking is to get out and ride! You’ll probably take some crashes along the way, but practice makes perfect, and with mountain biking, the reward is oh so sweet. See you on the trail.
We are evo – a ski, snowboard, mountain bike, surf, wake, and skate retailer based in Seattle, Washington, USA, with stores located in Seattle, Portland, and Denver. We also offer trips to remote locations across the globe in search of world-class powder turns, epic waves, and legendary mountain biking through our evoTrip Outdoor Travel Trips.