The Mountain Bike Life

Mountain biking is an awesome sport, but there are some things new riders may not know that those of us riding for a while have found out through trial and error. This is a learning curve that can not only hurt your body but your pride and your pocket book as well. One of the things I love about this sport is how awesome the people that participate in it are, so I asked our readers what they wish they knew when they started riding and these are the top tips that they came up with. I hope that you can learn from our mistakes.

Nothing beats the feeling of getting to the top and taking in the view


1. Don’t worry about your gear so much. Just go and have fun3CN from reddit.com/r/MTB/

A lot of people get stuck on the gear thinking it will make them a better, faster or more skillful rider. Mountain biking is 97% skill, yes a better bike may feel a little better, but what will really keep you safe and having fun out on the trails is the skills. If you want to spend money that will make you faster and ride safer and have more fun, spend it on getting some training, even if you have been riding a long time this will make you a faster more confident rider. Check out the great people at Drift Biking for some awesome skills training. http://driftbiking.com/

2. Weight back. Look down the trail, not down at your front wheel fasimm from reddit.com/r/MTB/

Body position, I could write a lot about this one and it does kind of go under the skill point above, so instead of doing that, here is a video from the awesome people over at www.mtb4her.com, check out the full post here.

3. Try to ride with people who are better than yourself. Your own skills will improve drastically just by catching their wheel and imitating their lines – tim1989 from reddit.com/r/MTB/

Riding with people better than yourself is a ton of fun, you will do things you thought previously un-doable. Watch their lines, their stance on the bike and how they attack trail features, you will be amazed how much you can progress in one ride.

4. Keep your pedals LEVEL, not with one leg downc0nsumerCoast from reddit.com/r/MTB/

There is nothing worse than catching your pedal on a rock, root or any trail gremlin that may be sticking up…it’s a hard crash that you will remember for a long time, so to keep from giving the dirt a high speed hug try to keep your pedals level when cruising along.

5. If you aren’t pedaling, you should probably be off the saddlec0nsumerCoast from reddit.com/r/MTB/

This goes right along with the tip above, when not pedaling, get your butt off the saddle. This allows your legs to soak up some of the trail and puts your body in the attack position.

6. Know when you’re tired. If you start to bobble or dab on small obstacles, it might not be the best time to take the A line down. Stop and eat somethingEATINBAGEL from reddit.com/r/MTB/

Eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty.

I have been out on rides and have just completely run out of energy and crashed because I kept on pushing or trying to keep up with friends. Know when to take a break, drink something, get some energy food into your face. I would rather stop and take a break with a friend rather than waiting for an ambulance or carrying you out of the forest. Be smart, carry quick energy food and eat before you need it. If you are past the point of no return, take the easy way out, I have just ridden down the road if I get the dreaded bonk, better to be safe than sorry. I usually carry some trail mix with nuts and chocolate in a little ziplock bag…I am not a fan of energy bars, but I do like the energy gels for a quick boost. Check out James’s post for healthy bike snacks.

7. Unless you enjoy a random hike a bike… carry a spare tube, tire lever, pump, and multitool. Know how to use them trail side – Old_Faja_Time10 from reddit.com/r/MTB/

Be prepared. I know people who ride with no packs, or just a pump and a patch kit strapped to their bike. That’s great for a short out and about, but I am usually out for a few hours and I really hate walking my bike home. I carry a bit of food, more water than I think I will need and all of the above items, is my pack light…no, but I am also there to help people who may have not been as prepared and that is awesome.

The 2nd part to this is to take some time and learn how to do basic trailside maintenance on your bike, learn how to change a tube or fix a chain…these little things can mean the difference between an easy ride out or a few hours walking and being pissed off.

That bag is full of things to make sure I return home safely

8. Don’t stare at something you don’t want to hit, look where you want to goceciltech from reddit.com/r/MTB/

This is one of the first things that I can remember learning that really made a difference for my riding, if you look at that rock or tree…chances are you are going to hit it. Your body follows your head and before you know it you are hugging a tree at high speed. It’s good to notice things but focus on the trail ahead of you.

Singletracks.com wrote a great post about this…check it out.

9. Have a bike you WANT to ride. Every time I look at my bike I ask, “Why am I not riding?”. It begs me to ride it every time it sees me. It makes me make time for it. I may not have the best skills or I may not be the fastest rider, it gets me out there, and I have fun like no other when I’m on MY bike.AllFalkorGunz 2 from reddit.com/r/MTB/

While the bike does not make the rider, having something you want to ride and that you love to ride will make a huge difference. My girlfriend has a good bike, but it’s a hand me down, she did not get to go pick it out…it was just a great deal for what it was so we jumped on it and that’s great to get you into the sport, but once you know it’s something you will want to do more, take the time and get the bike YOU want.

My buddy Don pushing his boundaries at the time….you should see what he can do now!

10. Ride within yourself, but push the edge a little each time you go outTheArgentine from reddit.com/r/MTB/
After 30 years of riding I still deal with fear. I now know my limits and when I do not feel confident in hitting a trail feature I have no issue with leaving it for another day, but there are times when my confidence is there, in my head I know that I can do it, but my fight or flight instinct just takes over.  The trick is to not let it overcome you to the point of it taking over how you ride, keep on pushing your comfort level, it’s how we learn and get better, but be smart about it.

11. Don’t be afraid to fall. Yes things look scary and if an obstacle is getting you really nervous just go look at it from another angle. You’ll have days where you endo over the handlebars and fall onto rocks but don’t let it get you down. If you aint falling your not riding hard enough!HailBenF29 from reddit.com/r/MTB/

Crashing sucks, no two ways about it, it will happen eventually and when it does it’s better to be prepared. There are some great minimalistic pads/armour on the market right now so you can have some protection and not look like a stormtrooper. With that said, taking lessons and not letting the fear overtake you will help you more than any armour ever will, the confidence to know what you can and cannot do is a life saver.

12.

@TheMTBLife Master flat pedals at the beginning.. It will accelerate your skills as you progress through your riding journey..
— PeterO (@PeterOLochlann) December 3, 2013

I have gone to and from clipless pedals many times over the past many years, ever since they came into the MTB world, and I love them. But I love flat pedals more, they offer so many advantages for me and my riding style. Don’t just take our word for it, even Bike James says flats rule.

13. Fit is everything. Carl Arrogante from our awesome Google+ community

When buying a bike make sure you get a bike that is the right size. A lot of people buy a bike that is the wrong size because they got a deal on it, while it may seem like a good idea at the time, a bike that is either too large or too small will have long term issues, not only on how you enjoy the ride but your body 

Good trails and good friends, not much more you could ask for

Now a few tips that I have learned over my many years of riding…

14. Keep Loose

Stay relaxed on the bike. Not only will this help you from giving your grips the deathgrip while descending, but also keep your upper body loose while climbing. While descending make sure to not lock your elbows (actually never lock your elbows while riding) and keep your fingers loose on the bars. For lots of awesome climbing tips check out Neil’s post from a few months ago.

15. Remember the rules of the trail

There are a reason these rules exist and I think every mountain biker should know them inside and out. Check them out over on IMBA.

16. Be a positive force in the sport

Share this sport in a positive way with your friends and if they are interested take them on a relaxed fun and easy ride. Not everyone can help out in the same way, if trail maintenance is not your thing find some way that you can help out. Volunteer with your local club, Join IMBA or heck you can write a blog and get others stoked on riding.

Who cares what kind of bike people are riding, does their wheelsize or what they are wearing even matter…no, no it does not. All that matters is that they are out having enjoying the sport they love and unless they are harming you or anyone else no need to talk about it.

17. Don’t take it too serious

It’s just riding bikes in the woods, it’s supposed to be fun. The people over at Surly always have awesome advise, Beardorew from reddit.com/r/MTB/ posted this and I think it’s a good read for anyone new to the sport:

http://surlybikes.com/blog/post/some_answers_to_just_about_any_bike_forum_post_ive_ever_read

18. Do what you want

I know this is may sound silly after listing a bunch of things telling you what works for us…but when it comes down to it ride what you like and don’t listen to the people telling you that you need so and so or that this new fangled gadget will revolutionize your ride. If you think that something will make your ride more fun, well get it. That’s all there is to it, we are all here to have fun, the moment we let others decide what to ride and how to ride is the moment that we give up what makes this sport so awesome.

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A huge Thank You goes out to the reddit/r/mtb community, the Google+ TMTBL community and our friends on Twitter, you all rock. Thanks for helping me out with this post and for helping all the new riders that will be read this.
Do you have any tips that you want to share with new riders? Share them in the comments below.
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