By Nathaniel Wu
Imagine this scenario: you have a bike, helmet, gear, and a desire to ride. Some may consider this enough to hit the trails, but we have a few valuable skill-based pointers to make your first ride a fun one!
Learn basic control
Before heading to the trails, you should be relatively capable of controlling and maneuvering a bike. Mountain biking requires weaving and adequate control, so having the basics down is key.
One can develop these skills just by riding on paved surfaces and practicing turns. Just get comfortable with riding the bike.
It is a common tendency to only look at what is directly in front of the tire. This allows
riders to see what the wheels are going over, but does not prepare them for what lies ahead.
It is much better to look a few feet in front to give adequate time to prepare for terrain changes. With experience, looking ahead still allows rides to be conscious about what the wheel is going over without staring straight down.
Use the gears
Beginners often have something called “shift anxiety,” which is the tendency to not shift gears mid-ride. Shifting gears makes a bike ride much more pleasant and allows the bike to adjust to different conditions.
Overall, lower gears require less energy to pedal, but acceleration is slower. The higher gears require more energy but accelerating is faster. Use lower gears on climbs (where speed is not necessarily a priority, but energy conservation) and higher gears for flat/downhill portions (where speed is prioritized).
In the trails, the terrain is likely to be very bumpy. Getting out of the seat can make the ride smoother because the seat can move freely without shaking the rider. This is beneficial while coasting, where there is no pedalling.
Standing up is also very useful on uphills, where bodyweight is used to help pedal. Be sure to only get up when there is enough resistance in the pedals to allow standing up. Otherwise, it is actually less efficient.
Mountain biking can be daunting at times, but it is more beneficial to keep moving. Bikes rely on momentum to stay stable, and going too slow can lead to falling over.
Momentum also makes clearing sections easier (which is counterintuitive)
To wrap up all these tips, I’m going to give you the most important tip of all: Have Fun! The adrenaline rush from mountain biking is difficult to replicate, and biking with friends can make it even more exhilarating. You will likely fall at some point, but don’t let that discourage you. Let it be a learning opportunity to improve. Mountain biking is an extremely fun sport and a hobby that often carries into adulthood. Happy riding!