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Mountain Biking for Beginners ► The Ultimate Guide

Mountain Biking for Beginners ► The Ultimate Guide

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Mountain biking is breathing in the smell of a quiet forest. It’s the tough love of navigating your front wheel over roots and rocks up a steep climb. Mountain biking means that you can't wipe your smile off as you glide down the trail.

Is that you? You are! This is mountain biking for beginners.

Mountain Biking For Beginners: Which Mountainbike is the Best? 

The sheer number of mountain bikes available can overwhelm beginners. Each type of mountain bike is suitable for different riding styles. Mountain biking novices often ask questions such as how heavy the suspension is, what frame material they should use, and which geometry to choose. 

Here’s a general breakdown of bike types and how they are suited to get beginners rolling:

Trail Mountain Bikes for Beginners

This is probably where most beginners will start their mountain bike journey. These bikes are built to tackle trails (often referred to as “singletrack”), handle some drops and jumps, feature front suspension and probably rear suspension, and place the rider in a more upright position compared to a cross-country race bike (XC). 

Because they let riders enjoy the trail and not race them, trails mountain bikes make great beginner rides. If you’re looking to escape the roads and traffic, meet up with friends, and just enjoy cruising through nature, look no further than the humble trail mountain bike.

Cross Country (XC) Mountain bikes

The XC mountain bike category is the domain of mountain bike racing. You might find the competitive racing with others on closed tracks or trails appealing if you are looking for fun and exciting competition. This category is focused on lightweight and climbing. They will have less suspension travel, which means they can’t handle rough terrain as well. 

All-Mountain / Enduro Mountain bikes

These bikes blur the lines between a trail mountain bike and a downhill mountain bike. These bikes are designed to handle more difficult terrain than traditional trail bikes and will therefore likely be heavier. They are well-suited for Enduro racing. Enduro racing has timed downhill segments and untimed uphill segments. A person who has the fastest combined downhill time wins. These bikes can go downhill at a warp speed, as you can see.

Many sizes are available for mountain bikes, to accommodate different body types. Mountain bikers who are just starting out should visit their local bike shop to get help in choosing the correct size bike. You can also test ride or “demo” bikes from reputable bike shops. Take the time, and buy what’s suitable for your needs.

After you have your dream bike, it’s time to get out there and ride it!

Mountain Biking for BeginnerS: Basic Skills

Mountain biking rewards riders who have good technical skills. Beginner mountain bikers will have a better chance of success if they focus their efforts on basic technical skills. Here are a few basic mountain bike skills to get you started:

Cornering

Riding singletrack means making tight turns. Some trails have turns you might want to take advantage of. You should always practice cornering, no matter how difficult it is. Here’s how to train it:

  • Straighten out the corner as much as possible. When you are approaching the turn, move to the outer edge closest to your body. The corner's sharpest point is the apex. As you leave, ride to the farthest point outside of the corner. 
  • Cornering drills. Ride around a corner of your trail until you are comfortable with it. Smooth = fast. Focus on smoothing out the turn and you will soon be able to speed up. When you're confident around the corner, move on to the next side. You’ll be surprised how difficult it is again!
  • Brake before the corner, not in it. Your tires may slide in corners if you brake in the corner. Eventually, you will be able to handle this technique, but it’s too advanced for mountain biking beginners.
  • Look through the turn to where you want to exit. Follow your eyes and the bike will follow you. Don’t get caught staring at your front wheel, or you’ll find yourself in the dirt!

man and woman biking a trail

Floating

Mountain biking beginners are often shocked at how much stuff their bikes can ride over and through. Rocks, ruts, roots, drops, stumps—modern mountain bike suspension and tire technology can handle it all! But you still need good technique to get through obstacles, or you could end up having to walk your bike or—worse—crash.

  • As you approach an obstacle, keep your back straight.
  • You can decide how to get over the obstacle.
  • Keep your balance on your pedals when you're riding over an obstacle. Let the bike and your arms and legs absorb any shocks from the ride over the obstacle. Make sure you have enough speed going over it that it doesn’t stop you and cause you to fall over.
  • You will need to hold onto your bike, trust your tires and suspension, and ride the trail. Be confident, keep your eyes up and focused on where you need to go, don’t panic: grip it and rip it!

Braking

Don’t grab your brakes super hard. You should not pull them too hard, particularly the front.

As a novice, you should use a light hand to brake.

The more you ride, the better your skills will be. So get out there and don’t be afraid to push your comfort zone, but be safe and have fun!

Mountain Biking for Beginners: Training

Mountain biking is such a variable sport that it is difficult to train for. Mountain biking is a challenging sport. The terrain will dictate the amount of effort required to overcome it. These principles are the same for mountain biking as other endurance sports. A big aerobic engine is vital. Here’s an example training week for a beginner mountain biker:

  • Monday: Stretching, recovery.
  • Tuesday: A hilly trail ride. The hills are your mountain bike HIIT training. You can recover on downhills and flats.
  • Wednesday: Easy, short ride. Concentrate on cornering or pedaling techniques.
  • Thursday: Moderate-long trail ride over rolling hills and flats. You can enjoy the trails at your own pace if you keep it casual.
  • Friday: Day of recovery. Stretching and foam rolling.
  • Saturday: long, scenic trail ride. Talk to others and have fun on the trails. Don’t let technique fail when you get tired.
  • Sunday: Moderate-length ride along flat or rolling hills. You can enjoy the trails at your own pace if you keep it casual.

Check out these posts to build strength off the bike:

Mountain Biking for Beginners: Trail Etiquette

Trails have rules, just like driving on roads has rules. These rules are there to ensure everyone is safe, and that they enjoy their outdoor time. Mountain bikers use trails alongside other users such as runners, hikers and horses. Here’s how to be a model mountain biker and trail user:

  • Bikes yield to horses and pedestrians. 
  • Don't approach horses too fast. For fear of them spooking, give horses plenty of room. You might consider stopping your bike at the bottom of the trail to allow horses to pass. Horses (and all others) will be scared by squeaky disc brakes.
  • Control your speed and don’t frighten other trail users.
  • Don't be afraid to yield to the uphill traffic.
  • All of your garbage must be disposed.
  • Don't damage vegetation, trails or any other natural surface.
  • Keep to marked trails and official routes as much as possible. So that nature is not damaged, ride on sturdy surfaces.
  • Don't feed or chase animals.
  • You must have permission to ride on private property.

Plus, don’t make these top 15 cycling mistakes!

Check out adidas Training and sign-up for a training plan to get your body trail ready! 

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