Here follows a beginners guide to mountain biking by a beginner, and a few tips from some older, wiser, more experienced fellows.
Should you catch the MTB (mountain biking) bug then there are a few things that, in my opinion, you should look out for. Well, these are the things that have caught me out so far and it’s only been a few months so I hope that they might help prepare you for what may arise.
Choosing your bike.
Possibly one of the most exciting hurdles to hop over is the choice of bike. One of the things that hit me was the sheer volume of bikes that are available. There are hundreds of brands and then within the brands there are tens of styles and so on and so on. You get the picture.
Once you’ve decided to take the plunge and buy a bike, choose a top line price that you’ll be willing to pay. I say this because some bikes can cost as much as a brand new car. One thing I still find amusing is the amount of old bangers that you see being driven around with some top class bikes being proudly presented on the roof rack. Generally the bikes are worth a lot more than the car, and also looked after much better! Don’t be alarmed if you see on a bike website that someone is willing to swap their bike for a car or vice versa. Pretty standard apparently.
Mountain biking covers quite a large area and within this are areas like downhill, cross country (XC), and all mountain. Each discipline now has a type of bike which is suited best for your choice activity. What you need to do is lay down what it is that you’re going to be doing most of the time and then choose a bike which is best suited to you. Don’t freak out if your bike says that it’s best suited to single track trails because I’m sure that if you want to ride it to the shops it’ll cope just fine.
This took me by surprise. Bikes come in different sizes. They come as either XS to XL or they come sized in inches. This is the size of the frame and it relates to how tall you are. I know it makes perfect, logical sense, however it completely threw me off as when I was growing up it didn’t matter. As far as I was concerned bigger was better. I’m now 6ft and ride an 18 inch or a large frame and I’ve tried riding a smaller and larger frame but after a while you get pain in your legs and shoulders where you’re either over stretched or cramped up. Having the wrong size frame also ruins your energy efficiency making life rather tough when it should be fun.
I thought there were pedals and that was that, you just hopped on the bike and off you went. No, there are different types of pedals and scarily enough there are ones which you can clip into. My advice would be to start on normal pedals, sometimes referred to as flatties, and then once you get used to your bike and your confidence grows, move onto SPD’s. SPD’s are pedals that you clip your shoes into, like the Tour de France riders. There are special MTB shoes and cleets which are more hard wearing and protective as you’re more likely to encounter mud and stones. SPD’s are beneficial because you gain more purchase and feel for the bike. It means that instead of only being able to pedal on the down you can push and pull to get more power and steam past others.
In the UK it’s wet most of the time and so this means that tyre pressure plays quite a large part on how much grip you have while off road. If you have too much pressure then you’ll find that there’s less rubber hitting the ground which means less friction and more skidding around. I find that somewhere around 50 to 60 psi does the job perfectly when it’s a bit wet and of course if its dry then add a little more to decrease the friction and let you go a bit faster.
Chat to other enthusiasts
One thing that’s invaluable is other people and their input and experience. There’s a whole other world and dictionary for cycle chat, therefore finding out what other people use and think can save you some serious time and money. Recently I’ve had a few problems with my bike so I chatted to a few guys from work who helped me out and gave me some advice. I then went to the local bike shop to see what they would say and I came out flabbergasted at what they wanted to charge for what was to be a 10 minute job. Lesson learned though, chat to others before hand. Everyone is more than happy to share their knowledge, but of course remember to build your own knowledge base up because not everyone has the same wants and needs.
Fun, above all, is the reason to get on your bike. So get out, get muddy and as our developer Tim says, ‘look out for bears, you should always look out for bears.’