Even if you are brand new to mountain biking or cycling in general there’s no need to go out there and show yourself up like one. Maybe you’ve decided that mountain biking is your new passion. Maybe you’re just interested in doing some riding that isn’t boring as Hell like road biking is. Whatever your reasons, and whatever your motivations, there’s no need to embarrass yourself by doing things that more experienced riders think is daft.
But hey, look, we’ve all been there. Remember that. Everyone has to start somewhere, and everyone at one time didn’t know how to ride a bike. Most of the advice in this article is given lightly and is borne as much out of my own meandering experience over the years as it is about anything ese. Some people such as myself are slow learners. That’s why I wish someone could have pointed out some of the tips below before I made a fool out of myself. So maybe, maybe some of these lessons will help you out, and maybe some wont.
And even if you’re an experienced rider now, perhaps some of this will remind you what it was like to be when you were starting out. Either way, take it easy on the beginners. They want to know how to ride just as well as you.
So how about we start with this one…
1 – You don’t use your front brakes.
But you should. It’s actually the more important of the 2 brakes you have on your bike. Now, yes, you can in the wrong situation flip yourself over the handlebars if you full on use it at the wrong time or go full strength. But it also helps you keep control of your bike and drastically shorten braking distance. Learn to use it before you need it. Did you know, for example, that your front brake accounts for up to 90% of your downhill stopping power? The trick is to put your butt to the rear of the bike when you do it.
2 – You have completely the wrong type of bike for what you’re doing…
It happens. You walk into the bike shop with a back pocket full of cash, and you want the best bike you can afford. Of course you do. We all do. But you need to buy the right bike for what it is you’re doing. Unless you intend to do only Downhill Mountain biking, then don’t buy a full suspension downhill bike. They’re heavy and not designed to be pedaled up hills. You will also look like a moron doing a cross country trail that goes mostly along, as opposed to down.
3 – Don’t cover yourself like a gear junkie if you don’t know what you’re doing…
I mean, yeah, sure go get yourself some decent gear if you can, but don’t go buying full body armor and all the jazz if you’re just starting out. Firstly there’s no point, and secondly, there’s nothing more disheartening than suddenly realizing you didn’t actually need those $400 knee guards…
4 – Tension. You just look tense, and you feel tight and sore when riding.
If you find yourself suffering from stiff and neck shoulders and your hands feel sore and tight. Hey, just relax. Ease up on that old handlebar death grip you got going on there. You are holding way too much tension there. Holding onto your bike is important when riding for obvious reasons, but suffering from these complaints is a really common occurrence from bot beginner and experienced riders. Stability and control of your bike should be coming from your core, while your arms, hands, neck and shoulders should all be nice and relaxed and chilling. Try it and see if it makes a difference for you. Just go ahead and ease up there.
5 – Your ass looks like it’s auditioning for a porn movie.
Clint Eastwood looked good riding a horse. So did John Wayne. All that bouncing up and down over the great plains of America was pretty cool. It doesn’t look so good on a mountain bike though. If your ass feels like it just doesn’t want to quit when you’re riding, then the chances are you’re Cadence level is too high. Switch up a gear or so there. Your legs shouldn’t be spinning round like you’re in a comedy sitcom. You’re looking for your feet to go around anywhere between 75-100 times a minute, generally speaking.
6 – You lie about how you broke your bike to the shop guy.
So, yeah, no bike is indestructible, and accidents will happen. Just don’t lie about it. That’s something beginners do. Besides, experienced bike mechanics have seen it all a hundred times before in any case. Tell them the truth. Your bike mechanic will know if the damage you did to your bike is different from the story you just told them.
Upload average footage of your die to YouTube. Just stop it. Like, learn how to use the edit function. Or at least show some common sense when it comes to titling your video. For instance, don’t use the heading ‘Mountain Bike Fails, LOLZ,’ if your video is essentially a ten minute amble along a flat country trail where nothing interesting happens at all expect you get overtaken by people walking their dogs. Even better, if at some point someone does fall of their bike and that’s what you want to highlight, here’s a great tip, just post the 10 second shot where the person falls off their bike…Save yourself from all the ‘Wtf is this sh*t,’ comments you will otherwise receive. I’m only thinking of you.
Here’s a great example of how to shoot, edit and then title a mountain bike video…
And here’s an example of what you shouldn’t bother uploading to the internet…
7 – You have no idea about any terminology when it comes to mountain biking, or cycling in general.
Like when I mentioned Cadence above. Get to know some basics about what people talk about when they talk about mountain biking. In many ways it’s bit like being able to talk about sports. If you can throw in a few key phrases about the off side rule, or terms like ‘offensive line backer,’ you can bluff your way through any boring sports related question.
The same can be done with mountain biking. Throw round buzz words like ‘Strava,’ ‘Clipless shoes,’ ‘Gator skins,’ and ‘I actually preferred 26” but 29” isn’t so bad.’ You do this you will pass muster in most mountain bike circles. This advice stems from the fact that I firmly believe no one else really knows what they’re talking about either. It’s like a conspiracy, I swear.
8 – Don’t wear underwear with cycling shorts.
You might think that’s disgusting and unhygienic, but your undercarriage will thank you. Not only will you feel more comfortable, but your boxers won’t curl up and chafe, and that all important panty line will be nonexistent, and you also won’t look like you’ve wrapped a towel up in your crotch area.
9 – You wear Cotton shirts.
Look, cotton is great for when you’re not seriously working out on a trail, but it can really hold you back when you are. Cotton clothing will leave you soaked from sweat, and if it suddenly gets cold because the sun disappeared behind a cloud, you could catch a chill, cause an injury or get hypothermia. I shit you not.
That’s why you should wear mtb appropriate clothing. Proper sports clothing will wick moisture away from your body, and you’ll also not smell so bad, and you’ll be warmer and dry off quicker as well… Some of them even come with zipped pockets. Hurrah.
10 – Carry the right accessories.
Lose any mirrors, and any more than 2 water bottles is not a good look. Oh and remove the child carrier you normally have strapped to the back of your bike. Baskets and panniers should also be considered verboten. Other riders will look at you like you have a death wish.
11 – You pedal like you’re an elephant especially when you’re stating off or you start ascending and have to stop 10 feet up your climb.
Don’t panic, it’s not you. Actually it is. You’re in too high a gear, and you’re going to burn out real fast or just give up. Either option works.
Shift down a gear or two. Cycling is all about efficiency. Cadence is again key, even on the uphill. Each pedal stroke is supposed to be part of a greater rhythmical constant movement. RPM is key. Pedaling too fast and pedaling too slow have been proven to cause injury. FACT.
12 – Sore knees.
(See a medical pro if this doesn’t work. What follows is just advice.) I spent $300 dollars on medical examinations, therapy and advice about the sore knees I was developing while riding. But nothing helped. Then the local bike shop guy asked me where exactly the pain in my knee was. I showed him. He raised my saddle about an inch and my sore knees disappeared almost instantly. This cost me a coffee.
SO here’s the general rule:
- Knees sore at the front: Your saddle is too low.
- Knees sore at the back: Your saddle is too high.
13 – You ignore mechanical issues.
Even the most expensive full suspension mountain bike solution is still a relatively simple beast in real terms. But when the bad stuff hits the fan you can still get into trouble really quick. At some point in your mountain bike life, something somewhere will is probably going to go really wrong. That’s why you shouldn’t let any mechanical niggles develop into something major. If you notice something wrong with your brakes you should get them checked out. Failure to do so could see you your day ending because your brakes suddenly stop working or jam on so hard you get thrown like a cannon ball over the handlebars.
14 – You get a tingly or numb sensation.
You’ve either just fallen in love, or your bike still isn’t fitted right. It’s time to go see a pro. Tingling and numbness in one part of your body is a real strong marker that something isn’t right. If you really feel it in your genital area then go speak to a pro sooner, rather than later. In extreme cases, it can lead to erectile dysfunction. That probably sucks: I wouldn’t know etc., because I’m a real man, etc. etc., and that doesn’t happen to real men etc. etc., yadda, yadda, yadda.
But if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Cycling is all about repetition. Your body will make the same exact movement thousands of time on almost every ride. If you don’t have all your body parts aligned and comfortable, injury is almost inevitable. And injury sucks, because then you can’t ride your bike.
15 – Fun.
You’re not having any. And you should be. If you find yourself in constant pain or are uncomfortable nothing will set you back than the feeling like going out riding is a chore and something you’d rather not do. This sucks. I know, I’ve been there. When I got back into riding after a five year hiatus I found the going tough. I didn’t take the time to sort out my bike and comfort levels properly before I hit the trail. As a result instead of enjoying the day out, my back hurt, my knees ached and I quit and went home before I should have done. Now both me and my bike like each other again, it’s a lot more fun.
16 – Don’t show up in fully kitted out racing gear if you’re not actually sponsored by Red Bull.
Maybe at the car park will think, OMG this dude really knows their stuff. Will they still think it when they go buzzing by you on the way down, and see you riding like you just started out? No, but you will have their utter contempt.
17 – Carry some spares with you.
You know like a spare inner tube, a bike pump, maybe a multi tool or something. You know something that will help you if get a flat. Or, if you don’t like riding all that much, then don’t carry any of these and enjoy your inevitable walk home.
18 – Practice with your clipless pedals.
Or fall over a lot when trying to get off your bike. Don’t let the first time you use clipless pedals on an actual trail. Gain some experience in the local park or use the sidewalk. The last thing you want is some random teenager having to drag you off side of a berm because you’re doing your best beached whale impression. Your ego and self-esteem will struggle to survive.
19 – You preface every sentence with: When I was younger, I would have totally nailed that last section.
Would you? Would you really? Is that the truth you’re speaking there or is it wishful thinking. We could all have done stuff better when we were younger, and let’s just say you were really good back in the day…no one else cares. You’re only as good as your last ride.
20 – STRAVA.
Yeah, mountain bikers use it all the time. But it’s really annoying. Yes, it can be useful for working out how far you’ve ridden, and how you’ve improved, but nothing says beginner like showing up at the bottom of every ranking on every trail you ride. Also, whatever happened to just having fun? Here’s the thing you should remember about STRAVA. It doesn’t matter. There’s no prize for being KOM of the trail beside your house. Don’t bore other riders stupid with tales of how many meters you climbed so far this year. Nobody cares. No one, except you. So keep it to yourself. And this will be hard. Because when you first start using it will seem like you’ve just entered the Olympics or something. Give it 6 months and watch how you just don’t even bother anymore.
21 – Don’t pretend to know more than you do.
Who am I kidding, we all do it. I still do…sometimes. And here’s the truth. You’ll get a lot more respect from your buddies and fellow riders if you just admit to not knowing how to do something, or you don’t want to take a descent you’re just not comfortable with. And whatever you do don’t say you can Ollie or bunny hop your bike when you just can’t. It’s a recipe for embarrassment.