There are a lot of new cyclists taking to the bike paths, roads, and trails. If you’re one of them, you’re probably encountering the steep learning curve that comes with cycling. Mountain biking in particular can appear very intimidating at first, though most riders are welcoming and more than willing to help you become a better rider. Here are five tips to get you started so you can ride over the learning curve and become a better rider by avoiding these beginner mountain bike mistakes.
5 Beginner Mountain Bike Mistakes To Avoid
1 – The chamois goes under your shorts and you don’t wear underwear with it
Mountain bike shorts with an integrated chamois (also known as a liner short) are a great investment if you’re looking to spend more time in the saddle. This small layer of padding can prevent saddle sores and chafing. One thing that’s not discussed nearly enough and often taken for granted is that the chamois is designed to sit against the wearer’s skin. If you wear underwear with a chamois, you will likely experience more discomfort. This beginner mountain bike mistake is easy to avoid by leaving the underwear at home when you hit the trail.
2 – Look where you want to go, not where you don’t
Shifting, balance, body position over the bike, cornering posture… there’s a lot of important motions for beginner mountain bikers to learn. Eventually, all of these actions will become engrained in your muscle memory. When you’re getting started, the key to keeping on the trail and out of the brush is line choice. Simply put, look where you want to go, not where you don’t. Your body will instinctively follow where you look. If you fixate on a rock, log, or another obstacle, you will find yourself subconsciously steering toward it. Take note of trail hazards and quickly look past them. Likewise, when entering a sharp turn, don’t fixate on the apex, look through the exit of the turn and your body will follow suit.
Related: How to corner on a mountain bike
3 – Stay loose
The importance of staying loose on the bike cannot be overstated. When you tense up, you freeze up and your body can’t react as quickly to turns and trail obstacles. Your bike’s suspension is designed to maintain traction with the terrain. Your body’s natural suspension: your arms and legs will absorb large impacts. When encountering drops and technical sections of singletrack, keep your body weight centered and your knees and elbows bent so you’re able to absorb the impact.
Related: How to relax while riding
4 – Uphill riders have the right of way
Unless you are riding downhill-specific trails, uphill riders have the right-of-way. The reasoning is that it’s easier to get started after stopping when descending than climbing.
When descending two-way trails, look far ahead for uphill riders and find a safe place to stop. When climbing, listen for descending riders and time your approach so you won’t meet them at a blind corner where they will be unable to see you and stop in time. Regardless of which way you’re riding, know that mountain bikers must yield to hikers and equestrians on multi-use trails unless otherwise specified.
Related: Trail Etiquette Q&A
5 – Leave no trace / don’t damage the trails
Playing in the dirt is part of the fun of mountain biking. But there’s a fine line between riding tacky “hero dirt” and destroying trails that are too muddy to ride. If your tires are caked with mud and leaving ruts then you shouldn’t be on the trail. As the saying goes, discretion is the better part of valor. It’s better to wait a few days than cause damage than can lead to erosion and result in trail crews fixing ruts rather than improving trails and building new ones. It’s not uncommon to encounter muddy segments when trails are otherwise rideable, in such cases, ride through the wet sections, rather than around them. Trail widening and overuse is a significant issue in many areas—do your part to keep singletrack single.
Related: The case for primitive trails
Part of being a responsible mountain biker is being a good steward of the trail and the environment around it. Make sure you pack out any wrappers from food you consume while riding as well as inner tubes or other items. Last but certainly not least, find your local trail advocacy organization. They’re generally your best point of contact for updates on trail conditions and participating in trail work days is a great way to get plugged into your local cycling community.
There’s a lot more to mountain biking
This is just a primer to get you started. We have an entire forum dedicated to helping new mountain bike riders.
If you’re an experienced mountain biker. Share advice that helped you in the comments section.