Mountain bikers across the U.S. have mapped out nearly 165,000 miles of trail across the country. They’re deepening those paths every day – experienced and new bikers alike.
But if you’ve never been mountain biking before, the idea of rolling over bumpy terrain could seem intimidating. You want to make sure you’re prepared so you can have a great first time mountain biking.
We’ve got you covered with a few of our best newbie mountain biking tips. Keep reading our beginner’s guide to make sure you’re starting off on the right pedal!
The Best Trails for Beginners
Beginner-friendly mountain bike trails are wide, uncrowded, and have gradual elevation change. It can be hard to find a trail that meets all these criteria. But asking your local bike shop should always steer you in the right direction.
Some apps offer crowd reviews of trails and list beginner-friendly paths. Two of the most popular are TrailForks and MTB Project.
When it comes to trails, the most common are singletrack, flow trails, and technical trails.
Singletrack trails are narrow trails, like a one-way street. Flow trails are the latest style of mountain bike trails, they are wide, forgiving and feature banked turns, jumps and drops. Flow trails are typically found at bike parks, like at Keystone Resort or Copper Mountain. Flow trails offer a progressive environment to hone your skills. Technical trails vary in difficulty and will often feature more natural mountain bike features like rocks & roots.
Choosing Your First Bike
A few of the biggest factors that go into choosing your first bike are bike type, frame, and wheel size.
Unlike path bikes, which are great for riding on paved paths, you’ll want a shock-absorbing system if you’re going mountain biking. There are two main types of mountain bikes, suspension, and hardtail.
Full Suspension Mountain Bikes
Full Suspension bikes have a shock-absorbing system on both the front wheel and rear wheel. Full suspension bikes come in a variety of lengths of suspension travel. Suspension travel is often measured in millimeters. Short travel full suspension bikes typically have between 100mm and 130mm of suspension travel, these bikes are know as cross country or XC full suspension bikes. For rougher terrain an enduro or trail bike with 150mm of suspension travel is reccommeneded. For those looking for downhill thrills, expect to be on a bike with over 180mm of suspension travel to absorb the bumps, jumps and drops you’ll find at a downhill bike park.
Hardtail Mountain Bikes
Hardtail bikes get their name from having no rear suspension. The benefit is that they can climb hills faster and that they’re less expensive. A major drawback is you’re going to be in for a rougher ride on a hardtail bike. Hardtail mountain bikes are a great way to dip your toe in the water of mountain bike riding.
Frame and Wheel Size
Your height as well as the terrain you plan to ride determines the right frame for you. Staff at your local bike shop will help you choose the best frame. They’ll also have you test sitting on different bikes to ensure a good fit.
The two standard sizes for mountain bike wheels are 27.5″ and 29″. As a new mountain biker, you’ll want to try both sizes to see which suits you best.
Essential Mountain Biking Gear
It would be dangerous to hit the trails without at least a helmet and water. Helmets protect your head from falls and concussions. Water will keep you hydrated if you find yourself having too much fun on your first ride and you want to keep going.
Many riders also wear protective gloves. This helps them grip the handlebars and also protects their hands from falls.
Sunglasses and eyewear are also essential. They protect your eyes from dust and debris the bikes could kick up, especially if you’re in a big group.
You could lose anything you try to fit in your pockets while biking. Riders can fill a small, secure backpack or fanny pack with changes of clothing, snacks, and small repair kits.
First Ride Checklist
When you’ve chosen a trail, a bike, and you have all your gear ready to go, you’re going to want to do a final check before you start pedaling.
Check the tire pressure by pressing down on the tires with your thumb. If they feel deflated before your first ride, there might be a puncture in the tire. You don’t want them to be rock-hard and overinflated either, or else the ride will feel even bumpier. The best way to ensure proper tire inflation is with a tire guage or pump.
Double-check the chain and rear shifting cassette. There shouldn’t be any rust or excess dirt and you should lubricate it with chain oil.
Safety Skills and Trail Etiquette
The biggest safety tip as a beginner is to not go on your first trip alone. If going with a group of friends isn’t an option, at least go during a busy time of year.
The trails will have decent traffic, and if an emergency happens or you get lost, your chances of getting help improve when others are nearby.
Make sure you’re taking corners slowly, especially when there’s a sudden turn after going downhill. When going uphill, shift to a lower gear in advance so you’re not fighting your bike as much trying to climb.
On singletrack trails, bikers should yield to hikers unless the trail is for cycling only. Bikers going downhill should always yield right of way to those going uphill. If you’re coming up behind another trail user, pass on the left and announce your pass well ahead of time.
Shredding Trails With Confidence
There’s nothing like your first time biking out on the trails. As long as you’ve followed this guide and you’re feeling up to speed and confident, you’re going to have a great beginner mountain biking experience.
If you’re feeling ready to hit the trails for the first time, we’ve got you covered. Be sure to check out our mountain bike rentals and save 20% when you reserve your first bike online today!