Unlike road bikes, mountain bikes require more full-body strength from their riders. For any beginner, the thought of tackling even a small section of dirt path can feel like a huge challenge — but it doesn’t have to be with these mountain biking tips for beginners.
Mountain biking is all about the experience. From flashing through the forest to barreling around corners and flying down hills, there’s no telling where your journey will take you or what kinds of obstacles you might encounter along the way. With a solid endurance base and technical skills, mountain biking can be as accessible as a run-down sidewalk.
In this article, we’ll go over some tips to help you get started on the path to mountain biking mastery. Let’s jump right in!
Table of contents
Start Off On Pavement
We start our list of mountain biking tips for beginners with a fairly obvious one. Yet, many people look at their local bike trail and immediately start trying to maneuver over roots and rocks.
That might be too steep a learning curve starting out. While trail riding is certainly a part of mountain biking, road riding on pavement is a great place to start your first ride.
Riding on pavement or gravel roads will help you build a foundation of endurance and get used to handling your bike at high speeds before you take it onto the technical trails. This will help prevent injury and also allow you to practice your bike control skills without fear of crashing into a tree.
As you become an experienced rider, move to more technical sections filled with steep climbs, sharp turns, and other obstacles. This is a good way to build your confidence and help prevent accidents while on a busy trail with other bikers.
Stay Loose and Springy
Your body position and riding style can make all the difference in the world when riding a mountain bike. If you are too stiff or tense, you can lose your balance or your control of the bike.
This is especially important for new mountain bikers who may not have mastered their bike handling skills yet. You want to keep your upper body loose, springy, and in a neutral position so that if something happens unexpectedly (like hitting a rock garden), you can recover quickly and continue on with little loss in momentum.
When on uneven terrain, try to stay limber and let the bike do the hard work for you. The most important thing is to stay calm and focused. And don’t stay glued to the platform. Instead, adjust the saddle height and keep a wide, crouched stance. Then lean forward slightly so that only your arms are holding you up.
This will allow the center of gravity to help pull you down hills instead of fighting against it with every pedal stroke. Similarly, let your arms hang loosely and move with the bike as it bounces over rocks or drops into holes.
Maintain Your Momentum
One of the biggest challenges beginners face when mountain biking is maintaining momentum through steep descents, especially on rough terrain. Without proper speed, you’ll see a massive shift in front-wheel control, which could lead to danger.
For instance, when you’re going downhill at high speeds, if you stop pedaling too abruptly, it can throw off your balance and cause you to lose control of your bike. When you’re going uphill, riding too slowly will drop your wheel into the hole and hit every imperfection.
The best way to keep your momentum is to maintain a steady cadence. If you’re riding downhill and see a straightaway ahead, try to increase the speed without pedaling too fast.
When you’re going uphill, try to maintain a steady pace while staying in the saddle. This will give you better traction, so you can push up the hill instead of fighting against gravity while standing up. This is especially important on longer rides.
Set Your Suspension
Bike suspension will absorb trail chatter and modulate your speed. Before your first ride, adjust the shock absorbers so that they are not too stiff or too soft. You should be able to press down on the front and rear of your bike with a moderate amount of force without feeling like it’s going to collapse under you.
If it takes significant pressure, try adjusting your shocks’ air pressure until they are more comfortable. As a general rule, the tire pressure should be 25 psi for front tires and 28 psi for rear tires, but this can vary depending on the type of trail and rider weight.
Once you have the right suspension, it will feel like riding on a cloud. You’ll be able to sense the terrain below you and react to bumps and small jumps while still enjoying a more comfortable ride.
Change Gears Often
The first time you ride a mountain bike, you may have difficulty adjusting the gears. But if you don’t shift gears often enough, your chain could break or jump off the sprockets on your rear wheel. This can cause major problems with the speed and efficiency of your bike.
When you’re riding on flat terrain, shifting gears frequently is not necessary. However, when you encounter steep hills or other challenging terrains, it’s a good idea to shift gears often in order to maintain a proper speed.
The gear shifters are located on the handlebars of most mountain bikes, but they may differ in appearance and location depending on the type of bike. When learning how to shift gears as a beginner, try to use your index fingers, so your hand is free for steering and balance control (if needed).
When climbing up, downshift as soon as the incline starts. If you have a front derailleur, move the chain onto the largest chainring. If you have a rear derailleur, shift onto the smallest cog on your cassette.
This will make pedaling easier and reduce strain on your muscles. If possible, practice shifting while riding slowly over flat ground before attempting more challenging terrain where it’s important not to lose control!
Practice Cornering and Braking
Mountain biking involves a lot of sharp turns and steep hills, so it’s important to learn how to navigate through them safely. Practice cornering by riding on a flat surface and leaning your bike into the turn while keeping your weight centered over the bike.
As you become more comfortable with this basic technique, practice on a hill with gentle curves or on an obstacle course that has stairs or logs that require high-speed turns.
Once you’ve mastered the art of cornering, work on your braking skills. It’s important to know how to brake quickly and when to do so — especially if there is a steep dropoff right beside or behind you!
Keep Your Eyes Up
Most novice riders tend to look at the ground as they ride down hills It’s important to keep your eyes up and scan the trail ahead to avoid obstacles. When crossing a big berm, look at the exit. While passing small drops, focus on the landing area.
You can also use your peripheral vision to spot things off the side, but don’t let your eyes wander too far from the trail, or there’s a good chance that you’ll miss something important.
Don’t Forget to Practice Track Stand
The track stand is an essential skill for mountain bikers. It involves balancing on one wheel while holding your body straight and still. When you start out, it might take some practice before you can stop on a dime without falling over.
It’s worth practicing because it can save time when riding uphill or going into a steep downhill section. Just make sure not to do this anywhere there are other riders around — they might think you are about to fall off!
Wrapping it up…
Mountain biking is a fun and challenging sport that requires skill, strength, and endurance. However, with the right preparation and planning, mountain biking can be enjoyed by beginners and skilled riders.
With these mountain biking tips for beginners in mind, you’ll be able to smash through boulder gardens and conquer even the steepest trails with ease. And don’t forget to wear a helmet, elbow pads, and mountain bike shoes. This will help prevent injury and keep you protected on rough trails!