Starting a new hobby or sport can be both exciting and daunting. With mountain biking, it might be the excitement of the downhills, or the joy of exploring the backcountry on two wheels that draws you in. Whatever your motivation for getting into mountain biking, you might be feeling a bit ‘now what?’ after making your decision. Where do you start and what basics do you need to know?
Luckily, as experts at keeping mountain bikers protected, D3O® has plenty of tips and advice on how to get started in mountain biking.
There are a few different styles of mountain biking, so there’s definitely something out there to suit you. As a beginner, you’ll likely start with simple trails (more on that later), but if there’s a discipline you’re keen to try, it’s worth setting your eyes on the prize.
Most beginners will start with XC trails that are labeled green or blue. Green trails are true beginner trails, with gentle inclines and minimal downhills, smooth corners and easy obstacles. Blue trails are ones to try after you’re completed a handful of green ones and are ready to step up. These are slightly more difficult and a good way to see how far you’ve come.
Later on, you can tackle red, black, and even doubleblack trails if you want! But remember there’s nothing wrong with finding a level you’re comfortable riding at. If you like to ride at nothing more tricky than a blue or red, that’s absolutely your call.
Visit a trail center or bike park and you’ll be able to check out trails of all levels to assess what you’re comfortable with. Better to start off with something you find easy and scale up than throw yourself in at the deep end and potentially end up getting hurt.
You can’t get started in mountain biking without a mountain bike and protective gear. You might find it best to visit a trail center or bike park initially and rent a mountain bike to start. You’ll be able to get a feel for the type of bike you like, frame and tire size, and generally practice before you commit to buying your first one. Staff can also help with recommendations and making sure you get one that is correctly sized for you.
When it comes to safety gear, always choose brands that use D3O® mountain bike protective gear. D3O® offers the very best protection while being soft and flexible. This means it doesn’t impede your range of movement and so is perfectly designed for mountain biking. It’s also light enough to wear all day, and you can opt for extra benefits like breathability or enhanced flexibility. For a basic set up, opt for mountain bike knee pads and mountain bike elbow pads to keep these vulnerable joints safe. Don’t forget your helmet!
You might have a good level of cardio fitness from hitting the gym, but riding the trails all day requires a completely different type of fitness and conditioning. To start with, your muscles simply won’t be used to being deployed for mountain biking. It’s a full body and physical sport, using everything from your limbs to your back and core to get a good ride. If you’re not used to spending time on the saddle or in an attack position, this too can be a little uncomfortable while you adjust.
Luckily, the more you ride, you’ll find that your condition quickly catches up, especially if you already have a good level of fitness. Soon your muscles will be able to handle a full day of riding with just the usual amount of tiredness at the end of the day, rather than feeling completely wiped out each time. Embrace the soreness and you’ll be better for it - just make sure you get a good stretch in after each ride to help loosen up those muscles.
If your friends are the ones who’ve persuaded or inspired you to give mountain biking a go, make sure you get out on the trails with them. Even if they are experienced, don’t be afraid to ride out with them. Everyone was a beginner once, and riding with people who are more experienced helps you to learn. Watch how they tackle lines and obstacles, and they’ll be able to give you tips and advice on your riding style and general encouragement too.
Local mountain biking groups are also good to try out if you don’t have anyone close to you to ride with. Many groups are welcoming to beginners, offering the chance to try easy trails together - and they’re a great way to make friends sharing a love for mountain biking too!
For those lucky enough to live near a trail center or bike park, you can get started in mountain biking with a lesson or clinic. These sessions will give you an overview of the essentials, show you how to tackle basic terrain and obstacles, and generally give you a quick 101 on how to mountain bike.
These are a great idea if you’re a little nervous about starting or want to have some skills under your belt before you ride out with friends or a local group. Lessons and clinics can help build your confidence and you can even work on specific skills like how to tackle downhills and jumps.
There’s no shortcut to getting better at mountain biking other than by practicing. Fortunately, the sport is designed to get you out exploring and trying new trails and obstacles, so it’s no hardship to be heading out regularly. Being adventurous and curious will make you a better rider in no time, as you explore, experiment and test yourself while having a fun day out.
You can also revisit trails to practice on again and again, mastering the art of cornering, downhill speed, obstacles and more, so you know what level you’re at and when it’s time to move up.
When you first start out, you’ll likely hear people throwing around all kinds of terms you’ve never heard before. Mountain bikers almost have their own language or shorthand, and the quicker you pick it up the easier you’ll be able to engage in trail chat!
A few key terms to know:
There’s also some trail etiquette to keep in mind. This is especially important if you’re riding on a popular or busy trail.
Pack and prepare. Bring food, water, a multi tool, spare inner tubes, basic first aid and more in a backpack. You never know what you or a friend might need while out!