Mountain biking is great for pumping up adrenaline and enjoying the outdoors. However, it's important for beginners to understand how to do it right. Like all sports activities, there are rules for etiquette, safety, and equipment. What's more, some mountain biking behavior can actually be damaging to nature with negative repercussions for the environment and other bikers. If you're a novice, follow this mountain biking for beginners guide before you hit the trails.
Mountain bikers are subject to rules set forth by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA). Familiarize yourself with them and you will likely avoid injury, environmental damage, and other issues with people you meet on the trail. For a comprehensive list of rules, refer to the IMBA website.
Basic safety rules assert that you can ride on authorized trails only. Do not trespass or ride on closed wilderness trails. In addition, you should always yield the path, regardless of how fast you are going. This means that you must stop and make way for hikers and horseback riders. Finally, you must be careful to leave no environmental impact on the trail. This means you should not ride in muddy paths or leave skid marks.
Because you're likely to encounter a range of people, it's also important to know conventions for passing. These rules differ depending on who you encounter and which direction you're going.
For hikers and runners in front of you, greet them in some form or ring a bell and let them know which side you are on. For example, you can say, "Biker on your left." This is to avoid startling them. Always be friendly and respectful and slow down in their vicinity.
For other bikers, you should yield the path if they are going up and you are going down. Stop and let them pass you. The reason for this is politeness and safety. It's easier for you to gain control over your bike again than it is for them.
For horseback riders, you should stop and walk your bike. If you are behind the rider, call out and tell them you are there. The reason is that it's easy to spook a horse and possibly cause damage to yourself or the rider. It's best to ask the rider how you should proceed, or wait for that person to move first.
Beginner mountain bikers should have basic equipment like bike, helmet, and water to stay safe and interact with the trails properly. While many people may like a hybrid bike, it's recommended to have a proper mountain bike. If you're not sure what to buy, keep in mind that mountain bikes have thicker wheels and offer you bounce and durability rather than speed. Visit a bike shop, ask for some recommendations, and test ride a few. The cost can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Avoid riding on trails with a beach cruiser or ten speed, as they're not structurally designed for uneven or rocky conditions.
Optional equipment includes a pump, gloves, spare tube, patch kit, screw driver, chain tool, a bell, and a seat bag.
Before riding on a trail, practice certain techniques you'll need to have a more comfortable ride. First off, practice removing your feet from the pedal clips both still and moving. In addition, practice standing out of the seat with your weight shifted backwards towards the wheel. The pedals should be a 3 and 9 o'clock positions. This pose will help you maintain control when going over rough terrain.
You should also practice drops and jumps in a standing position. Use a sidewalk curb to experiment with different speeds. To drop, stand, coast and go down while absorbing the shock in your arms and legs. To jump, approach the curb standing and push down on the handlebars. Right before the curb, spring your body up, lifting the handlebars and front wheel. Lighten your weight on the pedals so the bike can easily pop up.
Avoid riding in muddy conditions, which causes erosion damage. Also avoid riding through water passages or streams because the tires can cause sedimentation. If you ride in sand, adjust to a higher gear.
Be sure to brake before you hit corners, and shift gears before you climb or descend.
When climbing, use a low gear to prevent injury. If you must stand, rock the bike to each side as you pedal. When going down, always keep your seat on the bike. If the slope is steep, get off and walk your bike down.