Not only is mountain biking an amazing summer sport for skiers and snowboarders, but it’s also a ton of fun in its own right. Bikes are amazing tools for exploring backcountry trails, keeping up your fitness through the summer, and to get that adrenaline fix that skiers and snowboarders seek. With the great opportunities that the sport presents comes an equally large set of gear, techniques, and trails to navigate. While getting started mountain biking may be confusing at first, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the sport and its gear before you hop on the bike and start pushing the pedals. This will ensure you’re able to have the most fun possible, because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about: getting outside and having a good time.
Choose the Right Bike
This may seem obvious, but starting with the right mountain bike for you and your local trails is the first step to getting into the sport. Like skis or snowboards, you wouldn’t want to put a 5’ tall beginner on 190cm powder skis. In other words, it is important to pick the right size and style of mountain bike.
The first thing to consider is the type of riding that you will be doing, so that you can pick the right style of mountain bike. There are different types of mountain bike for different types of trails and riders. These range from cross country (XC) bikes that are built for speedy climbing and long days pedaling to downhill bikes that are made to crush descents – you definitely won’t want to pedal these bikes to the top, though.
Getting the right size bike is crucially important, too. Most mountain bikes offer on an extremely low standover height, so the “traditional” method of standing over the bike flat-footed doesn’t really work. Consequently, mountain bike manufacturers use Small, Medium, Large sizing and give their own size recommendations based roughly on your height. For more, check out our mountain bike size chart.
Get the Right Accessories
Once you’ve got your new bike picked out, there are a couple more pieces of gear you need to be trail ready. It’s important not to skip these mountain bike accessories, or you’ll end up uncomfortable while riding, or worse, stuck out in the middle of the trail. Proper mountain bike clothing is the first step. Padded chamois liner shorts will have your backside smiling and ready to take on the trail. Pair these liners with a proper pair of mountain bike shorts, and you’ll be ready to hit the trail. Shorts and pants not made for biking tend to wear out quickly in the backside, and don’t provide the same level of padding or protection. A nice breathable mountain bike jersey is a nice add, too, but not as essential as good shorts and chamois.
A basic tool kit is important to carry on every ride, so that you can fix problems like flat tires. At the least, your kit should include, a spare tube, tire levers, a patch kit, a multitool, and a pump or CO2 inflator. Check out our guide to what to pack for mountain biking for a full list.
Take a Class and Learn Basic Technique
The techniques used to navigate the rough terrain encountered while mountain biking are different than just cruising around on pavement. While we’d recommend taking a class to gain some foundational skills and meet riding buddies that are at your same ability level. We’ve also outlined some basic technique tips below:
- Raise your bike seat: Your leg should be almost all the way extended at the bottom of your pedal stroke. This gives you the most power and is the easiest on your muscles.
- Stay Seated: Standing up might on steep climbs might have worked on pavement, but on loose dirt the lack of weight on the rear wheel will often result in you rear wheel slipping.
- Relax: Don’t death-grip the bike handlebars, and try to remain relaxed throughout your body. This will smooth out the ride, and actually give you more control.
- Drop your seat: You don’t need the pedalling efficiency of a high seat on the way down, so drop it and get it out of your way. Dropping your seat gives your body more room to maneuver.
- Stand up: Even though your bike has suspension, your legs and arms are some of the best shock absorbers around. Standing on the pedals and getting your butt out of the saddle allows your (relaxed) body to help smooth out your ride.
While new gear and a couple technique pointers will help, at the end of the day, these tips will only take you so far. The best way to get into mountain biking is to get out and ride! You’ll take some crashes along the way, but practice makes perfect, and with mountain biking, the reward is oh so sweet. See you on the trail.
We are evo – a ski, snowboard, mountain bike, surf, wake, and skate retailer based in Seattle, Washington, USA, with stores located in Seattle, Portland, and Denver. We also offer trips to remote locations across the globe in search of world-class powder turns, epic waves, and legendary mountain biking through our evoTrip Outdoor Travel Trips.