Mountain bikes are either hardtails, with front suspension to absorb the bumps of the trail, or full- suspension, with shocks in both the front and the back. Full-suspension bikes have gotten lighter and less expensive over the years, and can help smoothe out the trail.
Specialized Safire FSR Comp is made specifically for women, with frame geometry to increase your stability and suspension that can be custom- tuned to your weight. $2,500, d4wgear.com
prices go up with additional ventilation, but the Giro Rift does the job without breaking the bank. The visor detaches with a quick snap. $55, giro.com
You need a little tread on the sole of your shoes for when you're off your bike, and Specialized Riata Mountain Bike Shoe has that, plus three Velcro buckles for easy on-and- off. $90, d4wgear.com
, like Pearl Izumi Select Gel-Vent FF Glove, instead of short-fingered gloves, offers needed protection. The FF is ventilated to keep you cool. $35, pearlizumi.com
Baggy bike shorts
worn over a liner with a chamois--the pad that gives your bum some cushion--are both stylish and functional. Try Smartwool Women's Eweturn Shorts. $140, smartwool.com
Places to Play
Mountain-biking trails can be found in hundreds of state parks, national forests and even some national parks. Always check trail signs to see if the path you've chosen allows bicycles. Local bike shops can usually recommend a selection of trails.
The classic mountain bike hub of the West, Moab offers scenic, slick-rock slabs that aren't as scary as they sound. The bike-crazed town is rich with shops, cycling guides, hiking trails and post-ride brew pubs. discovermoab.com/biking.htm
Known as the new Moab, Fruita's trails are rolling, swoopy and fun. Options range from the beginner-friendly Rustler's Loop to all-day singletrack adventures, such as the Edge Loop. Fruita is usually less crowded than nearby Moab. gofruita.com
Whistler, British Columbia
From bomber descents at the Whistler Bike Park to epic cross-country trails, Whistler offers every kind of knobby- tire adventure imaginable. The Lost Lake Park trail network is well suited to beginner and intermediate mountain bikers. A chairlift pass that takes you and your bike uphill costs $49 per day. whistlerbike.com
Sumter National Forest, South Carolina
The Forks Area Trail System-- better known as FATS--offers buttery singletrack (Skinny Loop) and more technical sections (Great Wall section). All trails have been built specifically for mountain biking. fs.fed.us/r8/fms
Go to Camp. Signing up for a mountain bike camp can be a great way to learn. A few companies offer women-only day-long to weekend camps, like the Dirt Series by Rocky Mountain Bicycles ($165-$325; dirtseries.com, 604-905-8177), or weeklong programs with extras like yoga and sports nutrition, such as Over the Bars ($1,200-$1,800; womensmountainbikecamp.com, 208-709-8141).