After hearing I had the MTB itch again, a friend I met through cyclocross reached out and offered to let me borrow her bike and run me through some beginner skills. I was hesitant considering my first experience, but when I met her at the trails she took the first 20 minutes to set up the bike to accommodate me. We went out and did a mix of riding and skill training where she would take video of me to better explain what I was doing right or wrong. Long story short, this made a massive difference, and I became hooked! I spent the next few months trying to educate myself on the various types of bikes and figure out (with the help of others) what would be the best bike for me. As one newbie to the next, here is some advice for getting into mountain biking.
Use caution when borrowing someone else's bike.1 of 10
Sure, that sounds like a great idea because it's free, but if someone doesn't guide you correctly or set up the bike for you, it could lead to an unfortunate first experience. The first time I borrowed a bike it was way too big, I slammed my lady bits within the first few minutes and had such a horrible experience on the trail that I cut the ride short and thought mountain biking wasn't for me.
Figure out which bike you want.2 of 10
Wow, did this step take me a while. I didn't realize I would have so many options and I knew absolutely nothing about mountain bikes, therefore it took me some time to get a grasp on which path to choose. Also note, you can easily walk into your local bike shop and get a bike that will work great, but I guess you could say I was a bit slower with my decision making.
Ask yourself things like, "What kind of riding do you want to do?" and "What are your local trails like?" For example, if all you ever want to do is ride casually through the beginner loops, then you won't need a full suspension bike. If you're looking to bomb downhills in the first year, well, they make a specific bike for that. I won't even pretend that I know the ends and outs of all of these different bikes, but I do suggest you do some research and consider your options. Get ready to come across words like hardtail, full suspension and rigid.
Use social media to learn more.3 of 10
Start following your local trails, trail associations and local bike shops on Facebook. Contact them and ask what demo days they have coming up. This will allow you to test some really great bikes, talk to people who know the ins and outs of the bikes you're riding and allow you to meet people in the mountain biking scene.
Educate yourself.4 of 10
Start talking to friends who mountain bike and bike shop employees who know their stuff—but at the same time, always take advice with a grain of salt. When I decided I wanted a mountain bike, I quickly learned there were MANY options to choose from, and everyone had their own opinions about which bike I should get. I made it a point to chat with anyone willing to talk about bikes, and then I'd write down their advice in the notes section on my phone. While collecting advice about types of bikes and wheel size, I was also doing my own research online. Knowing this was going to be a big purchase, I wanted to make sure I was choosing correctly. It was important for me to be both knowledgeable about my choice, and for the final decision to feel like my own.
Make sure you buy the right size bike.5 of 10
This is probably a no-brainer, but because my recommended size based on my height was right on the cusp of a small or a medium, I did a lot of test riding to decide which felt better.
As you can tell, I didn't just walk into my local bike shop and buy a bike that day. It took me a few months to educate myself and come up with my decision, but I'm really happy with the bike I chose! You can find me at my local trails on my Specialized Women's Camber that is considered an all-around trail bike. I knew I wanted a smooth ride, and I was looking to spend a little more money now—rather than upgrade later. Plus, I live pretty close to Pisgah and I've *heard* that I may like it better with a FS bike, but I haven't made it that far... yet.
So now that you have your bike...
Get a bike fit.6 of 10
Okay, so maybe you don't need a full-blown bike fit, but at the very least make sure your saddle height is correct.
Remember your accessories.7 of 10
Listen, many people have ridden in jeans and a cotton tee with their helmet on wrong. *Raises hand* It's 100 percent OK to be new, but consider putting aside some budget to set yourself up for success and comfort. Things to think about: a flat kit, multi-tool, water bottle/CamelBak, a proper fitting helmet and cycling-specific clothing.
Practice basic skills.8 of 10
Currently, I'm on this step. When I'm not riding, you can find me watching plenty of GMBN and Skills with Phil on YouTube.
And when I am riding? Nothing has helped me more than riding with a friend who knows what they are doing and is willing to video me while practicing. Mountain bike skills are completely new to me, and seeing and feeling are two totally different things. Lastly, I suggest finding a clinic. I signed up for a downhill clinic happening in July at Snowshoe. What better way to learn than with fellow newbies?
Don't be afraid to make new friends.9 of 10
I will say, out of all of the disciplines I've tried, MTB has some of the nicest people next to cyclocross. Make sure to chat it up with people at the trailhead, invite other people to ride with you and look into going to beginner group rides.
Although this may not all apply to your experience, maybe I can help you in some way. If you have any additional advice or funny newbie stories, make sure you share them in the comments below.