Mountain Bike Tips Beginners Should Know: 10 things I wish I had been told

I remember being new to mountain biking and learning something new every time I went out on my bike. There is no substitute for experience, but here are some mountain bike tips beginners will benefit from. They are in no particular order, but, these will give you a bit of a head start and enhance your time on the trails, without having to learn the hard way.

1. Wear the right clothing

Clothing designed for a specific sport helps you do that sport to the best of your ability. It is made to fit to allow optimum movement out of appropriate fabrics, to keep you comfortable. Mountain bike clothing is no different.

Chucking on an old t-shirt and shorts won’t cut it. You will get hot and sweaty and then you will get very cold, which is very unpleasant. Proper mountain bike clothing wicks away moisture and allows unrestricted movement. Also, dressing for the weather conditions is essential. When you are miles from home and shivering in the Welsh countryside, you will really wish you bought a jacket.

Bonus Mountain Bike Tip: Don’t wear pants under your under shorts. The technical fabric won’t work properly, you will get sweaty and saddle sores.

Also, see:

Mountain biking jerseys: What to buy

Mountain bike shorts: What to buy

Winter Mountain Bike Clothing: The definitive guide

2. No Lycra

Speaking of wearing the right clothing…leave the Lycra to the roadies. You will be much more comfortable in enduro or downhill mountain bike clothing. Cross country racers will wear something similar to what roadies wear, but you need to be honest with yourself with what type of riding you will be doing.

3. Know what all the switches, buttons and levers do

My first proper full suspension mountain bike was a second hand French Scott Genius. I had a habit of going over the handlebars a lot. This was because the French put their brake levers on their bikes the opposite way to the British. I knew this, but I instinctively grabbed a handful of front brake when it got steep, sending me flying down the mountain head first. Realising that you shouldn’t re-learn which way round your brakes are, I swapped them over.

Mountain bikes can come with lots of controls now, from gear shifters, dropper seat posts, brakes and suspension lock out controls. Therefore, you should take the time to know what they all do. I know someone who rode for a whole summer without knowing that she could change gear on her front chainring.

4. Choose the right tyres

One of the best mountain bike tips beginners should be aware of, is tyre choice. My old Scott Genius suffered punctures on a daily basis. This coupled with going over the handlebars, was starting to put me off mountain biking. Then I learned that the tyres I was using were not suitable for the terrain. I live in Morzine, where bikes take a lot of punishment. Therefore, I opted for downhill tyres with a tubeless set up. I have never had a puncture since.

However, downhill tyres may not suit your style of riding. Click here to learn how to choose the best tyres for you.

Also, see:

Mountain bike tyres: tubes or tubeless

Winter bike tyres: How to choose

5. Bedding in your brakes

When you change your brake pads, don’t just hit the trails straight away. This is because brake pads need bedding in to ensure that they work. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you why being able to brake is good thing.

You also need to make sure that you fit the correct ones. Click here to learn everything you need to know about brake pads.

6. Set your seat height properly

This is very simple, but it is one of the most important mountain bike tips. Ideally you will have a dropper seatpost, so you can adjust your seat height to suit whatever you are riding. But, these are expensive, so many people will set their seat height before setting off.

You want to set it so it can be out of the way when you are descending steep or technical sections. There is nothing worse than when your seat bobs up just enough to tap you on the bum, resulting in your weight going to far forward and sending you in to the bushes head first. However, you will also want your seat at a height that will make your pedaling as efficient as possible.

If I am riding a bike without a dropper seatpost, depending on the terrain, I will be changing the seat height all day.

Click here to learn all about dropper seatposts

7. Protect Yourself

mountain bike helmet

Mountain biking comes with risks, some of these risks come from the fact you are traveling quickly with lots of trees, rocks and jumps all over the place. We can manage these risks by wearing the correct protective gear (or making sure your brakes are the right way round).

You would be stupid to not ride with a helmet, you only get one head and you need to look after it. There are a few different types of helmet you can buy, depending on the type of riding you do. Click here to learn how to choose the best helmet for you.

The best mountain bike tips for beginners should include ways of building confidence. Buying knee and elbow protection should also be on your to do list. Having a bit of coverage on your knees and elbows, will obviously provide protection when you fall off your bike. But, they will also help with your confidence to tackle that certain trail or obstacle you want to master.

Click here to learn all about elbow and knee pads

8. Buy the correct bike for your type of riding

You need to ride the best bike for the terrain you ride. For example, If you are riding long distances, you should get a bike that is light and easy to pedal. If you are riding in the alps, you will need an enduro or downhill bike. However, do not buy a downhill bike as your first bike. These bikes are too heavy and have too much travel for a beginner to master.

Click here to learn how to choose the best bike for you.

9. Take your time

One of the most important mountain bike tips for beginners, is to take your time. You are not going to be launching yourself off big jumps and taking on the steepest downhill trails on your first day (not successfully anyway). It takes time to build up the skills, confidence and fitness to progress. You should always aim to ride out of your comfort zone though, this is how we progress in anything.

10. Maintain your bike

If your bike starts making a new noise, investigate what it is. It could be a simple job of tightening a bolt, and doing this could prevent a more serious problem. Regularly checking your bike over will keep your bike in good working order and it will also keep you safe.

A good time to check your bike is when you wash it. This is because, you will spend some quality time with your bike and you will be able to see if it has any issues. Click here to learn how to clean your bike.

Also, see:

Mountain bike tools: What every mountain biker should have

Do you have any more mountain bike tips beginners should know?

This is not an extensive list of mountain bike tips beginners should know about, and there are plenty more. What have you learned that you wish you had been told when you first started mountain biking? Please leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.

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