So you want to amp up your outdoor activities, and you’re thinking of trying mountain biking. It sounds fun, but it also sounds scary. I wanted a bike for sometime, so last winter I decided to give myself a mountain bike as a Christmas present. Unfortunately I didn’t really know what I was doing, and after the first few rides, I feared I had wasted my money.
One ride in particular left me so bruised and frustrated that I was sure I didn’t like mountain biking. But I didn’t give it up; I kept riding around my neighborhood and easier trails. I found mountain biking is enjoyable, even if it is scary.
Here are six things that might help make the transition into mountain biking easier.
1. Try it out on a loaner bike first
Before you sink hundreds of dollars into mountain biking, make sure you are going to enjoy it. You can also buy a lower-end bike, which is cheaper and could be a good starter bike. And don’t rule out second-hand bikes. Many people buy a bike, and because they don’t have the time to ride or simply don’t like it, end up not riding very much. But make sure it fits you (more about that later).
If you end up hating it, then a road bike is probably going to be more of what you need. Mountain bikes can range in cost from about $300 to more than $1,000, so you’ll want to make sure it is something that you are going to use.
2. The more mountain biking you do, the better feel you have for it
One of the things that scared me when I first started riding, was going so fast over a narrow, rocky trail. A broken arm terrified me. The more I rode, the more I got used to the feeling of riding on a trail. This really helped boost my confidence in my ability. It also helped boost the feeling that I was not going to die.
3. Don’t forget your helmet
Even as your confidence and comfort with mountain biking grows, you still need to wear your helmet. You should always wear a helmet even if you are on a roadway. But with mountain biking, there are more rocks, roots, and obstacles to throw you over the handlebars. You are also more likely to smack you head on a rock while riding on the trail. I know this from experience. Once I wrecked, and my head met a rock – I was so glad I had my helmet. And if you need another reason to remember the helmet on the trail, you are further from help and the hospital.
4. Choose a bike that is a good fit for you
When choosing a mountain bike, it’s best to visit a store that can help you find the best bike for you. A bike that is too big for you, or too small for you can make for an uncomfortable ride. Most seats are adjustable, but you also have to remember the distance from the handlebars to the seat play a role in comfort. I am 5-foot-5-inches tall and fairly evenly proportioned. My bike is 15 inches, with 27.5 inches wheels.
5. It is totally OK to walk up (or down) the hills
With mountain biking you have a higher likelihood to encounter steep inclines. I ride the hills around my neighborhood to build up my muscles, but some of the hills on the trail are too steep. I simply don’t have the leg power to push myself up the hill, even in low gear.
On the flip side, going downhill on the trail is even scarier. There have been a few hills, I simply hopped off and walked down. The loose dirt and rocks on the trail can make your bike slide and throw you off. So until you are comfortable zooming downhill, there is no shame in walking.
6. Have fun
One last thing to remember is you are out there to have fun. So if you are not having fun or cannot look back fondly on your ride, maybe its not for you. There are numerous trails around. Don’t start off on the scary trails like I did. It will make you question why you thought it was going to be a good idea.