You might be a regular cyclist or simply someone who fancies a bit of a challenge, either way, it is crucial to be well prepared for your first mountain biking trip. Proper preparation, good equipment and a few basic tips will ensure that you too will be hooked at once:
- Bike: You don’t need to go all out and spend a fortune on a top bike, however ensure that your bike is in perfect working order, tires pumped up, breaks working and that there are no loose nuts or bolts!
- Gear: Biking gear is best, the padded shorts will make your outing much more comfortable, but there is no need to invest in top professional cycling gear just yet, a helmet and decent gloves are essential though. Knee pads are excellent for further protection.
- Water and Snacks: Staying hydrated is crucial, so make sure to bring some water. Energy bars can easily fit into a pocket on your cycling jersey and provide important fuel for slightly longer rides.
- Bike Kit: Make sure to bring a spare inner tire as well as puncture repair kit and tire levers in case of a flat tire.
- Fitness: Be honest about your fitness and don’t take on a ride that is too challenging for you. Any mountain biking trip, however small, requires a certain level of fitness and it’s vital to choose the right difficulty level to ensure you enjoy your ride. It’s best to start off with short rides, maybe one or two hours in length. Cycling challenges all muscles, leg, arm and back so remember that you will be getting a full-body workout. It is also best to warm up on the flat first.
- Don’t Go Alone: It’s best to go on your first outing with someone more experienced. Their expertise, guidance and supervision will ensure your safe return home. Listen and learn!
- Safety Consciousness: Don’t be reckless, be careful. Though it may seem like a good idea to race down a mountain, crashes and falls can lead to very serious injuries. Remember that you have no experience in dealing with danger or estimating risk, so it is vital to tread carefully on your first outing. Listen to the advice and instructions of an experienced mountain biker and let her/him lead the way.
- Weather and Respect for Nature: Choosing a mild, dry day will make your trip easier and more enjoyable. Respect the mountain and be mindful of your surroundings.
- Relax: Your bike is designed for bumps and all you need to do is relax and let the bike take the hit. Keep your eyes on the track and be prepared for obstacles.
- Braking: It’s best to use front and back brakes moderately, but simultaneously and gently over a prolonged period of time rather than sharply. Incorrect or sudden braking is the cause of many serious crashes.
- Climbing: Go at a steady pace in an easy gear while sitting on your saddle. When you need to steer, slightly shift some of your weight forward without standing up. This will allow for easier steering. Always look ahead and choose a safe path.
- Descending: Stand up, but have your knees bent and your bum slightly raised behind the saddle. Both your arms and legs will act as additional shock absorbers when going over uneven ground. Brake continuously, but gently to ensure a slow, steady pace.
- Taking on Big Corners: If you see a sharp corner coming up, brake well in advance and be prepared.
- Watching Out for Obstacles: You are in nature and there are lots of loose obstacles to watch out for or even avoid. Your bike will absorb the shocks, however, it’s essential to keep your eyes on the track at all times and be prepared.
- Choosing the Right Track: Rely on the advice of the more experienced rider you are going with. Most beginners find designated mountain biking trails ideal to start off with. Start small and gradually build up the length and difficulty level of your ride.
Mountain biking is my passion and I love everything about it. Safety, good preparation and expert guidance will allow you to get lots of enjoyment out of it safely.