10 Tips to Become a Better Mountain Biker
Some people like to mountain bike to get in shape, while others do so to savor the outdoors, and still others do it for competitive reasons. Whatever the reasons are, the one thing they share is the desire to get better, and our tips here will set you off on the right trail.
Tips to Become an Expert in Mountain Biking
Always Keep Your Bike in Good Condition
You won’t get far with a dilapidated bike. Check your bike before and after you use it, and pay attention to any noise you hear. Have any cracks repaired as soon as possible to avoid complications.
If you have a good quality bike and it is well taken care of, it should last several years. However it’s still a good idea to have a basic repair kit just in case.
Learn from the Experienced
It’s a good idea to spend time biking with skilled riders. Watch how they ride their bikes uphill and downhill, how they angle their bodies and what steps are taken to repair tires and other problems.
If you don’t know a mountain biker, drop by your local bike shop and ask for local group rides.
Eye on the Target
One of the pitfalls new mountain bikers fall for is focusing on the rocks and other obstacles on the trail. Instead, keep your eye on the line you want to take.
Concentrate on that and you’ll have a better chance of avoiding those roots and rocks. This might counter-intuitive, but ask a long time mountain biker and they will tell you the same thing.
Don’t Pressure Yourself
Don’t be too rigid or wrestle with your bike. Allow your arms and legs to relax and take in the bumps on the trail. Hold on the handlebars firmly but don’t grab it too tight. The tighter your grip the quicker your hands and forearms will tire, making bike control difficult.
Cadence refers to crank rotation. Learn how to do a good spin because it improves traction particularly if the trail is loose. Pedaling with uneven strokes or in squares forces you to pedal harder than necessary and it keeps you off balanced as well.
Start and Stop
Balancing and hopping are essential skills when you’re on technically challenging trails. You do both while still, but it’s possible to lunge your bike and go over rocks and other objects.
It might seem unnecessary at this point, but knowing how to stop and restart without the need to put your foot down makes a huge difference for sustaining momentum.
To learn the track stand (pure stationary balancing), you should bike as slow as you can and start feathering the brakes. You can practice on any terrain but the most practical location is uphill.
Hopping is somewhat the same except the brakes are locked as you raise the wheels so the bike remains under you. You just lift your body using your legs and arms.
Learn how to use the brakes on your bike. The front brake has the most power, but don’t overuse it when you’re cornering or going downhill. Relying too much on the front brake in these instances might cause the front wheel to slide or you could even get tossed out.
When negotiating corners, make it a habit to brake prior to making the turn, not when you’re in it. This allows you to make the most of your speed in the turns.
If you’re making a descent, master brake feathering so they don’t suddenly lock up. If there’s locking you just have to ease a little. You’re going to gain additional control over your bike and also prevent excess erosion on the trail.
Learn the functions of your bike before going out on a trail. Once you get the hang of it, try the local trails. You might be tempted to try the more challenging trails and see how far your bike can take you, but resist the urge and focus on the fundamentals for now.
We have stated that preparation is key, and you should read up as much as you can about mountain bikes, trails and so on. However, nothing will replace actual experience so get on your bike as often as possible. Make sure you’re wearing the appropriate gear too.
Bike in Different Locations
When you’re done with the local trails you can venture out and explore more demanding trails. Do not stick with just one type of terrain: try different ones so you’re always pushing yourself to the limit. The secret to becoming a great mountain biker is to always be on the lookout for new challenges.
Before you start, learn as much about the trail as possible. Consider the conditions, the best time to visit, the tires you will need, how bumpy it is and so on. The weather in particular is crucial as even a little bit of rain can make a trail much more demanding.
Not Just for Mountain Trails
Mountain bikes are not just for crossing mountains. If you want to master your bike use it as much as possible. Bike to do your errands, cruise the streets, etc. One way to improve your skills is to practice riding the bike on a couple of stairs as this will prepare you for the tougher trails.
The more you use your bike the more you’ll become familiar with its nuances, the handing and how it works. The worst thing you can do is to use the bike only during trails as you’ll never get comfortable with it.
There is one more tip we can give, and it is this: you have to believe in yourself. If you’ve never rode a mountain bike before the challenge may seem daunting. But keep in mind that even the best mountain bikers in the world started the same way: from scratch. If they can do it there’s no reason you can’t.