Mountain Biking for Beginners ► The Ultimate Guide


Mountain biking is breathing in the smell of a quiet forest. It’s the tough love of navigating your front wheel over roots and rocks up a steep climb. Mountain biking is the failure to wipe the grin off your face as you fly down a trail.

Are you interested yet? Great. Because this is Mountain biking for beginners.

Mountain Biking for Beginners: Best Mountainbike? 

Mountain biking beginners can feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of mountain bikes out there. There are several different types of mountain bikes, each suited to another discipline of riding. Questions mountain biking beginners often have are: how much suspension, which frame material, frame geometry, fit, price and a few thousand other things. 

Here’s a general breakdown of bike types and how they are suited to get beginners rolling:

Trail Mountain Bikes for Beginners

This is probably where most beginners will start their mountain bike journey. These bikes are built to tackle trails (often referred to as “singletrack”), handle some drops and jumps, feature front suspension and probably rear suspension, and place the rider in a more upright position compared to a cross-country race bike (XC). 

Trail mountain bikes are great for beginners because they allow riders to get out and enjoy the trails as opposed to racing them. If you’re looking to escape the roads and traffic, meet up with friends, and just enjoy cruising through nature, look no further than the humble trail mountain bike.

Cross Country (XC) Mountain bikes

The XC mountain bike category is the domain of mountain bike racing. If the idea of competitive racing against others around a closed track or trail sounds fun, select a bike from this category. Bikes in this category prioritize lightweight and climbing. They will have less suspension travel, which means they can’t handle rough terrain as well. 

All-Mountain / Enduro Mountain bikes

These bikes blur the lines between a trail mountain bike and a downhill mountain bike. They are built to tackle more challenging terrain than trail bikes, but they will likely weigh more too. These bikes are suited to Enduro racing. Enduro races have timed downhill segments but untimed uphill segments. The winner is the person with the lowest combined downhill time. As you can imagine, these bikes go downhill at warp speed!

Mountain bikes come in many different sizes to fit many different body shapes. Beginner mountain bikers are highly advised to go to their local bike shop and get assistance finding the right size bike. You can also test ride or “demo” bikes from reputable bike shops. Take the time, and buy what’s suitable for your needs.

After you have your dream bike, it’s time to get out there and ride it!

Mountain Biking for BeginnerS: Basic Skills

Mountain biking rewards riders who have good technical skills. Focusing on mountain bike technical skills at the beginning will set beginner mountain bikers up for success. Here are a few basic mountain bike skills to get you started:

Cornering

Riding singletrack means making tight turns. Other trails feature turns you will want to try and carve through. No matter what, cornering is a critical beginner mountain biking skill that you should never stop practicing and trying to improve. Here’s how to train it:

  • Straighten out the corner as much as possible. Ride to the furthest outside edge as you approach the turn. Initiate the turn just before the apex of the corner (the sharpest point of the corner). Ride to the furthest outside point of the corner as you exit. 
  • Cornering drills. Pick a corner on your local trail and ride through it until you master that one corner. Smooth is fast: focus on being smooth through the corner, and speed will follow. Once you are confident in that corner, do the same thing from the other side. You’ll be surprised how difficult it is again!
  • Brake before the corner, not in it. Braking in the corner can cause your tires to slide uncontrollably in the corner. Eventually, you will be able to handle this technique, but it’s too advanced for mountain biking beginners.
  • Look through the turn to where you want to exit. The bike follows your eyes. Don’t get caught staring at your front wheel, or you’ll find yourself in the dirt!

man and woman biking a trail

Floating

Mountain biking beginners are often shocked at how much stuff their bikes can ride over and through. Rocks, ruts, roots, drops, stumps—modern mountain bike suspension and tire technology can handle it all! But you still need good technique to get through obstacles, or you could end up having to walk your bike or—worse—crash.

  • Keep your body loose as you approach the obstacle.
  • Decide how you will get through the obstacle: ride over it, pop your wheels over it, jump it, ride around it.
  • If you ride over the obstacle, stay evenly balanced on the pedals and keep your butt a few centimeters off your saddle. Allow the bike and your loose arms and legs to absorb the shock from riding over the obstacle. Make sure you have enough speed going over it that it doesn’t stop you and cause you to fall over.
  • Some trail sections (like root and rock gardens) will mean you need to just hold your bike steady, trust your suspension and tires, and hold on as you ride over the terrain. Be confident, keep your eyes up and focused on where you need to go, don’t panic: grip it and rip it!

Braking

Don’t grab your brakes super hard. They are very powerful, and pulling them (especially the front) will likely lead to a crash.

Use a very light touch when braking, especially as a beginner.

You will improve the more you ride. So get out there and don’t be afraid to push your comfort zone, but be safe and have fun!

Mountain Biking for Beginners: Training

Mountain biking is such a variable sport that it is difficult to train for. The demands of the terrain dictate how hard you need to push just to get through it. The same basic principles apply to mountain biking fitness as they do for other endurance sports. A big aerobic engine is vital. Here’s an example training week for a beginner mountain biker:

  • Monday: Stretching, recovery.
  • Tuesday: Hilly trail ride. The hills are your mountain bike HIIT training. Recover on the flats and downhills as much as you can.
  • Wednesday: Easy, short ride. Focus on pedaling technique or cornering drills.
  • Thursday: Medium-length trail ride on flat to rolling hills. Keep it conversational pace and enjoy the trails.
  • Friday: Recovery day. Stretching and foam rolling.
  • Saturday: Long trail ride. Conversational pace and enjoy the trails. Don’t let technique fail when you get tired.
  • Sunday: Medium-length trail ride on flat to rolling hills. Keep it conversational pace and enjoy the trails.

Check out these posts to build strength off the bike:

Mountain Biking for Beginners: Trail Etiquette

Trails have rules, just like driving on roads has rules. Rules exist to keep everyone safe and enjoying their time outdoors. Mountain bikers share trails with other users like hikers, runners, horses, and wild animals. Here’s how to be a model mountain biker and trail user:

  • Bikes yield to horses and pedestrians. 
  • Never approach a horse fast and close. Give them plenty of space in case they spook. Consider stopping your bike on the downhill side of the trail and letting horses pass. Beware of squeaky disk brakes that will terrify horses (and everyone else).
  • Control your speed and don’t frighten other trail users.
  • Yield to uphill traffic.
  • Pack out all of your waste.
  • Do not destroy vegetation, trails, or other natural surfaces.
  • Stay on marked, official trails as much as possible. Ride on durable surfaces so as not to ruin nature.
  • Do not feed animals or chase them.
  • Do not ride on private land unless you have permission.

Plus, don’t make these top 15 cycling mistakes!

Check out adidas Training and sign-up for a training plan to get your body trail ready! 

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