Mountain biking is a really technical sport, so it is better to go step by step. First, you will have to get used to your bike and learn different skills, and then you will be able to go on longer rides, including rides with more elevation change and technical descents.
No matter how comfortable you may feel biking on pavement, there’s always a learning curve making the transition to mountain biking. There are some mistakes that everyone makes in their career. Every cyclist makes them, but only the good ones learn to rectify them.
Here are four of the more common mistakes and simple solutions.
You must be comfortable with how your mountain bikes gears shift while riding on pavement before hitting the trail. You can do this by biking to the trailhead or just around your neighborhood. Being able to transition gears smoothly will help with your cadence while biking and reduce wear on your chain and drive train.
It’s never a good idea to shift in the middle of a hard-pedal stroke. This puts stress on you chain and drive train. What usually happens is this. You are speeding downhill and you have a really hard gear for times when you have to put in a few strokes to get the speed back up after braking around the corners or for flying over flats. Then you ride to a steep uphill and you use your speed to get as far up as you can. Then it is time to start pedaling. But your gear is completely wrong for going up. So you’re cranking hard on the pedals going into a steep uphill and at the same time shifting gears down towards the granny gear (granny gear is the easiest gear on your bike:). This is not a good way to do it.
You need to back off your pedal stroke for a second to allow for a smooth gear shift. You can even shift two gears during this split second if you’re headed into a steep uphill climb. The best way to shift gears is to anticipate what gear you will need for the next section of the trail. If you see a climb then shift down before you come to the climb. When the climb starts you will be ready.
In some cases, you will learn that it is not always best to shift gears. As you lose momentum towards the top of a climb, stand up on the pedals. This keeps you from losing too much momentum, and saves you from poor shifting on an uphill.
If you keep cranking on the pedals when you go to shift you can put enough force on your chain to damage it. Once your chain has been damaged, it won’t take much for it to brake. Best to practice smooth shifting to get the most out of your bike before putting more money into it.
This is one of the most common mountain biking mistakes. Why? Because it is a common thing to do when you get scared. To hold on tight. If you rock climb, you’ve probably experienced the same thing on the wall; getting scared and holding on extra tight inevitably pumping you out more. If you relax your grip you will have more control and response to the bike along the trail.
Having too tight of a grip on the bars will cause the rest of your body to tense up. When you are tense the bumps on the trail suddenly feel bigger, so you get even more scared, grip the bars even harder… It’s a vicious circle. By loosening your grip, your arms, shoulders and back will be able to relax as well. This relaxed upper body helps with shock absorption while riding on the trail. When you are relaxed suddenly the obstacles seem smaller as you absorb them better. Being relaxed on the bike will also help with reaction and control. If your hands are not over gripped and your arms are relaxed you can respond better to quick turns or obstacles that come up in the trail.
Excessive use of braking is a most common mountain biking mistake classic. Most of the beginners grip the brakes too hard. Grabbing too much brake when riding downhill can cause you to lose traction and skid out. You’ll also wear out your brakes faster if you’re always braking on the downhill. Fear of going fast and falling is strong when you start mtb, this is why this common mountain biking mistake that beginner make is so hard to overcome.
A good way to avoid over braking is to only hold the brakes with your index finger. Hydraulic disc brakes are responsive and only need the pull of one finger to control the bike. This will help you from braking too hard and skidding out.
One of the common mistake novice bikers make is to keep their butts planted on downhills and rolling terrain. The saddle transmits every jolt and vibration straight to your buttocks and spine.
The experienced mountain biker use wrists, elbows, shoulders, ankles, knees, and hips create a superbly flexible and efficient suspension system that will do wonders to float your torso and head above the action.
Use your mountain bike’s primary suspension system but the equipment only works if you use it right. Leave your rear on the saddle and you eliminate the suspension.
Instead, stand up. Keep your legs and arms bent and loose let them carry your weight. You can’t ride this way all the time, of course, but do it when the terrain has you bouncing around.
Your real stopping power resides in your front brake. In fact, a skidding rear tire doesn’t even slow you much, if it all.
While it looks spectacular with all its accompanying dust, it only tears up the trail and wears out the tire. The steeper the descent, the more you need your front brake. The rear one should be employed lightly, just to keep the back wheel from locking.
As an exercise, practice using just the front brake on descents. This can be risky, so start slow. Feather the front brake, using it with respect.
Clench too hard or stay too far forward and you might exit over the handlebar. As you gain confidence, gradually increase your dependence on the front brake. Then practice, practice, and practice some more.
It is a great fun, charging into a stream. Water flies everywhere, and you get soaked. But do not make any mistake it can also be dangerous to you as well if not handled properly.
It can take about three times as long to stop in the wet as on dry pavement, so take that into consideration. “Your tires have less traction in the wet, so an even lighter touch is called for when you do brake,” says an expert. Because it’s harder to slow down and stop, many people end up pulling the brakes too hard, too late. That can lock up your wheels and send you into a skid… and likely a crash.
Scrub speed by lightly feathering your brakes. If it’s very slick and you need to apply more pressure, err on the side of hitting your back brake to prevent the front from locking up. You may be able to save a rear wheel skid—or even put a foot down—but once the front locks up, you’re going down.
Carry your bike or ride slowly across streams, puddles, and sand. Otherwise, lubricate your bearings after every exposure, and oil your chain before, during, and after every ride.
Pulling on the handle bars to lift the front wheel is also one of the common mistake people do. When you a pull a bar to lift the front wheel to overcome an obstacle like rock or any other; and you get a wrong timing to drop it early then your weight will still be on the bar as you pulled the bar towards you. That will push your weight forward. The correct technique is to lift your front wheel using your weight behind; still if you drop early you will have fair chance to get over the obstacle easily as your weight is not on the front wheel.
This makes a really difference for jumps and drops as well. When you pull on the bar and jumps an obstacle and the bar tends to go little bit sideways right or the left, it is one of the major reasons when people hit jumps and they go side ways when they don’t want to.
If you are interested in riding dirt singletrack trails, you will have to get a real mountain bike! Road bikes, city bikes, and cruisers are not appropriate tools for riding MTB trails. Trying to ride off-road with an inappropriate bike might cause you to fall more often and get discouraged.
Size and fit are also major things to take into account. It is very important to feel comfortable, and a bad posture on the bike may cause various pains.
Mountain biking is a really technical sport, so it is better to go step by step. First, you will have to get used to your bike and learn different skills, and then you will be able to go on longer rides, including rides with more elevation change and technical descents. Personally, I have chosen to get into a club and to start riding with the slowest group (they take breaks regularly, take pictures, etc.) I know they have enough experience to give me good advice and I won’t feel pressured to ride outside of my comfort zone.
There are also many things you should not forget to bring with you. As already explained, MTB is physically demanding, so you will need snacks to avoid bonking. I usually take bars or dried fruit with me, but you can also take gels. Do not hesitate to eat regularly. It’s better to take a snack before getting truly hungry. Water is also really important. You can take it in a bottle but I prefer having my hydration pack with me. Another thing that you should really not forget is tools. Be sure to have them with you every time you are riding your bike. For example, if you are going on a long ride in the middle of nowhere you will be happy to have inner tubes in case of flat tires.