Mountain Biking Basics Part 2: Building Your Skills
Mountain biking can seem pretty intimidating to the uninitiated, but if you take your time and build your skills, you might just find yourself falling in love with this rapidly growing sport.
This article shares some helpful tips that I found valuable when I was learning to mountain bike, and should help you get on the fast track to exploring the many trails in and around Winter Park, Mountain Bike Capital USA.
- Rent a good bike.
Having the right type of mountain bike can drastically improve your confidence on the trail. Good bike rental stores will offer a range of mountain bikes and will help you choose the right bike, adjust the suspension to your body weight, and fit the bike for your height. Epic Mountain Sports in Winter Park, rents front and full suspensions bikes from $35 for a half day (and if you stay with Winter Park Lodging Company, you’ll get a 20% off promo code!).
- Start mellow.
If it has been a while since you last rode a bicycle, you’ll need to give your body a little time to remember how to balance and maneuver. Spend some time riding on a flat, easy trail to get a feel for the bike. Practice some starting and stopping, shift your gears up and down, and weave left and right to practice turning.
- Look ahead
It sounds obvious but many beginner mountain bikers will often look at the ground right in front of their front wheel, or worse yet, get fixated on the object that they are trying to avoid (like a tree or rock) instead of the path they want to take. Just like in skiing, our bodies will tend to follow our line of vision, so focus your eyes on the trail about 15-20 feet ahead of your front wheel to navigate a clean path through obstacles.
- Gear Down & Lean Forward On Uphills
When approaching an uphill climb, shift to a lower gear before you get to the hill so that your legs are spinning nicely when you start your ascent. Stay seated, lean forward and pedal, pedal, pedal up the hill – you’ll be amazed at what you can climb if you just keep pedaling.
- Shift Weight Back On Downhills
When riding downhill, you want to stand up off your seat and shift your weight backwards, so that you are slightly behind the saddle and less likely to get pitched forward on steep terrain. Keep control of your speed by feathering your breaks (break, release, break, release) and try to stay relaxed, keeping your wrists and elbows soft to help absorb any bumps. Many riders like to lower their saddle when riding a downhill trail.
- Break Before Corners
Mountain bike trails tend to be quite winding with lots of twists and turns. If you are going down a twisty trail, try to break before you enter the corner then gently release during the turn to check your speed and avoid skidding. As you gain confidence and balance, you’ll naturally start to lean into the turn with the bike which will help you flow through the turn.
- One Finger Only
If your breaks and handlebars are set up to allow you to do so, try using just your index fingers to apply the breaks. Using just one finger allows you to keep the rest of your mitts on the handlebars, giving you greater control and grip when riding uneven terrain or obstacles.
- Know Before You Go
Ask a local mountain bike shop for advice on which trails are suitable for beginner mountain bikers and get a trail map before you head out on the trail. Trails will often splinter into many other trails, so check your map at trail junctions if you are unsure. While smart phone Apps are definitely useful tools for planning your day, be aware that cell phone service can be often diminished in ‘the backwoods’, so always have a paper trail map as back up in your pack.
- Pack For Success
Wear a backpack with plenty of water, snacks and supplies with you so that you are prepared for every eventuality. Click here to see our article on what to bring with you on the trail.
- Have fun!
Take plenty of breaks to take in the views, celebrate your accomplishments and share the adventure with like-minded friends.
To learn more about the many other summer activities in Winter Park, CLICK HERE.