The Chainlink

Going mountain biking for the first time. Any suggestions?

Taking a trip to Michigan the first weekend in August. We are going mountain biking on the Boyne Mountain Trails, and I have never been. I'm both terrified and excited at the same time. Any suggestions?

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The front brake is the only tool you have to control speed on steep downhills. There is no weight on the back wheel, applying rear brake locks the back wheel and starts it skidding, bouncing, hopping. If you can't use the front brake you are limited to very short downhills at moderate grades. Downhills that come to an end before you fall. On downhills of any length if you can't use front brake you are 100% guaranteed to fall. Either learn how to use the brakes or stay off the steep trails entirely. The Ski Rescue Team does not need the practice.

Mountain biking involves a lot of falling and it's surprising how little it hurts and how much you can get away with. Falls at speed downhill are not part of that learning curve. Falls at speed downhill will cause significant injuries.

If you know where your center of gravity is and you are clear on the concept you can apply front brake hard on any ski trail. Locking the back wheel is part of steering the bike. You can learn the basics in a day or two. If you are not clear on the concept and do not have good balance on the bike better to play it safe. You can enjoy the hills and the forest without heroics.



BruceBikes said:

Don't even think about breathing on your front brakes on steep/fast downhills.  Keep your butt low and back.

Shift into a low gear before hitting a steep uphill.  Try to keep your butt in the saddle to avoid unloading/spinning the rear tire.  Lean forward toward handlebars.

Have fun!

Look ahead--eyes up!  You'll be tempted to navigate the terrain in front of your tire but you need to trust your peripheral vision and identify what's coming up.

Tire pressures should be around 30 psi.  Yes, 30.  That'll give you grip and plenty of cush to smooth out trail chatter.

Stand up on fast descents (pedals levels, as mentioned above).  It's not just fun but you'll be using your legs and arms to absorb bumps as opposed to bouncing off your seat.

Stay in the middle chainring if you have a triple and just work the back gears.  If your bike has a double, then you don't need my advice.  ;)

Try to 1-finger brake.  You'll have better control if you can keep 3 fingers on the grips and only use your index finger for braking.  Levers should be angled downward 45 degrees.

If you're sharing a tight trail with oncoming traffic, call it out.  The lead rider should yell "Riders Up!" when he sees approaching riders.  And when you meet, let the oncoming group know how many are in your group, e.g "3 riders!"  Many MTBers like to hustle on the trails so you need to let them know when to slow down.

Orange or amber, non-polarized sunglasses are best for trail rides.  Amber raises the contrast and non polarized lenses allow you to pick up slippery/wet surfaces instead of eliminating glare. 

Eye protection regardless of color is recommended since you may catch debris when following on loose trails.  Need a cheap pair?  Check lawn & garden at the hardware store.

 

Have fun and remember to always look ahead--eyes up! 

 

Don't stress it & enjoy your surroundings.

Not, if you're me, it's not :) I've been mountain biking for almost 25 years (though I do it very little these days) and I can still probably count my falls on two hands. In this case, it is in part because I am sort of a wuss, but it bears on a larger point, which is that mountain biking does not have to be about bombing downhills at maximum speed or high-risk-of-crashing riding generally. You can do that, for sure, but you can enjoy yourself as well taking it easy. If you're not naturally a daredevil type, there's no need to blow past your limits just because you see other people riding a certain way; at the same time, expect to fall eventually. But as JCW says, it's usually no biggie.

John C. Wilson said:

Mountain biking involves a lot of falling and it's surprising how little it hurts and how much you can get away with. Falls at speed downhill are not part of that learning curve. Falls at speed downhill will cause significant injuries.

I think that I will definitely ride more cautiously. I'm looking forward to the challenge. I'm sure that it will be like nothing I've ever done before. I hope that I get so into it that I just relax and have fun!

Don't forget to bring your bike.

Just got back from vacation, and I have to say that I LOVED mountain biking!!! I shocked myself. I have to admit I was more than skeptical. I followed all of your tips, and was surprised at how instinctual it all was. I followed closely enough behind my bf to watch and mimic his moves. I had such a blast and think I have caught the mountain biking bug!! One thing I will say is that I was really taken back by just how much more exhausting it is than road biking. Every muscle in my legs worked to its full potential. I can't wait to go again!! Thanks again for the tips!

Isn't it fun!  I always feel like a buoy on those mtn bikes.  Keep thinking I'll fall off the bike, but the thick tires, geometry and shocks make such a difference.  And usually it's SO beautiful.

That being said, I did fall once in Colorado and have a scare to prove it.  

I didn't fall, but since it was my first time I was being very cautious. I do think that the bikes make it "difficult" (for lack if a better word) to fall. I was amazed by just how comfortable I was. It was also almost 10 degrees cooler in the woods while we were riding too. I just read about your red light ticket, Julie. Total bummer. :-/

Any good pics to share?  I have one somewhere that my brother took of me in CO (before the fall :)) This was 2009 or so.

Amanda said:

I didn't fall, but since it was my first time I was being very cautious. I do think that the bikes make it "difficult" (for lack if a better word) to fall. I was amazed by just how comfortable I was. It was also almost 10 degrees cooler in the woods while we were riding too. I just read about your red light ticket, Julie. Total bummer. :-/

Glad you had fun.  Were you riding a full suspension mtb? (shocks front and rear)  Yes, pics please.  :)

I'm glad you had fun!

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