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Mountain Biking Tips for Beginners

Mountain biking generally has a lot of health benefits. It builds and strengthens the muscles, increases cardiovascular fitness, strengthens the immune system, and decreases stress, among other things. Before you hit the trail, there are a few things that you need to know.

BIKE FIT

First, and most importantly, is that the bike size needs to be a proper fit for your body! A proper bike fit means you have a position on the bike that lets you ride as long as you want, as hard as you want, and stay comfortable the whole time. A good fit can also help prevent injuries that result from an improper position. The factors to consider are the size of the bike, the seat height and the reach to the handlebars. The best way, of course, is to go to a reputable bike shop and get professional advice on the best bike for you!

HOW TO BRAKE
Now that you have a bike that fits you perfectly, it’s time to learn about the functions of the bike. The first thing to know is how to stop! It’s very simple actually. Squeeze the brake levers and the bike slows down, however, you should not squeeze only the front brakes as that will send you flying over the handlebars! The best practice will be to lightly apply the brakes and do so evenly on both front and back brakes. Try to avoid sudden, fast squeezes to prevent skidding.
HOW TO SHIFT GEARS
Second thing to learn is proper gear shifting. The mantra to follow is, ‘shift often and shift early’. Mountain biking will have a lot of ups and downs so it is good to know how to shift gears properly to enable you to power yourself more efficiently up and down the hills. As you gain experience, it would become second nature to shift up or down as needed to help you plough through the terrain.
Shifting early means to not wait until you reach the hill to shift gears. If you shift gears while on the climb, it would put a load on the gears and could cause the chain to pop off. Always shift to the gear you need before you hit the climb. This will allow you to maintain a steady rhythm for maximum power.
BODY POSITION
Once you are familiar and comfortable with braking and shifting the gears, the next thing to learn is body positioning. In a mountain bike trail, there will be rocks, roots, and generally an uneven surface all the way. This is the thrill of mountain biking, but it can be quite unnerving for beginners. The right body position will help you through the tricky terrain.
There are two main positions: neutral and ready.
Neutral position
This position is for the non-technical parts of the trail. It allows you to roll along comfortably and is an easy transition to the ready position when the trail gets trickier. The neutral position looks like you are standing slightly off the bike and it includes:
  • Lifting your bum off the seat
  • Keeping the pedals in the 3 and 9 o clock position and making sure it is evenly weighted
  • A slight bend to the knees and elbows
  • 1 or 2 fingers on the brakes at all times for a quick response if needed
  • Eyes looking forward. The rule is to look where you want to go, not where you don’t
Ready position
When the trail gets trickier you need to get into the ready position which includes:
  • Keeping the pedals in the 3 and 9 o’clock position and making sure it is evenly weighted
  • A deep bend to the knees and elbows, almost a 90 degree angle
  • Rear end off the seat and hips shifted back
  • Upper body bending forwards, keeping the back straight and almost parallel to the ground
  • 1 or 2 fingers on the brakes at all times for a quick response if needed
  • Eyes looking forward. The rule is to look where you want to go, not where you don’t
FALLING OFF
In the event that you fall off your bike your instinct may be to reach out to brace for the impact, however, this can result in a broken wrist or collarbone. It’s better to try to keep your arms in and let nature run its course. Most of the time the thing that will hurt the most is your pride.
Once you have come to a stop, check to make sure you are not seriously injured. After you have checked yourself from head to toe, paying extra attention to your joints, neck, and head, take a break to compose yourself before continuing. Also do check your bike first! The seat or handlebar may have gotten twisted and the chain may have come off. You should also check that the brakes and gears are functioning properly before continuing the trail.
And that’s it! Do note that this is just the basic knowledge to start off mountain biking. Just because you know these, it doesn’t mean you are ready to tackle every trail out there. Different trails have different levels of difficulty and you need to make sure that you don’t attempt something that is beyond your capabilities. Start small, and progressively build up your skills, endurance, and confidence on the trail.

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