Your Top 8 Mountain Biking Questions Answered
Let us answer some of your mountain biking (MTB) questions before you hit the trails.
1. Do I need a mountain bike?
You want to get out and explore your local MTB trails and not sure if you need to spend hundreds of dollars on a new mountain bike.
You probably shouldn’t ride dirt trails with a regular 10-speed, though anyone that had one as a kid most likely did once or twice. Maybe you still have an old mountain bike in their garage from when they were younger. Of course, you can ride that bike. That’s the beauty of mountain biking; it’s a low barrier to entry sport. After, you have gone on a few rides and start to get the hang of things head down to your local bike shop (LBS) and have them help you pick out and upgrade. Or see if your LBS rents bikes and try a few out to get a feel for the type of ride that will work best for you.
2. Do I need to wear lycra?
Street bicyclists riding in groups early in the morning is a common sight in the suburbs and cities across America. While the peak of mountain biking was in the ’90s, it’s still a trending activity. However, in most cities, the public doesn’t see mountain bikers because the activity typically takes place off the beaten path. Because of this, the image of bicycling in most peoples minds is that of the street rider. As soon as you start to discuss bicycling, of any type, with the general public, the question about wearing lycra will always come up.
The majority of mountain bikers don’t wear lycra. Instead, you find them wearing an activewear shirt and shorts/pants. It’s also totally normal to see people wearing their favorite brewery shirt while on the trails. Because of the nature of the sport, you do see some cautious people wearing protective gear like knee pads, padded shorts, gloves, and always a helmet.
3. Do I need clip-in shoes?
If you are familiar with cyclists whizzing past you on your favorite local paved pathway, you will notice they are wearing clip-in shoes. If you want to go for a fun ride on your local MTB trail, you may start to ask yourself if you also need special shoes.
The short answer is no. You can ride with regular shoes using your bicycles existing pedals. Later after you find out how much you love mountain biking and want to get even more power out of every pedal, then you can upgrade to mountain bike clip-in shoes. MTB shoes are more fashionable and easier to hop off your bike and walk into your local brewery after an exhilarating mountain bike ride than the typical street cyclists clip-ins are.
4. Do I need to train?
You might be stuck at home and came across articles or videos of mountain bikers sharing their shelter-in-place training routines, and as it starts to get nicer out, you have the itch to hit the trails on your mountain bike. However, you are not sure if you need to train for this new sport.
With anything, if you want to get better, training will help. Also, there are certain tips, tricks, moves, etc. that, if practiced, you will get better at riding.
5. Will I fall a lot?
No one wants to fall, and this is a new activity for you, so it should be expected that you won’t be perfect. What you ou might really be wondering is what is the potential risk for serious injury.
Everyone falls. But just because your ride doesn’t mean you are going to end up sprawled out on the trail. Going back to the training question, you can practice how to position your body on the bike while going up or down hills can increase your coordination and reduce falling. Also, wearing the proper safety equipment can help to protect you when you do fall. Helmets, glasses, gloves, padded shorts, knee, and elbow pads are typical safety equipment seen on the singletrack. Throw on some old rollerblade knee pads the first few times you ride till you figure out what gear makes sense for you.
6. Is there trail etiquette?
You don’t want to go on your first ride and stand out; we get it. You also want to make sure you are riding safely
A local group manages most mountain biking trails, and they usually post signs that tell you which way to go. That is a big part of biking etiquette. Often they will also have a map denoting the difficulty of the trail or sections of the track. You should ride within your level of experience. If you are new to the sport, you sho
uld start with the easier paths till you have your footing and then go up from there. Getting off the trail when not riding would be another rule for any considerate rider. Some singletracks are multi-use, so don’t be surprised if you see a hiker coming the other way. Always pay attention to your surroundings. Another tip is to ask your LBS about specific trails and local etiquette.
7. How do I find MTB trails to ride?
Now you are excited to ride. You have done the research. You have your gear in the car and your bike on the rack. But you are not sure where to go ride.
Check your local MTB group’s website or ask your LBS to help point you to the local singletrack.
8. Do I wash my bike after I ride?
You just went on your first ride, and you’re hooked on mountain biking. There is dirt splattered all over your back, and you didn’t fall once. You are not sure if you should clean up after or toss your bike in the garage and call it a day.
Like any outdoor sport, you should try to clean up as much as you can before getting into your car. It keeps dirt and debris out of your vehicle but also reduces the instances where you are accidentally transporting insects or plant seeds to new locations. Also, cleaning and reviewing your gear to make sure it’s in good working order before and after any activity where you are trusting it won’t fail on you is a no-brainer.
We are all navigating the wild in our own ways. Hopefully this quick list of common questions helps you feel more confident next time you want to enjoy some flow in the woods.