9 Things That Beginner Mountain Bikers Must Know

9 Things That Beginner Mountain Bikers Must Know

9 Things That Beginner Mountain Bikers Must Know

If you’re just starting out as a mountain biker, the thought of riding over rocks, roots, drops, and other trail obstacles may sound exciting and terrifying all at the same time. Even just the thought of spinning around local trails may feel overwhelming. Mountain biking is definitely a sport where you can choose your own adventure and sometimes those adventures are a little more than we bargained for.

But there are a few tips and tricks every one of us wishes someone had shared when we were just starting out as a beginner. These 9 Things That Beginner Mountain Bikers Must Know will give you a good foundation on how to start building your bike handling skills and help you feel more comfortable in the saddle.

There’s plenty to learn when you first start mountain biking, mountain biking is built on progression. and just like any sport. The more you ride, the better you get!

Pre-ride considerations

1.Choose A Suitable Trail

9 Things That Beginner Mountain Bikers Must Know

Before riding, you should first consider which trails you suitable to ride. The topography and obstacles of the trails advanced riders frequent can be overwhelming or even impossible for a new rider to handle. It is important to choose a trail that will be fun for beginners.Flow trails with gently rolling hills, smooth surfaces, and wide, sweeping curves are great for beginners to cut their teeth on.

When I first joined mountain biking, I failed miserably at this point. I went on a trail that was a little too rough and had a lot of climbing. The experience wasn't friendly.

beginner should also account for the physical conditioning of myself and the type of bike.
Develop a good riding plan. Know where you're going, what the trail will be like, how they should dress depending on the weather, and how long the ride will last. Make sure everything sounds good to them before you finalize your plans.

2.Get Your Bike Set Up Correctly

Making some basic fit adjustments on your bike before you head out for your first ride is important for your safety, comfort, and enjoyment! Many new mountain bikers don’t do this, but it can make a huge difference when it comes to comfort and confidence out on the trail.  Let’s be honest; if you’re not comfortable on your bike then you won’t have fun, and if you’re not having fun you probably won’t want to ride your bike very much.

First up, check your saddle height.

If you’re wondering why your lower back or knees hurt when pedaling or why it feels like you’re climbing Everest, it’s probably because your seat height is off, you’re not getting full leg extension. Too high and your lower back gets strained; too low and it’s a killer for the knees and makes pedaling so much harder.

A proper seat height means that your knee is slightly bent when the pedal is closest to the ground. This may mean that you can’t reach both feet to the ground when you’re sitting on the seat, but that’s normal.

Next, make sure you can easily reach your brake levers and shifters for safety and comfort while riding. On most bikes, you can adjust where your brakes and shifters are on the handlebar and dial in your levers, so you aren’t straining to reach them.


9 Things That Beginner Mountain Bikers Must Know

Even seasoned riders can get into the habit of grabbing their bike out of the garage and heading out on the road or trail without taking the time to make sure everything is working properly. Neglecting to perform a safety check could be a costly mistake. Whether you ride every day, or you’re taking your bike down from a shelf and dusting off the cobwebs, there are a few things you need to check before EVERY ride.

  • A is for air pressure. Make sure has enough, but not too much air in tires.
  • B is for brakes. Make sure both the front and rear brakes are functioning properly and have plenty of stopping power.
  • C is for chain. Breaking a chain on a ride will kill a beginner’s mood.
  • D is for drivetrain. Make sure the bike shifts properly both up and down.
  • E is for everything else.

Doing a quick safety check on your bike before every ride is essential. Over time, your tires will lose air, bolts can become loose, and your parts will eventually wear out and need to be replaced. The ABC safety check (or Air, Brakes, Chain) is a simple way to remember what you need to look out for.

Check all the nuts and bolts and look for any signs of frame damage. Make sure the quick releases on the wheels are tight.

When I was a newbie, I made the same mistake but did not realize there was an issue and had my front wheel come off while riding. The resulting crash hammered home the importance of pre-ride bike checks and I always do them now.

Keep your bike clean!

9 Things That Beginner Mountain Bikers Must Know

Cleaning your bike isn’t all about looks – it could actually save you money in the long run! Even if you’re only riding on the road in dry conditions, your drivetrain (consisting of your chain, gears, and derailleur) attracts dirt and grime. A dirty drivetrain will wear out more quickly than a clean, well-lubed drivetrain and it isn’t cheap to replace! It’s a good idea to degrease and re-lube your drivetrain every couple of weeks.

Tip: Always dry your bike thoroughly, whether you’ve just washed it, or you got caught in the rain. If your bike stays wet, it can cause rust which leads to noises, shifting problems, seized bolts, and other issues.If you have disc brakes, avoid contaminating the rotor or pads!


Both the front fork and rear shock on most mountain bikes work via air pressure (unless you have a coil shock) and the right amount of air pressure is determined by your weight. This is called sag. In order to set sag, you’ll need a shock pump to add air into your shocks. Some shocks will have a chart sticker on them for easy reference, but most do not. If yours doesn’t, you’ll need to set your sag by a bit of trial and error


Things to consider during the ride

3.Keep Your Body Loose And Springy

Easier said than done. But in reality, if you keep your body loose - especially your arms, shoulders and knees - your bike will become easier to maneuver and your ride will feel smoother on the downhills and over hill obstacles.

To get started, keep these two points in mind.

  • Keep your elbows and shoulders relaxed by lowering your chest onto the handlebars. This makes steering easier and keeps your center of gravity down.
  • Keep your knees flexible and wide so that your body can move independently of the bike. You've probably seen pictures of mountain bikers with their hips off the seat while turning. It's called body-bike separation.

Your hands and feet will always be attached to the handlebars and pedals, but your hips and knees should be independent of the bike movement. This will allow you to maneuver around corners, increase your speed, and hit bigger features with greater confidence.

9 Things That Beginner Mountain Bikers Must Know

4.Toes On The End Of The Pedals

Whether you're on the flat or in a pinch, the position of your feet on the pedals can have a big impact on your riding ability.
It may seem natural to balance on your toes, or to use the palm of your foot directly on the pedal shaft, but this can put unnecessary stress on your leg muscles.
Try moving your forefoot forward, placing your palm directly (but not quite) in front of the pedal shaft. This will help recruit the right muscles for a stronger and more stable position, especially when it comes to gravity riding.

5.Make Good Use Of Momentum

Many people who are new to mountain biking will rely on their brakes more than they need to. I understand that going faster than you're comfortable with can be scary, but the truth is that in mountain biking, momentum is your friend.

Speed will help you ease through tricky rocky sections, float confidently around corners, and even cruise through drops and jumps once you've built up your skills and confidence.

In fact, most beginner mountain bikers crash because they don't have enough speed. You've probably seen videos of riders flipping over their handlebars or tumbling sideways through rock gardens. This usually happens because of a loss of momentum and the rider's inability to maintain balance.

So, as you get into the more technical sections of the trail, keep working on easing off the brakes and you'll be surprised how much momentum can help you get through.

6.Shift Early And Shift Often

9 Things That Beginner Mountain Bikers Must Know

It always pains me when I see riders trying to get through climbs with too hard a gear, so one of the biggest mountain biking tips for beginners is to shift early and change gears more often.

If you see a climb, downshift before the grade starts. You don't want to shift gears during a climb because that can crush the drivetrain and maybe even cause the chain to come off, or worse, cause damage to the derailleur. If you shift before the climb begins, you'll have an easier, more enjoyable time pedaling to the top of the grade.

The same is true on downhills. Shift to a harder gear so your legs aren't spinning every minute when you reach the bottom of the hill.

Tip: Most shifter settings allow you to "punch down" into gear and downshift three gears at once. This is great for fast sprint climbs when you don't have time to downshift all at once.

When you're first starting out and speeds are slow, you may need to pedal through technical sections like rocky gardens or narrow rooty trails. This obviously increases the chance of a pedal strike, and whilst sometimes it can’t be avoided, you can mitigate the risk by choosing the right gear.
A lighter gear with a higher cadence may seem natural, but try changing down into a slightly harder gear than you’re used to before hitting the technical section. This does put some more strain on your muscles, but it will also lower your cadence and lessen the risk of a pedal strike.

7.Not Looking Far Enough Down The Trail

This seems like a no-brainer, however it’s easy for beginners to get into the habit of staring down at the trail just ahead of the front wheel. This can lead to problems (otherwise known as crashing), as you’re not able to anticipate the next obstacle on the trail quickly enough – basically everything becomes a surprise. Keep your eyes looking ahead and look to where you want your bike to go. If you’re in a big berm, look to the exit. If you’re hitting a small drop, look at the landing. If you’re in a straightaway, look straight ahead.

So next time you’re on a familiar piece of trail, think of a mantra that reminds you to look further ahead, meaning you’ll be able to anticipate the next feature earlier and adjust your line choice/speed accordingly.

It’s also important to keep mountain biking tip 3 in mind here - keep the body loose so that you’re not fighting against yourself. Stiff arms aren’t going to make it easy to turn the bike in the direction that you’re aiming for.

8.Sitting Too Much

If the terrain gets tricky, sitting in a comfortable saddle may seem like a safe option, but you'll be missing out on the best shock absorber on the planet, your legs.
Not only do your legs help you absorb all those lumps and bumps, they also allow you to separate your body from the bike. This makes it easier for you to lean and shift your weight, making you a faster and more confident mountain biker.
Look at any pro downhill or enduro race and you'll see a common theme: riders barely sit down, so this is a very noteworthy skill.

If you ride continuously for several hours, you may also feel discomfort in the seat and cause pain, You need a padded shorts. Padded shorts provide a cushion to evenly distribute the pressure exerted by your body on the saddle, reducing pain while riding.

Mountain Bike Shorts

9.Cycling With Experienced People

This may sound scarier than sending your first drop, but riding with people who are better than you will make you a better rider.

Don't worry about "slowing them down" or walking on technical trails. Most mountain riders just want to get out and ride with a fun group of people - including you! It's rewarding.

9 Things That Beginner Mountain Bikers Must Know

Riding with people who are better than you also gives you the opportunity to watch skilled riders and see how they move their bodies and bikes. You can learn a lot by watching.

And, please stop apologizing for being slow. No one cares.

Additional Tips

A prepared rider rarely has a problem! Everything you carry on a ride is designed to keep you safe and prepared for any situation you may encounter on the road or mountain.


What you bring depends on how long you plan to ride, where you'll be riding, and whether you're riding with other people. For example, if you're mountain biking in rugged conditions far from your nearest community, you should bring more supplies than someone who rides fast in town. However, it's better to bring more than less.

  • Water
  • Nutrition
  • Phone
  • Cash and Credit Card
  • Identification
  • Insurance Card
  • Bike Light
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Extra Layers of Clothing
  • Medications
  • First Aid
  • Wet Wipes
  • Etc.

Repair Kit

These items are a must when you go out for a ride. Even if you're just going out for a quick 5 mile ride, you don't want to have to push your bike home after a flat tire

  • Spare Tube (That fits your tire!)
  • Patch Kit
  • Tire Levers
  • Multi-Tool (Make sure you have a tool with all the wrenches you need to work on your specific bike. It is also nice to have functions like a chain breaker.)
  • CO2 Cartridges
  • CO2 Valve
  • Hand Pump
  • Tire Boot
  • Zip Ties and Duct Tape


  • Great article! Takes me back to when I was a noob.

    Dustin Wright on

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