Mountain Biking is Good for Beginners: Benefits and Tips for Starting Out
Mountain biking is an activity that requires time and practice to master, just like any other sport. Despite being one of the most demanding and competitive cycling activities, mountain biking is an excellent choice for beginners and experienced cyclists alike. It offers the freedom of the outdoors and the challenge of mountainous terrains, whether you have been riding a road bike for years or are entirely new to cycling. Find out why mountain biking is good for beginners and discover tips for getting started in this exciting sport.
Mountain biking is good for beginners due to its outdoor adventure nature, unlike road cycling. Additionally, it allows beginners to develop valuable skills that can be transferred to other types of cycling. Cyclists form a community, providing essential support for every beginner cyclist. Lastly, mountain biking features some of the best bikes, gadgets, and accessories, making it a cool and exciting sport for all.
In this article, we will look at several reasons why mountain biking is good for beginners and also whether mountain biking is easy. Other topics we address fully include how to practice mountain biking, essential mountain biking tips, and mountain biking equipment. Finally, we present the health and other benefits of mountain biking.
Reasons Why Mountain Biking Is Good for Beginners
Mountain biking offers beginners a wide range of experiences that will positively affect their fitness and strength. These experiences can help beginners to master various cycling skills that would benefit them when taking part in other cycling activities.
Mountain biking is good for beginners because it provides a fun way to improve various cycling techniques, offers an exciting outdoor adventure unlike road cycling, teaches riders essential cycling skills, and fosters a supportive and enthusiastic community. Moreover, beginners get to experiment with a wide variety of bikes, gadgets, and accessories, making it a popular and exciting choice among cyclists.
Mountain biking is a low-impact form of exercise, which is easy on the joints and can help prevent injuries, it can also improve cardiovascular fitness, which is essential for maintaining a healthy heart and lungs. Mountain biking requires both strength and endurance and can help build both over time, and it also requires balance and coordination, which can also be improved over time with practice. Check out this video tutorial by The Global Mountain Bike Network on how to get into mountain biking.
Mountain biking can be a solo activity or a group activity, making it a great option for socializing. It can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels, from beginners to experts, and it can be done in a variety of environments, from urban areas to rural trails, making it a versatile activity, and it can be an affordable hobby, with many options for entry-level bikes like this one, at reasonable prices.
Mountain biking is good for beginners due to the following reasons:
Reason 1. Mountain Biking is Fun and exciting
Cycling is considered a low-impact, healthy and fun sport according to this article from BetterHealth. It is also relatively cheap. And because of this, just about anybody can begin cycling. Mountain biking is fun, and it isn’t hard to imagine why.
As a beginner, mountain biking offers you all that cycling has but in a fun way. You get the adrenaline rush of having to tackle trails, with different levels of difficulty. You get to go off the road where you are bound by traffic rules and ride to your heart’s content — on abandoned single tracks, double tracks, and mountain bike terrain parks.
Also, you get all the important health benefits of cycling while also enjoying great views and the serenity of abandoned landscapes, as you ride cross country as well as up and down mountainous paths. Only mountain biking can offer you this amount of fun while pushing your physical limits.
Reason 2. Mountain Biking Speeds Up the Learning Process for Beginners
Mountain biking is considered an extreme sport as explained in this research paper by Bicycles Create Change. So, it may seem like a leap for a beginner to dive in head first, however, the unique demands of mountain biking, in terms of the skills you’ll need to master over time, would automatically put you at an advantage over road cyclists.
So, if you are a beginner and enthusiastic about cycling, then starting with mountain biking is a great choice. A broad classification of the skills you would need to learn are mechanical skills and biomechanical skills. Some of these skills include balance, pedal stroke, front wheel lift, technical climbs, riding drops, steep descending, and bunny hops which are all explained in our guide on doing tricks on a mountain bike. Upon mastering these skills, there isn't any type of cycling, you couldn’t dominate.
Reason 3. Mountain Biking Creates A Supportive Community
Mountain biking is good for beginners because one thing all great sports have in common is their communities, and mountain biking introduces you to an amazing community that you can be a part of from the start. Integrating into any of the numerous communities in your region or location is quite easy. Being part of a mountain biking group will mean you are kept up to date with new events and will also be informed of any riding rules that apply to a particular trail.
Our article about whether you need mudguards on a mountain bike, explains what rider etiquette is and how to be more considerate of the other riders in your group.
From the bike store, where you would buy your first mountain bike like this, to several online communities, you easily get a sense of belonging. Within every location, cyclists often have favorite trails and spots that they frequent. You get to hang out with these enthusiastic people from the get-go as a beginner.
Beyond the local community, you will belong to, you also get the chance to interact with people from all walks of life as you begin visiting top-rated locations for mountain biking. These top locations are scattered around the world, such as Les Gets in France, Rotorua in New Zealand, and Stellenbosch in South Africa. You get to share great stories about travels and different cultures while doing what you love best.
Reason 4. Mountain Biking Offers Cool Gadgets and Accessories
Mountain biking requires you to have a wide range of gadgets and accessories. First, there are different types of mountain bikes, each uniquely designed and purpose-built to withstand the demands of different trails. According to this article by Evo.com, mountain bikes are classified into four categories: cross-country bikes like this, trail bikes like this, enduro bikes like this, and downhill bikes. One of the first hurdles you would have to cross is choosing a bike, and the process in itself is fascinating as you get to learn more about mountain biking and what it requires to push your skills in the sport. Be sure to check out our article on what mountain bike you should buy before you make your final choice.
Next, there is an abundance of accessories you will come to be familiar with as a mountain biker. These include clothing, apparel, and accessories like ponchos, goggles, and shorts as well as safety accessories like first aid kits, helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, and gloves. One of our articles presents a complete list of mountain bike armor names with tips and tricks for selecting them, so make sure to check it out.
Other accessories include various bike parts such as fenders, master links, and clip-on, navigation accessories like watches and GPS, and repair kits like patch kits, tool kits, and chain tools. Our article about the ultimate list of tools needed for mountain bike maintenance will definitely come in handy when choosing your tools, so be sure to take a look.
Reason 5. Mountain Biking Allows for thrilling Outdoor Adventures
For those who love the great outdoors, mountain biking offers an exhilarating way to explore and experience scenic landscapes from countrysides to forest paths and dangerous trails across mountains. With mountain biking, you can enjoy the ultimate outdoor adventure, navigating through rocky paths, steep hills, and beautiful trails.
Mountain biking is good for beginners because, beyond the sport itself, it allows you to travel around the world as you seek out new terrains to conquer. In the early days of the sport, cyclists were limited to just a few locations. However, the sport has evolved into a worldwide phenomenon. There are several top locations around the world as explained in this article from Red Bull, where cyclists converge. You can get to travel to these places, and experience life through different cultures.
Is Mountain Biking Easy?
We have established that mountain biking is demanding. There are six major types of cycling, which include: tandem cycling, BMX, cyclocross, mountain biking, track biking, and road biking. All of these are unique and require several degrees of skill from cyclists. However, mountain biking is probably the most demanding and there are good reasons for this. The physical demands that mountain biking makes on your body are exactly why it is such a good sport.
Mountain biking is not easy because it requires specialized equipment, a wide range of skills, and carries a higher risk of injury compared to other types of cycling. However, despite these challenges, mountain biking is undeniably one of the most thrilling and enjoyable forms of cycling, with a wide range of activities to explore. Many riding trails feature steep inclines and technical terrain, which demand a lot from the rider's body and offer an exciting and rewarding challenge.
Our article that explains how mountain biking is good for core strength explains the tremendous health benefits of mountain biking.
Mountain biking can vary in difficulty depending on the terrain and the rider's skill level. Some trails may be relatively easy, while others can be quite challenging. It is generally considered a sport that requires a certain level of physical fitness and technical ability. It's always recommended to start with easy trails and progress to more challenging ones as you gain experience and confidence.
Below are reasons why mountain biking is demanding:
Reason 1. Mountain Biking Requires Heavier Bikes
Mountain bikes are the heaviest type of bike. The average weight of a road bike is 17 lbs, while that of a mountain bike is 25 lbs. Lighter bikes are easier to control. They are efficient, and faster, and a relatively new cyclist will find them easier to use. This is not the case with the average mountain bike. Our comprehensive guide to mountain bike drop weight discusses how the weight of the components on a bike affects its handling and balance when riding.
If you are new to biking, starting with a mountain bike like this will demand much more in terms of stamina, and strength from you than an average road bike. However, if you have mastered a road bike like this, getting used to a mountain bike should be easier and faster.
Note that the heftier weight of a mountain bike is due to the extra gears it is fitted with to help cyclists pedal up steep trails. Another factor is the weight of the tires, which are needed for better traction on tricky trails. The weight of the mountain bike is functional, and based on this study from mtbphd.com, is pivotal for more efficient mountain biking.
Reason 2. Mountain Biking Requires a Wider Range of Skills
Mountain biking requires a much wider range of skills than road biking. These skills need to be mastered and they take time, dedication, and a passion for mountain biking. The most basic skill to master is staying on the trail, after which you will progress to learning proper positioning and how to brake, corner, and climb.
According to this riding technique guide from Guides.wiggles.co.uk there are several riding techniques that need to be learned, not to mention the skills that a rider needs to learn in order to use essential accessories and gadgets. Gadgets like these cyclo-computers require learning, and our article about the essential mountain bike accessories that can improve your comfort and enjoyment lists many more useful gadgets. There are various tools you must master, for your safety ranging from the multi-tool to inflator pumps among others. You should also have a degree of knowledge on how to administer first aid yourself.
The advantage of mastering these levels of skills is that you will be equipped to excel in all other types of cycling. Within the cycling community, mountain biking is considered one of the best ways for a cyclist to improve bike handling skills.
Reason 3. Mountain Bikers Can Be Risky and Lead to More Injuries
Mountain biking without a doubt puts you in more dangerous situations than most other types of cycling, and it is easy to see why. From riding on dirt paths, through mountains, cross country, and in forests, getting injured should be expected. Our guide on how to buy downhill mountain bike armor lists the important gear pieces and when to wear them so that you can limit your injuries.
This article from the University of Utah explains the nature of injuries ranging from minor bruises, cuts, broken wrists, and collar bones to life-threatening incidents. The best way to reduce the chances of being seriously injured is to stick to trails that present challenges within your ability and experience. Also, make sure you have a first aid kit like this with you at all times, as you never know when you might need one.
How To Practice Mountain Biking
So, you have bought a mountain bike, and you are ready to take on a mountain biking trail. However, you don't know where to start. In this section, we shall be looking at a few ways you can begin practicing.
To practice mountain biking, begin with easier trails and gradually progress to tougher ones. It's important to have the right type of mountain bike; a trail mountain bike is preferred due to its lightness and ease of riding. Riding with experienced riders can provide valuable guidance. Start with an easy trail to master the basics before moving on to more challenging rides.
Begin with trails that are relatively flat and easy to navigate. This will help you get used to the feel of your bike and build your confidence. Balance is crucial for mountain biking, so practice riding on one wheel or doing small jumps to improve your balance. Practice stopping quickly in different conditions, such as on loose gravel or steep inclines.
Mountain biking is good for beginners, and to make the most of it, it’s important to practice riding over small rocks, roots, and other obstacles you may encounter on the trail. As you become more comfortable on the bike, start going on longer rides to build up your endurance. Consider taking a class or lesson to learn proper technique and get personalized feedback on your riding. Always wear a helmet like this and protective gear like this and make sure to check your bike before every ride to ensure it's in good working condition. Our article about common mountain bike problems, causes, and solutions will help you fix minor issues on your bike so that it is safe to ride.
When you start practicing mountain biking, follow these steps:
Step 1. Begin with Easier Trails
As a beginner, your first step would be to look for a trail after you have gotten the right mountain bike. As it is with every sport, you want to start in easy mode. So, you need to look for an easy trail, one where you can begin to practice the basics of mountain riding. However, you would soon realize finding a trail isn’t as easy as it sounds. So, here are a few tips to find an easy trail.
Tip 1. Look For Trail Color Coding
Trail color coding is a system of marking the level of trail difficulties using colors. The main colors include green, blue, red, and black. Beginner trails are marked green. They feature flat terrains, and no corners, dropdowns, or other difficult obstacles. Blue trails are more technical, and red trails are even more challenging. Finally, black trails are meant for professional mountain bikers. Stick to the green trails in the beginning.
Tip 2. Use Apps
Depending on your location, some apps allow mountain bikers to leave their review and rate trails all around the world. These apps are a good place to start when in search of a trail. There are a lot of these apps with each one boasting more specific functions like maps and graphic representations of the trails. Some of these apps include Trailforks, MTB Project, and Singletracks.
Tip 3. Start With Parks in Your Vicinity
Most cities boast multiple parks. These are good places to start from, that is of course if it is legal for you to ride your mountain bike in them. However, there are also dedicated parks called bike parks. If you are lucky enough to find one, you can start from there.
Step 2. Use the Appropriate Mountain Bike
Choosing the right bike for mountain biking can be daunting, even for the experts. This is because there are so many types of mountain bikes. However, we suggest you start with a trail bike. They are lighter and easier to ride. They are also perfect for single tracks.
Another aspect to consider when choosing a bike is the type of suspension. There are two categories of bikes based on suspension. These include hand-tail and full-suspension bikes. Both are awesome, with their own uniqueness. However, we advise you to go for a hand-tail bike as they are easy, low maintenance, and weigh less, all of which are key attributes of a bike suitable for a beginner.
Step 3. Ride with Experienced Riders Who Can Offer Guidance
Mountain biking is good for beginners, and one of the best ways to improve your skills is to ride with people who are better than you as much as possible. You get to witness, firsthand, the skills required to manage obstacles and handle difficult trails. As stated earlier, the mountain biking community is open and accepting. Joining the one in your location opens you up to direct guidance from some of the experts.
Step 4. Master the Basics Until You Feel Confident
When it comes to practicing mountain biking as a beginner, as it is with every other sport, it is better to start with basic skills and master them before taking on more technical ones. These basic skills include safety, riding efficiently, and most importantly maintaining balance.
Another important skill to learn is “looking forward.” The ability to scan the trail ahead of you will come to be the foundation for properly developing other more technical skills. The most important thing as a beginner is to be able to cycle, with as few crashes and accidents as possible.
Step 5. Practice and Improve Your Skills on Familiar Trails
Always practice technical skills on familiar trails. A perfect example of this is cornering, when cycling down a mountain trail. Walk through the trail, and observe the bends. Record yourself going through familiar corners to study if you are executing them properly. The more you do this, the better you get and it could help improve your skills.
Beginner Mountain Biking Tips
Years of cycling will eventually make you a professional. However, you can shorten your learning experience by learning from professionals. In this section, we will be looking at a few professional tips that will come in handy.
Some tips for beginner mountain bikers include maintaining momentum through corners to ride faster, adjusting weight distribution when riding uphill or downhill, avoiding overuse of the brakes, utilizing all the gears of the mountain bike, regularly maintaining the bike, and ensuring that you always have at least the basic mountain bike accessories with you.
Here are some handy tips that beginner mountain bikers should follow:
Tip 1. Maintain Momentum Through Corners
Always maintain momentum while negotiating corners on a trail. Maintaining your momentum or even speeding up gives you the necessary balance and advantage to go through tight corners. Although instinctively, you might want to brake, this slows you down and is not an effective strategy. Speed is your asset.
Tip 2. Adjust Your Weight Distribution When Riding Uphill or Downhill
The position you take on your bike as you cycle determines where your weight is centered. Lean forward and your weight will be more on the front wheel. In this position you have maximum control over the front wheel, giving you the required balance you need to pedal up a mountain trail. When you lean back, your weight will move to the back wheel, and this gives you the required balance you need when you cycle down a trail. This position prevents you from going over the bars.
Our article about where to hold mountain bike grips to maintain a good posture discusses the best way to hold your handles and position yourself when riding.
Tip 3. Avoid Overusing Your Brakes
As a beginner, you would be tempted to hit your brakes at every obstacle, corner, or out of fear. Note that the brakes on a mountain bike are quite powerful and all they need is a simple nudge. Also, speed is required to execute some required skills like jumping.
Instead of depending on brakes as a reaction to dealing with technical trails, learn to read the trail ahead, and instead reduce your speed accordingly and maintain it. Abruptly hitting your brake would, more often than not, send you over the handlebars.
Tip 4. Use All the Gears of Your Mountain Biking
Master using your gears effectively. Some beginners often find themselves stuck to using just 1 or 2 gears. However, your mountain bike gear is designed so you can switch from low to high and vice-versa, depending on the difficulty of the trail. Therefore, learn to anticipate either an incline or decline on the trail and adjust your gears accordingly. Properly maintaining your mountain bike’s gears is also important so that the gear changes are smooth and effortless.
Tip 5. Regularly Maintain Your Bike
Keeping your bike in excellent condition is important. A mountain bike is a machine, with so many parts, each very important and with their respective function. A poorly lubed chain will gradually wear out and may snap as you engage a higher gear trying to pump your way up an inclination. We have some really great tips in our articles on how to lube a mountain bike chain and how to fix a mountain bike chain, so check them out and learn how to maintain your mountain bike chain.
A badly greased handlebar will not hold well within a post, thereby causing an unnecessary shift of the handlebar as you navigate. Mud stuck within the cassettes of your gear will cause it to cease, so check out our step-by-step guide on how to clean mountain bike gears. To prevent situations like all those and more, cultivate the habit of frequently maintaining your mountain bike.
Tip 6. Make Sure You Are Equipped with the Right Accessories
As a mountain biker, you do not have the freedom of a road biker to set out with just your water bottle and phone attached to your handlebar. Considering you will be going through mountains, forests, and other challenging paths, you can be stuck for days with no access to any amenities.
Hence always be equipped with the right tools to survive in the worst case scenarios. Some of the most important accessories you need will be discussed below, however, consider a couple of repair tools, snacks, a hydration park, first aid kits, a patch kit or a tube tire repair kit, and a cyclo-computer. Of course, do not forget your phone.
Mountain Biking Equipment for Beginners
Mountain biking requires a lot of accessories and equipment. Beyond just having a mountain bike, you would need a whole range of these accessories for efficiency, safety, and comfort. You might get by with the essential equipment for short rides, however, when it comes to long-distance races, you would need to pack a few more things.
For beginners, essential pieces of mountain biking equipment include a multitool for quick repairs on the trail, a spare inner tube in case of a puncture, master links to repair a broken chain, a water bottle to stay hydrated, tire sealant for tubeless tires that develop leaks, and an inflator to pump up deflated tires.
Here are some essential items that you may need:
A Multi-Tool for Quick Repairs on the Trail
A multi-tool as the name implies is a combination of repair tools that come all packed into a compact and mobile component. A perfect example is a Crankbrothers M19 Multi-Tool like this which is made up of Hex wrenches, four spoke wrenches, screwdrivers, and a universal chain tool.
The multi-tool is a must-have item whenever you set out on a ride. We have established that mountain biking is demanding on both the cyclist and the bike. In a case where your bike gets damaged, you need to be able to do a quick repair, tighten a bolt, or loosen a broken chain unit.
A Spare Inner Tube in Case of a Puncture
The chances that either of your mountain bike tires might get damaged are very likely. You will be navigating your mountain bike on paths covered with jagged-edged rocks, nails, or even broken glasses. And where the damage to the tire cannot be fixed with a patch, the inner tube would have to be changed for one like this.
Master Links to Repair a Broken Chain
The chains of your mountain bike are prone to damage. It could be damaged from blunt force to wear and tear from rubbing on other metallic parts of the bike. There is also corrosion from mud and rain. However, changing the broken link on a chain is tedious. But with a master link like this, you can easily join a broken chain, with or without tools.
A Water Bottle, Hydration Pack, or Water Filtration System for Staying Hydrated
Staying hydrated during a race is critical. Water is therefore essential both for short rides and laborious rides. For shorter rides, you want a water bottle, one you can attach to the posts of your bike. For longer trails or endurance cycling, a hydration pack like this is preferable.
Tire Sealant for Tubeless Tires that Develop Leaks
Tire sealant like this, as the name suggests, is used for sealing a tire. However, within the context of mountain biking, it is used for sealing tears both off and on track. More importantly, they are used for tubeless tires. You can also coat the inside of your tire before setting out on a trail.
An Inflator Pump for Inflating Tires that Have Gone Flat
The solution to a punctured bike tire is to patch it up. However, in the event of the tire getting flat, you will need to pump it with a pump or inflator. There are several types of inflators to choose from. A perfect example is a BV Mini Bike Pump like this which is portable and can fit into your backpack.
Summary of Other Useful Equipment for Beginner Mountain Bikers
|Needle Nose Pliers||Dykes Needle Nose Pliers Extra Long Needle Nose Plier||~$10|
|Chain Lube||Muc Off Dry Lube||~$10|
|MTB Cleaning Kit||Anndason 8 Pieces Precision Bicycle Cleaning Brush Tool Including Bike Chain Scrubber||~$20|
|Allen Wrench Set||Mulwark 17pcs Folding Allen Wrench Set | Metric & Standard Sae - Allen Key Set Tool||~$20|
Is Mountain Biking Good for Your Health?
Mountain biking is good for beginners because the physical and mental demand of the sport comes with a lot of benefits, one of which is better health. The health benefits are not just exclusive to Enduro, cross country, and downhill mountain biking, as even less demanding forms like trail riding and free rides, are excellent ways to keep fit and healthy.
Mountain biking is good for your health because it provides one of the best full-body workouts. It can improve coordination, reflexes, overall health, and sleep quality. Additionally, mountain biking has been associated with a decreased risk of certain diseases.
Our article about whether building muscle through mountain biking is possible takes an in-depth look at the upper body workout that mountain bikers get when riding on trails.
Here are some reasons why mountain biking is good for your health:
Mountain Biking Provides a Full-Body Workout
A mountain biker tackles different types of terrain in a single cycle, which ensures a full-body workout according to this article from ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal. Riding uphill works on the muscles of the legs while riding downhill works on the muscles of the hands, shoulders and back, and abdomen. In essence, as a mountain biker, you automatically engage all the parts of your body simultaneously as you ride.
Mountain Biking Improves Coordination and Reflexes
Mountain biking is as much a physical activity as it is a mental one. You have to anticipate corners, bumps, obstacles, etc, and make a quick judgment on how you would tackle them within seconds. You must focus on a trail, however narrow, and keep at it to avoid going off trail. You do all of these while pushing hard on your pedals, under a lot of physical stress. As a mountain biker, according to this article about the physiology of mountain biking from the Sports Medicine Journal, you would have developed improved coordination with a sharper instinct on how to handle situations.
Mountain Biking Enhances Heart Health
Recent studies show that cycling 20 miles a week can potentially reduce a person’s chances of heart disease by 50%. Mountain biking is demanding on the heart. As you cycle uphill, your heart works harder, while it rests during a descent. This report from the Journal of the American Heart Foundation shows that cycling is great for preventing clinical cardiovascular risk factors among middle‐aged men and women.
Mountain Biking Improves Sleep Quality
Cycling demands a lot from the body, leading to burning a lot of calories and using a lot of energy. In response, your body needs rest to rebuild muscles and to also remove toxins. You will naturally notice there is an improvement in your sleep. Mountain biking is therefore recommended if you struggle with insomnia, according to this article from the Sleep Foundation.
Mountain Biking Decreases the Risk of Certain Diseases
Regular moderate exercise is known to strengthen your immune system and keep you healthy. Researchers at the University of North Carolina found that people who cycle for 30 minutes, 5 days a week take half as many sick days off work compared to their sedentary counterparts. Another study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology reported that women who exercised regularly, including cycling to work, reduced their incidence of breast cancer.
These tremendously beneficial factors make mountain biking an ideal sport for those who want to explore while getting in a good cardio workout.