So, you’re bored with the road. Biking on the road, that is.
Cycling, fixed gear, touring, city commutes, they’re all getting old, and it’s time to get a little wild. Mountain biking is a fantastic way to rediscover a familiar sport because it’s a completely different animal. The bike, the equipment, the gear, and the technique – t’s all wildly different from what you’re used to on the road. But don’t be overwhelmed because once you have some basic knowledge, learning the sport is like, well, riding a bike.
So whether you’re upgrading from road cycling or getting into biking for the very first time, here’s what you need to know before you enter the wilderness of mountain biking.
Road cycling starts at your front door, but mountain biking requires a little more effort to reach the trailhead. Some mountain-biking hotspots can be reached by paved roads, are marked, and have ample parking, but some of the best places are more remote. You don’t need some crazy off-road vehicle to reach these coveted spots, but keeping up with some of your car’s more important components couldn’t hurt, either. You’ll want a good set of all-terrain tires to prepare for the drive, like the Nitto Terra Grappler G2 basic recovery gear like a tow strap in case you get stuck on a dirt road, and basic supplies like extra food, water, and a first aid kit, for long treks away from civilization.
Choosing your bike
Merry Christmas, it’s time for your new toy. But how will you choose? There are a few styles of mountain bikes built for different purposes.
- Trail bikes: Most common and most versatile style, great for multiple types of riding.
- Cross-country bikes: Designed for high speeds, uphill climbs, and long-distance travel.
- Fat bikes: Big, thick tires that can tackle mud, sand, and snow.
- All-mountain bikes: For gnarlier, more advanced terrain. Not a great choice for beginning riders.
- Downhill/park bikes: The kind of bikes you see on the X-Games. Lots of high speed downhill action. Great for beginners, as long as you know your limits.
Know your suspension
Suspension isn’t a concern for your road bike, but it’s crucial for mountain bikes. Depending on the type of riding you want to do, your bike needs anything from rigid to full suspension:
- Rigid suspension: Less common but a good way to save money as rigid bikes are usually cheaper. This is also a choice for fat bikes as the tires absorb most of the shock.
- Hardtail suspension: These bikes have suspension via the fork in the front of the bike, but not in the back. This is common for cross-country bikes, as the lack of suspension helps maintain speed and gain torque during uphill climbs.
- Full suspension: This is the best choice for rugged terrain and aggressive downhill riding. Riders climbing in elevation will lose some power, but this is the best overall choice for those rougher trails.
Get the right gear
Your road bike helmet won’t cut it for the trail. Mountain biking requires a different set of gear, as falls are more common in the dirt than they are on the asphalt.
- Helmets: Cycling helmets are sleek and aerodynamic while mountain biking helmets cover more of the head and protect you from different angles.
- Gloves: Padded gloves offer comfort on the handlebars and protect the hands in case of a fall.
- Pads and armor: Not necessary for cross-country and casual riders, but extreme and downhill riders wear extra padding to protect their knees, elbows, and vital body parts.
That’s all it takes to get started! Get out there and enjoy your first mountain biking adventure.