An Introduction to Mountain Biking

Firstly you don’t need mountains where you live to enjoy a mountain bike. If you’re a bicycle enthusiast, but have only tried cycling on the road, then it’s high time you gave mountain biking a try.

By mountain biking, we’re talking about more than heading down an actual mountain or indeed a big hill, although most people do think high altitude cycling when they hear the phrase “Mountain biking.”

If you have never seen one (where have you been?) Mountain bikes are very lightweight bicycles with fat chunky tyres and front suspension so that it will ride over cross country and rough terrain.
Buying a Mountain Bike
A mountain bike or mountain bicycle is abbreviated to MTB, you might even see ATB which means ‘all-terrain bicycle’. (It stops the ‘we don’t live near mountains’ argument).

Anyway it is a bicycle specifically designed for off-road riding. They have to be sturdy, hence the chunky tyres and suspension in order that they withstand the rugged rough off-road use, behind mindful that of natural obstacles such as ditches, tree stumps and even rocks.

The wheels with rims are generally 559mm (ISO sizes), still commonly referred to as a “26-incher”. The chunky tyres or ‘knobby’ as some call them are designed for good traction on rough terrain and to absorb the constant shock. Front wheel suspension is now the norm, all post year 2000 will have front suspension and full front and rear suspension is become increasingly popular.

You might encounter certain mountain bikes that have been fitted with extended ends on the handlebars this addition is to provide extra leverage for hill-climbing.

As mountain bikes have evolved the options list has grown. Gears for example make light of climbing hills and up to 30 speeds are available. Disc brakes are certainly more popular than the old fashioned cantilever or indeed ‘V’ brakes.

Common styles of mountain bikes

mountain bikesCommon styles of mountain bikes include Cross Country, All Mountain and Dirt Jumping, however another expert would say there are; downhill riding, free riding, and cross country.

Which will suit you best, I would strongly suggest you try each style before you buy. Do not test drive a mountain bike down a residential street, get into the terrain and put it through its paces.

If you can’t thoroughly test drive a mountain bike, don’t buy it. Hire each style over different weekends.

If there is a mountain biking club in your area, drop in, you’ll certainly be made welcome. As your local bike shop for information about clubs, they might even be members. Club members might also get discounts.

Practice makes perfect

If there is one type of bike that will help anyone get in shape it is mountain biking.

Set yourself targets in terms of distance to ride each day. It is worth remembering that a ten minute ride up a steep hill is excellent if you don’t have the time to ride an hour or so every day. Free wheeling downhill doesn’t count!

Uphill cycling will increase your stamina and strengthen your leg muscles.

Two important things; one, check with your doctor to ensure you are fit enough. Two, start slowly with beginner trails and work on your skills for a while. Don’t jump on a bike to battle the toughest trail and throw yourself down it. It will hurt!

Mountain Bike Jumping

Staying safe on Mountain Bikes

All riders fall, those that deny falling just mean they haven’t fallen yet. Accept that it is going to happen to you. With this in mind, the most important piece of equipment you need to buy, after your bike, is a good quality helmet. Don’t buy a second hand helmet, no matter how shiny it looks – if you don’t know it’s history, your safety is at risk.

The next item on your list is a pair of goggles or safety eye protection. Then you need to buy elbow and knee pads as well as good shoes.
Always carry some money and your mobile phone and make sure you have identification on you at all times.

Enjoy your mountain bike!

29 inch Mountain Bike or 26 inch Mountain Bike: Determining the Right Mountain Bike For You

When you’re searching for a mountain bike, one of the more important factors for you to consider is wheel size. 29-inch wheels are built a bit bigger and makes more sense for men who are of above average height (6 feet or taller) while the 26-inch bikes are a better fit for shorter men while those in between generally fit well with either. While it might seem like common sense – the bigger bike for bigger person – size is just one of several considerations when determining which bike you want. I will list some of these considerations below. Understanding these advantages and disadvantages are of particular importance if you are an inexperienced shopper of mountain bikes or if you are getting it as a gift for someone.

29 inch Mountain Bike or 26 inch Mountain BikeI prefer the 29-inch mountain bike over the 26-inch one. But there really is no right or wrong answer, it all depends on the needs and preferences of each individual rider. A great example of a mountain bike that balances quality, features and cost is the Diamondback Bicycles 2014 Response Mountain Bike with 29-Inch Wheels. You can check out more 29-inch mountain bikes immediately below as well as several 26-inch bikes and for those who are undecided, a 27.5-inch wheel bike too.

Advantages of a 29-Inch Mountain Bike:

As a bigger bike, the 29 inch mountain bike take more effort to get to a cruising speed from a dead stop. However once in control, 29-inch bikes have an ability to move sturdily over a more rugged terrain or larger obstacles, providing for a smoother ride. Riders who are short but muscular or husky may prefer a 29-inch bike for this reason.

Advantages of a 26-Inch Mountain Bike:

26-inch bikes are smaller and lighter which makes them easier to carry around for transport and not so much effort needs to be exerted to accelerate to a cruising speed quickly. There are more choices for 26-inch bikes, although that gap is closing. The best advantage of the 26-inch bikes in my opinion is their smaller design allows for greater agility – you can turn a lot sharper with a 26-inch bike. So while it may have issues getting over some obstacles, it is much more capable of getting around those obstacles than a 29-inch bike.

For those who prefer the advantages of the 26-inch wheels, the Diamondback 2013 Sorrento Mountain Bike may be what you are looking for.

27.5-inch Mountain Bike

If you’re still not sure if you want a 26 inch mountain bike or 29 inch mountain bike, a 27.5-inch bike is a happy medium between the two wheel sizes.

Top 10 Mountain Biking Tips for Beginners

How to become a pro at mountain biking in 10 easy steps

If you have always admired the way the professionals ride over rock features, maneuver around tight obstacles and cope with drop offs that would make your head spin, then this is the lens for you! In ten simple steps you can follow, you will be able to build the skills to be able to take on any terrain, the only limit will be your own fear factor and the bike you own.

mountain biking tips
Mountain Biking Tips

This is a lens about the techniques mountain bikers use to navigate single track, downhill and all mountain terrain. Each tip deals with a different skill that will help you to become a better cyclist. It does not require you to go over the edge of cliffs or down neck breaking hills at break neck speed, these skills will be useful to know whatever level you are riding at, and any terrain that is off road will employ these skills to some extent. Ultimately this lens will allow you to improve your technique to the point where you will be able to ride harder, better, faster and stronger.

Mountain Biking Tip 1: Riding straight

The super simple start that will work wonders on your overall technique

Sounds simple right? Well, going in a straight line is simple, but how you handle the bike in order to be prepared for what’s coming next can make all the difference. Your ride position for straight travelling should be with your weight over the center of the bike applying all the force onto the cranks. Your ankles and knees should be loose and your heel should be low to maximize your potential for shock absorption. Your arms should be slightly bent and should be pushing your weight towards the back of the cockpit (the area between the handlebars and the saddle) in order to keep you upright over the saddle. You should, during easier sections of the trail, be looking as far forward as possible to plan your route and be prepared for what is coming up ahead (see tip 9), remember that on a bike going down hill your reaction time will be similar to when you are travelling in a car at moderate speeds.

If you have been through a particularly muddy or technical section of trail before the straight section of the ride, it is worth feathering the brakes (see tip 6) and checking other parts of the bike for damage whilst you have the breathing space.

Mountain Biking Tip 2: Cornering

How to maintain your speed and accuracy through a corner

There are two tricks with cornering; firstly, you need to keep your weight above the bike and vertical whilst tipping the bike into the angle of the curve. This does two things, it keeps traction throughout the maneuver and it allows you to spot the trail ahead. The way to do this is to push and control the bike through your upper body and the handlebars, and to drop your outside pedal down whilst pushing your knee into the frame of the bike. This will enable you to remain steady on the bike whilst in an upright position, but keeping the bike angled to cope with the turn.

The second thing to do with cornering is brake early. Feather the brakes going into the corner and then accelerate out of the turn. Remember, your bike has more traction and therefore more control when you are not braking, so use the brakes sparingly and trust the technique to pull you through.

Another really important thing to remember with cornering is that you want to take an outside line, this will allow you to lean the bike into the turn and gain more traction. If you come right in to the turn in the way you would if in a car you will not be able to lean into the turn; going into a turn completely vertical at any speed will result in the bike throwing you off on the outside edge of the corner!

Mountain Biking Tip 3: Riding downhill

Mountain Biking Tips for Beginners
Mountain Biking Tips for Beginners

How to tackle even the steepest hills without going over the handlebars

Going downhill on a bike is scary, you feel very high off the ground and also as if your weight is about to throw you over the handlebars. There is a simple solution to this; lower your center of gravity and push the weight as far back on the bike as possible. To do this you need to ensure that your saddle is relatively low (see tip 10). Stand up on the pedals and make sure they are parallel to each other, from this position you fully extend your arms and sit back behind the saddle, so that you are crouched over the back wheel with the saddle near your stomach and your arms pulling back on the handlebars. By doing this you will lower your center of gravity in line with the top of the wheels, and also center your weight directly over the back wheel, giving more stability and traction.

It is important to remember that turning will be affected by this position so practice going in and out of this position whilst on a gentle slope might be a good idea! You will need to go in and out of this position regularly on most trails so it’s worth practicing to get it right and feel comfortable in this position.

Dealing with Roots while Mountain Biking

Learn how to deal with roots at speed and also how to corner on roots without bailing!

For those of you who want to push the boundaries beyond the ten tips provided, here is some video instruction on terrain not included in the tips specifically. Have fun and stay safe!

Mountain Biking Tip 4: Drop offs with flat landings

How to get yourself off a plateau without climbing about with your bike

Drop offs with flat landings are something you encounter a lot of when riding. In fact the principle is not much different to when you rode off the curb as a kid. The idea is to approach with enough speed for the front wheel to clear the step whilst it remains parallel to the rear wheel (Note: it is much better to go faster to achieve this than to pull up the handlebars to maintain the height of the front wheel, doing the latter can unbalance you and the bike for the second part of the maneuver).

By keeping the wheels parallel in flight, you can then push the back wheel towards the floor in order to control the descent and ensure you land safely. This is the key to not bowling over the handlebars and bailing. The best way to push the rear wheel down is to apply pressure to the back of the bike through your legs, keeping your arms relaxed to tilt the bike. Once the rear wheel is on the floor the front of the bike will tilt automatically. The key is to keep your body over the center, or towards the rear of the bike and pivot the bike using your arms and legs. This will ensure that the weight distribution on landing does not throw the bike off and cause you to bail.

Mountain Biking Tip 5: Drop offs with angled landings

How to manage a drop off that has a downhill landing without doing somersaults!

The initial approach to a drop off such as this will be the same as in tip 4, the same objective of clearing the front wheel and the front cassette over the lip whilst the bike remains horizontal is still important. The difference comes in the landing; with the angled landing the aim is to position the bike so that the wheels are parallel to the ground you are landing on. Now, this is appreciably more scary to accomplish, however it is actually simpler to achieve. The key to this maneuver is to spot the landing early, carry enough speed into the drop off to clear it without jumping the bike about (the more you have to maneuver yourself and the bike during the take off, the harder it will be to control the bike in the air and land safely). Once the bike has cleared the drop off lean the front wheel into the ground using your arms as much as possible to stop your weight coming too far forward. Once the bike is parallel to the ground all you need to do is spot the landing and keep your composure. Remember, this is a skill that is far safer when performed at speed, it cannot be practiced properly at a slow pace so find a good spot with an easy downhill slop to start with and build up to the steeper scarier stuff!

Mountain Biking Tip 6: Braking

When, where and how to brake without sliding out of control!

There are many aspects to good braking on a trail, where to break on the approach to a corner, how to brake effectively, which brake to use. The most important thing to remember whenever you are breaking is this; you should always aim to feather the brakes, that is, use them lightly and often rather than seldomly and hard. This is because you have the most traction, and therefore the most control of the bike when you are NOT braking. This is the same principle as when a car slides on ice, you accelerate to gain control.
When it comes to corners, it is important to brake early rather than during the turn, this holds true for other hazards such as roots or rocks as well. The less you have to think about during a technical aspect of the trail, the better you will be able to handle it.

When you are breaking, it is common to use the back brake more than the front brake, in fact the front brake does about 70% of the work. It is important when using the front brake to assume a position on the bike similar to that used when riding downhill (see tip 3), with the weight far back on the bike over the rear wheel.

The last thing to remember is that if you brake and begin to slide, stop braking! This is the only way to regain control effectively, coast for a while with your pedals equal height from the floor and feather the brakes quickly to slow rapidly.

Roots, rocks and water crossings

How to navigate these tricky terrains in style

For those of you who want to push the boundaries beyond the ten tips provided, here is some video instruction on terrain not included in the tips specifically. Have fun and stay safe!

Mountain Biking Tip 7: Jumping

How to look amazing and still land to tell the story!

Have you ever watched the pros when they are jumping? If you have (if you haven’t there’s some DVD’s featured on this lens) you will notice that they look effortless in the air and seem to land with ease. There is no great secret to this skill, the thing to remember is that speed is your friend! The thing is, the jumps will do the work for you if you carry enough speed into the jump you will take off naturally.

Once you have lined up the jump and have the speed to carry you into it, on the approach bend your arms and legs, and as you reach the apex of the jump pull up the bike by extending your arms and legs out of the apex of the jump. Once you have taken off, you will need to bend your arms and legs to absorb the impact of the landing, spot your landing from the minute you take off. Whilst you are in the air the basic premise of the bike control is the same as tips 4&5 depending on whether the landing is flat or angled.

Once you have these basics down, it’s just a case of making it as stylish as you like. Remember, there will be more time in the air to control the bike and your style if you approach at speed and let the bike do the work rather than forcing it off the ground.

Mountain Biking Tip 8: Climbing

How to climb a hill on a bike without having to walk or having the wheels slide around.

The major thing to concentrate on with climbing on a bike is the traction. It is very common to want to lean into the hill and transfer your weight onto the front of the bike, whilst this will work on a road surface! On the uneven and often gravel or dirt tracks this will result in a complete lack of traction. A bike is after all entirely rear wheel drive. The reason people lean their weight forward is so that they can gain more power by standing on the pedals.

There are several ways of countering this, firstly, if you have to stand up to increase power, ensure you lean your weight backwards as if you were on a downhill section (see tip 3). However, a better solution than this is to pedal more effectively to reduce the need for added power. To do this you need to develop your backstroke when pedaling, what I mean by this is that when your foot is following the pedal back, rather than focusing on the down-stroke of the next pedal, focus on transferring power to the upstroke by pulling your foot backwards as if you are wiping the sole of your shoe on some grass. This will have the effect of increasing power to the down-stroke without needing to stand, and it also makes the pedal strokes smoother allowing a better pedal rhythm. Maintaining a good pedal rhythm uphill is the best way to reach the top without walking.

Mountain Biking Tip 9: Picking your line

Some major improvements can be made to a run by picking a good line down the route.

Picking a line is crucial to a good riding experience, it is also crucial to the safety of your ride, without picking a good line you can risk serious injury through hitting or falling off a feature you have not seen clearly. When going downhill through trees or on single track it is relatively easy to bail if you are not seeing clearly what is ahead of you on the track.

When you are riding designated paths and trails the main line choice will be determined by the style of riding you enjoy, and of course the optimum line into corners (see tip 2). However, when you are off trails that are maintained, or off the trail completely, there are other considerations. Check the map at the very least to ensure your route does not encounter any major obstacles, if possible walk or ride slowly on your route first to check it out. Never assume that the trail will be the same twice, weather or human action such as logging can alter trails drastically in a short space of time. Keep your speed sensible, the more off the grid you go, the more technical the riding is likely to be so stay alert to what’s around you.

Don’t take any unnecessary risks, it’s better to walk out than to be flown out by the air ambulance!

Importantly, if there are sections of the trail you are not sure about, walk them, or spot them and discuss a route before riding them. Send the most experienced rider down the route first and get some feedback from them before the rest go. And remember this, in any trail, there are always sections that can be designated NFW, even by professional mountain bikers (NFW in mountain bike circles stands for No Flipping Way) so don’t feel you have to ride every bit of the trail. If in doubt, try walking the section. Ultimately, your confidence and your riding will get better by slow improvement, not by taking a big bail doing something too advanced for you.

Mountain Biking Tip 10: Bike setup

How to set your bike up for optimum trail and downhill riding conditions!

In order to ride downhill and trails on a mountain bike, there are certain ways of setting your bike up that will help, this tip assumes that you have a hard tail bike with front fork suspension and good off road tyres. If this is not the case then you should think very carefully about attempting downhill trails (unless of course your bike is higher spec than has been suggested, but in this case you are likely a MTB junkie already and know most of this stuff!).

There are three critical parts of the bike setup that you need to consider, the first and simplest of these is the saddle, this should be low, much lower than it would normally be. This is because you need to be able to get your body behind the saddle over the rear wheel of the bike (see tip 3). However, if you have it too low and it is not adjustable then you will struggle to climb (see tip 8), so unless you have a saddle you can easily adjust go for a medium height that will suffice for both activities.

Second is the front fork suspension. On most modern bikes this will be adjustable and will usually have a lockout feature as well. The important thing to focus on is not the preload but the recoil speed, there will be a small screw on the bottom of the fork by the wheel hub, this will (on most bikes, if yours does not have this feature or you can’t find it consult the manufacturer for more specific advice) adjust the recoil speed, which you want relatively slow. You do not want the recoil to be fully extending the suspension on all small bumps, however, you don’t want it so slow that it does not take effect on successive bumps either. A good way to test this is to set it up as you think it should be and then apply the brakes and push down; you should feel some resistance but not too much and the forks should not spring up quickly when you let go, they should rise smoothly with an even speed.

Lastly, it is important to have the wheels pumped up to the right PSI (pounds per square inch), for road riding this can be quite high, but for mountain biking you want this to be a bit lower, this reduces the chances of punctures on rough terrain, but too low and you risk splitting the Tyre wall on impacts. The exact PSI will depend on the terrain and the weight of the rider, but a good ballpark figure is between 25-35 PSI.

Track Stand

A must learn for more technical riding, this skill will unlock many other skills at an advanced level!

For those of you who want to push the boundaries beyond the ten tips provided, here is some video instruction on terrain not included in the tips specifically. Have fun and stay safe!

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