Mountain Biking is a great and exciting sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages who want to learn. The only prerequisite is the ability to ride a bike. Mountain biking does present some danger of injury, so remember always wear the proper safety equipment especially a helmet. Mountain biking as well as other biking should never be done without a ‘brain bucket’. Mastering the following skills will go a long way towards making your first trail rides safe and exciting.
You can practice these skills anywhere, grass or dirt are preferable to pavement incase of falls. Your backyard or a park are perfect.
Proper positioning on your bike is very important. Arms should be slightly bent at the elbows and relaxed. Gripping of the handlebars should be firm but relaxed. Seat height should be adjusted so your leg is about 80% extended at bottom of each peddle stroke, this is approximate and as you gain experience you will find you will make minor adjustments to this depending on terrain. Remember to always try to keep your body relaxed.
Gear shifting is an important part of mountain biking and will take some time to really get good at. The higher numbered gears are the smaller cogs and are the harder to peddle are for going faster on level or downhill. The lower numbered gears are the bigger cogs and are easier to peddle and are for ascending or climbing hills. Remember shifting for climbing is best done before you reach the hill not after you start up.
Body position while riding is an important part of mountain biking. Unlike road biking you should spend more time off the seat and standing on the pedals to allow the bike to traverse the terrain under you. If you are seated as you hit obstacles like rocks you will be bumped off the seat and lose some control of the bike. Imagine your body traveling in a straight smooth line and the bike moving up and down below you over the uneven terrain as your knees and elbows bend and flex to compensate. You can practice this coasting over small obstacles you find or setup.
Pedaling while standing is another skill to practice for gaining maximum power. Practice pedaling in higher gears on level ground and also in lower gears while going up hill.
Dropping down off a curb or other small sharp edged drop is another skill to get comfortable with. Find a curb to start that is about 6 inches high that you can ride off from high side to low side. Practice this by standing and coasting right off the curb, first at moderate speeds. Then try slower and faster speeds. Remember to stand on the pedals, knees and elbows bent and stay relaxed. Practice this until you are comfortable and it becomes second nature.
Practicing these techniques and just getting more comfortable with your mountain bike will make your first trail ride much more enjoyable. So just get out there and ride and before you know it will all be second nature.