ABC’s of Mountain Biking

| November 16, 2012
By Adam Bilger (newsletter 11/16/12)


Part 1 – The Gear

I couldn’t help but notice in one of the recent newsletters Joella was discussing getting out on a mountain bike this winter. I can only assume if Joella is going out mountain biking that she’s going to convince other DCs to join her. For this reason I figured it was a good opportunity for me to share some of what I have learned about mountain biking over the years. Bottom line if you’re a newbie to mountain biking and want some tips or an idea of what to expect, read on.

Before we can get to some of my riding tips, let’ start with the bike. Obviously, or maybe it’s not so obvious, you can’t ride your road bike in the woods. What you can ride is just about any level of mountain bike that you can get your hands on. It would be nice if it has some knobby tires and a front shock, but they’re not required for your first attempts at trail riding. I’d venture to say that many of you ladies could probably even borrow your sons or daughters bike if they’re big enough (no offense to all my Shawty’s out thereJ). Just like a road bike, getting a mountain bike that’s the right size is important but not quite as complicated. Beyond that, just about any bike will do.

Once you have the bike it’s time to discuss bike set up. Just like on the road, I use clipless pedals and shoes on my mountain bike. No road shoes, you’ll slip and fall on the trails because of the smooth bottoms. Yes I’ve been known to come into spin class with mud caked on my spin shoes. However, I don’t recommend starting out with clipless pedals. It’s always best to start with a flat pedal and a pair of tennis shoes. From there you can graduate to a flat pedal with cages similar to what is on the spin bikes at the Y. The point being if, scratch that, when you get off balance, you want to be able to get your feet down quickly to catch yourself. The second aspect of bike set up is tire pressure. I know those of us that ride on the road understand that we have to check tire pressure before every ride. The same applies on the mountain bike, other than the fact that it’s actually desirable to ride with very low tire pressure on trails. A good starting point for your tire pressure is in the low 30’s. That allows your tire to absorb some of the bumps and it flattens out the contact patch between the tire and ground which gives you more traction. You’ll know if you’ve gone too low with your tire pressure when you start getting frequent pinch flats on your inner tubes.

Next let’s talk about what to wear and bring with you on your ride in the woods. Stick to shorts or tight fitting pants because you don’t want to have your front sprocket tear a hole in your pants and after all, a few scratches on your legs from the plant life are just battle scars. Shirt types don’t matter much, but a sweat wicking shirt is always better than cotton. Gloves are nice to have since you do tend to grip the bars tighter than your typical road bike, but again not a necessity. A helmet is an absolute must and an inexpensive pair of clear or lightly tinted safety glasses work nice to keep the bugs, mud and branches out of your eyes. I also wear a camelbak for hydration and to store things like my bike pump, spare tube, patch kit, multi tool, car keys, bandages (mostly for Jeremiah) and food. For you first timers, a work around here is to go with someone and ask them to carry your stuff in their bag or just don’t ride too far from your car. You can always work yourself back to the car for a drink or walk back to change a flat.

Now that you understand some mountain bike basics go dig that old bike out of the shed or garage and check out the tires, brakes and drive train. If all looks to be in proper order you’re ready for future articles on where to ride and riding basics. If you don’t have a bike you can use, start asking around and try to borrow something from a friend or neighbor so you can decide if mountain biking is for you.


Category: 2012, Team Blog

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