Mountain biking 101: the basics

How to start mountain biking?

If you follow me on Instagram you probably already know I got seriously hooked on mountain biking. It all started, as most of my stories, with my boyfriend, who used to bike very often when he was younger. I was not overly keen on trying, as you might imagine, as I come from an area so flat highest hill I had to ride my bike onto was probably the driveway to my garage. Also, it seemed exhausting and I’m not in the best of shapes. Riding up a hill, descending on a steep slope – well, that was not for me. Plus, I didn’t even have a bike. Nevertheless, a while ago, my boyfriend finally convinced me to go to Bieszczady Mountains for a biking trip.聽 If you follow my blog you probably already know how much I love this place, you can read about my adventures there here and here.

A picture of a bike on a grassland in the mountains.

I started my journey with a basic question; what do I need to start? I ended up missing a rather important piece of a puzzle; a bike. Choosing a perfect mountain bike is not easy, actually it’s so complex I left it altogether to my boyfriend, who did an amazing job of researching most optimal bike for me. You can check out my bike here.

Choosing a perfect mountain bike is not easy

My boyfriend is a very detail-oriented and thorough person. He started by a step-by-step interview with me of what exactly I wanted from my new bike.

Mountain bike types

Before we purchase a bike we have to answer a very important question where and how we want to use it. With current technological and cultural development of mountain biking we encounter numerous opition to pick from; recreation biking, stunt cross-country riding for faster riders, stunt-jumping riding and even downhill. For me, the decision was rather easy and without question I chose a bike dedicated for calm, recreational riding.

Price

Like with everything price is one of the main factors in picking a bike. Price span of mountain bikes vary from couple of hundered to thousands of Euro. If you want reliable bike that won’t break on the first trip my advice would be not to go for the cheapest option. For my budget (if you’re interested I can show you just how I gather all that cash in less than 3 months) I decided to spend 450 Euro.

The frame

One of the most important factors while picking a bike is definitely size of the frame. It is probably the only part of the bike you will not change in time, so it has to be perfectly adjusted to our size and weight. For recreational mountain biking frame is designed in a way, that enables calmer, more comfortable ride. Taking into account information written on the producers page I have chosen size M (I’m 168 cm), or 17” (producers sometimes use different sizing system).

A bad day on a mountain bike always beats a good day in the office

For a budget that I had choice of gears was not tremendous. It is always a good tip to purchase Shimano gears from the classified group, for example Tourney model. Another, for me probably the most important factor was how the bike looked. I loved it’s slim line (and no, Kross didn’t sponsor this post ;), colours and how dangerous it looks.

Where to purchase?

You can buy your bike at a stationary shop or online. For me it was important to purchase mine at a local Kross dealership. It was extremely convenient for me as the seller callibrated my bike before I went for my first trail. If you want to buy your bike on the Internet be careful: online shops sell bikes in parts for assembling! Also, before I purchased my bike I took a very detailed look at all the parts and since I found a single scratch on the front gear I got 5% discount for everything I purchased that day. Also, be aware of servicing your bike – mountain bikes require check-ups and it’s quite difficult to send your bike via post.

Start with the equipment

Mountain biking requires some preparation for better performance and general safety. My advice? Get the following equipment:

    • Helmet – a crucial tool for a safe journey. Make sure your helmet is correctly positioned and set – it should cover not only the top of your head, but also a part of the forehead,
    • 聽Gloves – fingerless gloves for less friction. You definitely don’t want to get blisters!
    • 聽Cycling shorts – don’t ever hop on a bike without the shorts! Purchase the ones that have a built-in pad that offers a long lasting seat comfort on the bike. Trust me, you’ll thank me 馃槈
  • 聽A backpack – for you to carry necessary equipments; a bottle of water, snacks, bike pump etc.

Rules to live by while riding a mountain bike

You’re all set now and have everything you need, except experience. The main thing I had to learn is simply not to be afraid of steep slopes. I was terrified I was going to break my neck, so a break was in use almost all the time. Going uphill suddenly seemed like a piece of cake. What I learned is that it’s vital to remember to use correct breaks – my advice? – improvise and with time rely on your instincts and experience. Generally, the more the bike is loaded, the stronger the breaks are. If you’re breaking while going downhill, be careful about using a front break – you might fly over the handlebars! For beginners I advice to try the breaks (with both hands) on a flat surface first and then descending on a small hill to gain experience.

Use appropriate gears!

There is a rule I learned during my trip to Bieszczady recently – if you’re going uphill and your front gear is set on low (first chainring) make sure to not set rear gear too low or too high. Optimally, back gear should be positioned on, more or less, 4, 5 or 6th sprocket for first chainring. The optimal rear gear position for position 2 of front gear is anything from 1-8. Optimal position of back gear for position 3 of front gear is 1, 2 and 3. I made a mistake of going uphill with lowest possible gears and my bike only squeaked in pain. Make sure to adjust your gears properly.

Remember, that number of sprockets and chainrings differ in each bike!

Choosing appropriate bike gears.

Trail etiquette

There are several rules you have to follow while embarking on a route;

    • The most important rule there is in the mountains in general is “leave no trace”.聽 Don’t ever leave garbage, don’t go where the path doesn’t lead you. Make sure not to destroy nature (by carving your name into a tree or picking flowers). Leave each place you go to like you’ve never been there, unless it requires cleaning,
    • 聽be polite – say hi to everyone on the trail, offer assistance if you see someone who needs help, one day it might be you,
  • be careful while riding on the streets (your path might lead through several kilometers of regular road), ride along the curve, don’t stop abruptly, have lights on at all times. Mountain biking can be dangerous, so be cautious.

Riding a bike on streets

Don’t be afraid and enjoy yourself!

I was very much afraid of enjoying myself on a bike. Quite frankly, not only was I freaked out about steep slopes, I was also very aware of every single loose stone on the trail. Only when I gained some experience and got to know my bike and how it tics I finally started having fun. I advise you to take things slowly and simply allow your skills to lead you down the mountain bike path 馃槈

Have you ever tried mountain biking? Let me know how it went! If you’re planning to start I hope my tips are going to make things much easier!

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