Mountain Biking 101

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Ready to break away from the roads and paved paths and head onto the dirt?

Channel your inner child and go.

And follow these tips for a safe and fun mountain bike ride:

BRAKING

Before you bomb down a sweet stretch of singletrack, make sure you can keep your bike under control. With a little practice, you’ll be a pro. It’s all about balancing your braking power between the front and rear wheels and shifting your weight as you descend.

Keep in mind: The more weight a tire carries, the more braking power it has. When going downhill, your front wheel carries more weight than your back wheel. Braking with the front brake helps keep you in control without going into a skid. But squeeze too hard and you might find yourself flying over the handlebars. As you descend, shift your weight back over the rear wheel. This will help you keep control as you brake.

CLIMBING

  • Shift into a low gear, finding the gear that best matches the terrain and your efforts.
  • Stay seated. Standing is apt to cause your rear tire to lose its grip and spin out. Climbing requires traction.
  • Lean forward. On very steep hills, the front end may feel unweighted and suddenly pop up.
  • Keep pedaling. On rocky climbs, keep the pressure on. The slower you go through rough trail sections, the harder you will work.
Joe Mullally Rides In Garden Of The Gods - OutThere Colorado
Joe Mullally rides in Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. Photo Credit: Carol Lawrence

DESCENDING

  • Shift into the big chainring.
  • Relax. Stay loose. Don’t lock your elbows or clench your grip. Your elbows need to bend with the bumps and absorb the shock. Your hands should have a firm but controlled grip on the bars.
  • Steer with your body, allow your shoulders to guide you. Your bike will tend to track in the direction you look and follow the slight shifts and leans of your body.
  • Don’t sit. Stand on the pedals, straddling the seat, allowing your legs and knees to absorb the rocky trail.
  • Drop your saddle. For super steep, technical descents, drop your saddle 2-3 inches. This lowers your center of gravity, giving you more room to bounce around.
  • Keep your pedals parallel to the ground. The front pedal should be slightly higher so that it doesn’t catch on small rocks or logs.
  • Stay focused. Look ahead to prepare for grooves, roots, rocks, holes and bumps.

TRAIL ETIQUETTE

  • Be a courteous and responsible rider.
  • Ride only on trails open to mountain bike use.
  • Slow down when approaching hikers or horses and give them a wide berth.
  • Let other trail users know of your presence by calling out “on your left” or ringing a bike bell before passing. Let others know how many riders are in your group. (Announce: “One of three,” or “Two more coming,” or “I’m the last.”)

Source: Women’s Mountain Biking Association of Colorado Springs; rei.com; mtbtips.com

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