I started mountain biking in 2012 at the ripe old age of 38. I won’t claim to be a know-it-all by any means, but here are my top 10 things I wish I knew before I started mountain biking (in no particular order).
- Even though you could ride a bike as a kid, doesn’t mean that you can ride as an adult. When you go on your first ride, don’t go all crazy fast right out of the gate. You’ll be out of breath VERY soon and wanting to puke your just-eaten hamburger on the side of the trail in front of your new friend (true story).
- You will need to learn how to eat to ride. Both on and off the bike. Nutrition is so important to any athlete. And it’s different for every person. What works for your buddy may not work for you.This is a huge challenge to me with my gut problems, and it even changes as the riding season progresses.
- If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Strength is hard to build, but easy to lose. Stay active. You’ll notice the difference at the beginning of the season if you put in the work over the winter.
- Suspension gimmicks are no replacement for a actual bike suspension. Bouncy seat posts and other weird things exist. Some will like them. But if you are wanting a smooth ride, go full suspension. A good fork is WAY better than a cheap fork. Not only is an air fork lighter, but they work better. But don’t let a cheap fork stop you from riding (see #8).
- Yes, full suspension bikes are expensive, heavier and require more maintenance … but it is worth it. Ride longer and don’t feel so beat up. Your 40 year old back will thank you.
- Fat bikes are fun. Don’t over-think it. Get one for those weird days where you just want to ride and NOT go fast. They are great for riding with the kids.
- Just go clipless. It’s really not that scary. Even when you get used to it, you still will fall over randomly. Good stiff shoes make a difference.
- You don’t need an expensive bike to start mountain biking. Just start. Upgrade when the bug hits you. A shop once told me that I needed to spend a minimum of $1,500 on a bike to start. I walked out. Spent about $500 on a entry level bike. Rode the crap out of it and upgraded bits as I went. I learned how to adjust everything, and through upgrading, learned how to work on my bike.
- You’ll always want a new bike. – or you’ll be looking at ways to make your bike better. When you start, you have no idea what works or what doesn’t for you and your style of riding. Plus new and better equipment gets released. Do your research, ask questions, buy what seems right.
- Not only are there great physical benefits to riding, but there are also mental benefits. You’ll feel better. You’ll learn about yourself and your limits. You’ll get outside more. You’ll meet cool people.
So those are the big ones for me. I really wish I had started earlier, but looking back, it was the right time for me. Now get yourself on a bike. Find a trail. And ride.