Tricks of the Trade: Mountain Biking for Beginners

by Molly O'Brien on February 15, 2018

Mountain biking is cool. It’s just like street biking… only you’re on a mountain. The rougher terrain and impending cliffs can seem intimidating at first, but whether you’re just a casual rider or you want to send it to the big leagues, these bits of knowledge from collegiate racer and bike fanatic Sean Bird will definitely help you jumpstart your mountain biking career.

1. Get Yourself Some Proper Gear

Proper gear is essential to having a safe and enjoyable experience. A helmet to protect your noggin and sunglasses to avoid debris flying up on the trail are both essential. Gripping gloves assist in keeping hold on the handlebars, and a proper “kit” of a fitted shirt/jersey, bib shorts/baggies, and comfortable riding shoes. A saddlebag underneath your seat to store tools in case you run into any technical problems on the trail is also a good idea to invest in.

2. Know The Local Landscape

Make sure that you’re not riding onto a trail having no idea what to expect. Johnson Ranch and Montana de Oro State Park are great places for beginner mountain bikers to practice in the San Luis Obispo area, with rolling hills and smooth trails. West Cuesta Ridge and the drop-offs that head down to campus are more complicated routes, for when you’re ready to step up your game.

3. Know the Locals

Seek out professional advice from locals who know the area! Bike organizations and cycle shops are also a great place to go for advice on where to ride. They have knowledge and experience on places you might be interested in trying (to help with tip #2!) and can tell you about what kind of gear to buy and where, as well (to help with tip #1!).

4. Remember to Focus on Technique Before Fitness

Now that you know how to ride, who to ride with, and where to ride, hopefully you’re hooked on mountain biking… With the proper technique, of course! When you’re climbing and descending, focus on the “attack position.”

Scan ahead on the trail, ride with your arms in a “bent” position, drop your heels, and extend your weight over the bottom bracket (see the diagram below). When you’re climbing, focus your weight on either sitting or standing, whichever feels most comfortable. For descending, get loose and focus on standing. This weight distribution allows you to evenly weight your tires which gives you optimal traction so that you won’t slide.

Aide Spotlight: Sean Bird

Sean Bird is an Aide as well as a fourth-year student at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Since he was a grom, Sean has participating in cycling, including BMX, gravel, mountain bike, and road events. While studying journalism, with a concentration in public relations, and an integrated marketing communications minor, Sean is focused on his latest cycling project, Everjourney. As the evolution of a cycling blog, Everjourney highlights the adventure and freedom of cycling, through storytelling, while selling custom accessories and apparel under the More Sending, Less Pretending moniker.

Check out more of his work on his website:

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