It is possible to go mountain biking in any corner of the world. It offers endless adventure and fun that all the family can take part in.
Apart from hiking, it is the best way to reach the highest peaks, and then make you way to the deepest of valleys.
When you first learn to mountain bike, it can be a little confusing. You will need a basic understanding of the gear, the techniques, and the trails you can explore.
Before you hop on any old bike. You can find all you need to know here, so you can have the most fun possible.
- What is Mountain Biking?
- Types of Mountain Biking
- Styles of Mountain Biking
- Various Types of Mountain Bikes
- Mountain Bike Wheel Sizes
- Mountain Biking Dress Sense and Equipment
What is Mountain Biking?
Once you head off the freeway, you can hit rough terrain, rocks, desert and trails that run down the side of a mountain.
Mountain biking is hitting all these areas and many more on specially designed bikes.
There are plenty of different types of mountain biking, which cover all manner of skill sets. You can go downhill, jumping dirt, hitting terrain parks, or take part in something a little more sedate such as mountain bike orienteering.
All this sounds easy, yet it isn’t only a matter of hitting all these areas on your bike. Riders need to carry all the things they need for bike repairs, a backpack for gear and food, and other essential items.
This sport first began back in the 70s in California where it was classed as a real sport between 1976 and 1979.
Here, there were downhill races that drew as much media attention as it did from the eager public. Everyone wanted to know what this new sport was all about.
From the early eighties, popularity began to spread around different countries around Europe and Australia.
It was around this time, the first commercial bikes became available using lighter materials. Since then, popularity has boomed, and mountain biking can be seen in the Olympics with a cross-country event.
Types of Mountain Biking
The kind of mountain bike can make all the difference depending on the style of riding you wish to do.
When you are new to the sport, you will want to take things easy. Trails that are flat and smooth are ideal, as well as being easier to navigate.
These local trails can be highlighted by the skill level required:
- Double Expert
The types of tracks you can encounter are:
Single-track is the most common type of trail. These have a width that is wide enough for two bikes to pass comfortably, down to trails that are as wide as your shoulders.
You will find the majority of these only allow one-way travel through the most scenic terrain.
Double-track is double the width or above. On these, you can comfortably ride two abreast.
You can find these are not so much purpose-made, but they follow common routes of power-line routes, fire roads and some of the old logging roads.
These are often easier to navigate around as some were originally created from two single tire tracks of vehicles.
Terrain Parks can be found almost anywhere. These often combine single tracks in areas where you can ride over underpasses, purpose-made or natural jumps, half-pipes, and banked corners.
Many of these start at higher elevations, and you can spend almost an hour of technical riding on these obstacles by the time you reach the bottom.
Styles of Mountain Biking
Manufacturers now make many types of bikes for the different bike-specific types of riding. The different styles are here so you can decide which route you wish to take.
When you choose one of these, it will lead you to the different types of mountain bike you can choose from.
This can be seen as an excellent introduction to more adventurous forms of mountain biking, or for individuals who don’t seek the adrenaline rush and just want to explore trails with friends and family to experience gentle bike climbs and descents.
Bikes you find in this category offer the most comfortable ride while having as much focus on delivering fun, peddling efficiency, and a decent weight.
These may not be to everyone’s liking, but there are not many people who don’t like the huge tires that come with these.
When it comes to riding over rough roads, there isn’t much these can’t tackle with tires up to five inches wide or more.
These can be great options for sand or snow, so they allow you to ride trails all year around.
This kind of riding isn’t for the faint of heart. It will test your skills on climbing and how you can twist and turn down steep descents.
A mountain bike ride across the country can range from five miles all the way up to twenty-five and above. This kind of bike delivers efficiency and light components.
You also find this bike is a great introduction to further racing and competition types of riding.
These are designed to tackle higher climbs and longer and faster descents with more technical terrain in their path.
The term enduro was for racing where there were timed trials of uphill and downhill stages. It has since become interchangeable with all-mountain for racers and none racers alike.
You tend to find this kind of riding in ski resorts during the no snow periods. These require lots of protection from helmets to body armor.
The bikes are very durable and have the least gears because most of the action is going downhill.
A good suspension fork will be vital to help absorb all the jumps, rock gardens and wooden ladders among other parts of the fast trails.
Various Types of Mountain Bikes
Every mountain biker will have a style of riding in mind, yet before they decide which way to go, they need to know the way around the different types on offer.
Because the style of the bike will differ depending on where you will be riding, you need to know the key features. Two of the primary things you need to know about are the wheel diameters and suspension types.
Mountain Bike Suspension
While these for a while could be the most common style available, that is no longer the case. Rigid bikes don’t offer any suspension, so these will only be suitable for smoother terrain or casual riders who like the mountain biking theme.
These are the least expensive and easiest to maintain. Fat bikes are rigid, and it is the tires that soak up all bumps with their size and low tire pressure.
This is the next progression, and while there is no rear suspension, there are front suspension forks to absorb front impact. On some bikes, you can lock the front, so it converts into a full rigid.
These are suitable for cross-country as there is a direct transfer of power from the stroke of the pedal to the rear wheel.
They are also ideal for all-mountain trails and other forms of riding aside from the more demanding downhill trails.
These come with front and rear suspension to absorb every rough part of the trail with ease. This makes it more comfortable for the rider and allows for consistent traction of the tires.
While they absorb all the bumps, they can be harder to pedal as you bob around and lose some of the energy transfer from the pedals.
This you find happens more while ascending an uphill trail. They also come with high amounts of suspension travel for downhill riding.
Mountain Bike Wheel Sizes
Wheel size is essential for knowing what size of a bike will be suitable for your size if nothing else. You can easily find your ideal size by visiting a local bike shop first. If you are ordering online, at least you know what is suitable and what isn’t. This can be more important for kids rather than adults.
26-inch wheels – at one point, all-mountain bikes came with 26-inch wheels, nowadays, things are different, although this size is still a good option for maneuverability and turning response.
27.5-inch wheels – these offer a good balance between twenty-six and twenty-nine inches. They still come with a good angle to roll over rubble on rough terrain but are more maneuverable than larger wheels. You find these on both hardtail and full-suspension bikes.
29-inch wheels – bikes with wheels this size are heavier and accelerate slower. However, once you are going, you can clear pretty much anything a trail offers with their higher attack angle.
Cross-country bikes use this more than anything does. They also deliver lots more grip than smaller wheels as they have a larger contact point on the ground.
24-inch wheels – these are designed for kids shorter legs. The bikes themselves will but cut down versions of adult bikes and have similar features.
These sizes are suitable for kids in the 10 to 13 age range, yet as mentioned, a trip to a bike shop can quickly determine if they are too large or too small.
Smaller children can move down to wheels that are 20 inches in diameter.
Mountain Biking Dress Sense and Equipment
There are lots of different clothing you can choose, yet some of this can be gathered once you have started mountain biking.
Helmets – every rider should wear these. You can find three types, which are cross-country, skateboarder styles, and full face. For the majority of riders, the lightweight cross-country helmets are perfect.
Gloves – these are designed with safety in mind as much for comfort in case of a spill. They will also have more padding in them than road touring gloves.
Glasses – Glasses are not only for sun protection but also for also flying debris. Colored or filtered glasses will also protect against eyestrain if it is particularly sunny.
Shoes – this goes along with pedal design. You have platform pedals or clipless pedals. Platform in most cases is ideal in most situations and for individuals who are not up to racing standard.
Any good flat-soled shoes or boots can suffice, yet there are riding shoes designed for this. Clipless pedals are very different; these fasten to your shoes and will restrict your movement if you need to put your foot down quickly.
Read our Best Mountain Bike Shoe guide
Any show you choose does need toe protection and be suitable for short hikes as you are walking with your bike.
Hydration backpacks – while these may be too bulky for road riders when it comes to mountain biking, they are ideal. Hydration packs need enough extra space for extra clothes, all your repair essentials and plenty of energy-giving snacks.
Pants and Jersey – these should be loose-fitting to allow movement, yet not too baggy. They also need to wick sweat from the body. Shorts can come with linings to prevent saddle fatigue while riding for extended periods.
Mountain Biking Tips for Beginners
Staying loose – it is the bikes job to tackle the terrain. Stand on the pedals with your butt just off the seat when you tackle obstacles. Let the bike flow beneath you rather than fighting it.
Keep your speed up – just because it gets rough doesn’t mean slow down. You clear these rough patches quicker. Maintaining momentum is one of the top mountain biking tips that is counter-intuitive.
Shifting weight – be sure to shift your body weight to maintain a good center of gravity. This will change from the front for inclines and over the rear wheel for declines.
Brake carefully – You may find it tempting to slam on your front brake hard at some point. Front brakes should be an addition to the rear brake, so use them gently as they are strong enough to flip you over the handlebars. Just the light touch of two fingers is sufficient to moderate your speeds.
Change gears – manufacturers put gears on bikes for a reason, so use them all when you need them.
Repair Kits – when you are in the middle of a trail, the chances of a puncture are high. In your repair kit, you need a mini pump for inflation, a patch kit, and tire levers at the very least. Many riders take a spare inner tube, a multi-tool that has chain fittings, quick fit chain links and a roll of duct tape.
Mountain biking is fun and exhilarating in equal measure. It is also a great way to become fit and healthy while exploring the great outdoors.
You can learn at your own pace, and gradually build up your skill and change the direction you want to go, or you can just get into the great outdoors for some relaxing riding as opposed to hiking around the mountains.