There are quite a few skills required to keep up with mountain bike progression. Even the seasoned, advanced Mountain Biker have a lot of work ahead of them. So now anyone can join in. Here are a few steps that will help a beginner reach a level a Mountain Biker would reach in a matter of months:
Get a good mountain bike. If you aren’t sure what to look for, you can take a look at a website like http://www.parktool.com/ and see what you should be looking for. When you go to a pro shop, remember, there are a lot of people who don’t know what they’re talking about, so keep your eyes open and don’t be pushy. If you’re afraid that you’ll end up with a bike that you’ll never be able to use, then take a few classes from a local bike shop first to get on some trails first on some basic bikes. You can ride on the street first on your new bike on some basic trails on just an average bike until you can judge better what you need for your first off road bike. And even then, don’t always trust what you’re told. Read up on it first. Make sure you don’t buy some bike that is so heavy you’ll never be able to keep up with the group. Stay away from heavy suspensions for this concept.
After you get your bike, you need to practice on it for a little while until you get the hang of the gears, braking, riding uphill, and all of that stuff. You might need to read up on it first if it is new to you. You can learn on some fairly decent bike paths, but it is more important that you try to learn to navigate obstacles on your bike. When you can ride on some fairly decent trails without actually knowing you are riding over obstacles of any kind, you are ready to move on up. Navigation is everything mountain biking is about. You can’t learn to do this on bike paths. If bike paths are your thing, go ahead and do it, but be aware that it is something you’ll want to learn to do on trails somewhere else.
Get a good mountain bike helmet. Never, ever ride without one. Ideally, you’ll want something with the ability to detach the ear pieces for riding on trails where you might have to pay attention to your surroundings rather than your helmet’s surroundings.
Get a good pair of sunglasses. This is crucial. 80% of your worry should be with your surroundings, not your ride. If you think you’ll have an easy time with this, start out at night with your lights on. You won’t be disappointed.
Get a good pair of gloves. Keep your hands warm so they don’t sweat so much, but they need to be good at gripping the handle bars.
Get a good pair of shoes. Get some biking shoes. They’re made out of materials that grip the pedals better and absorb more shock, they’re generally waterproof, and they’re super comfortable. If you start having any knee or ankle problems, it’s probably because of the shoes you are riding in.
*You are ready to learn some riding skills.*
Start off on some fairly level dirt trails. You’ll want to learn to simply navigate through the trails, not try to make them harder than they are. You might feel like something is hard or easy even if you’ve never done it before. But if your eyes are open and you’re paying attention, trust yourself and if you run into trouble, take your time and ask for help. Here are some skills you’ll need to work on:
Tighten your brakes- You should be able to pull twice as hard on the brakes and come to a complete stop.
Control your speed and your footing- Don’t go too fast and don’t run into things. Don’t weave in and out of the group to show off. Don’t fall. Don’t let them fall.
Lean to turn- You don’t need to lean your bike. you can lean yourself to get around things.
Shift your weight- Your legs aren’t done until you get through the other side of the turn. Make sure you get through the other side.
Don’t hit anyone- Don’t get too close to anyone. Don’t get too close to the front group and risk getting left behind.
Keep your eyes open- There’s a lot to see and you need to know how to get around the things you find. You’ll want to start out on longer or steeper trails before you try anything harder. And for this one, you’ll want to go on the trails when there’s a lot of people.