How do I get into mountain biking?
Am I too old to start mountain biking?
What do I need to know to get started?
You've decided you want to try mountain biking, none of your mates are into it, so how do you get started? Well read on, here's some ideas and information on a great way to start, what gear you need and the basic jargon you need to know.
Mountain biking itself has many sub-disciplines: Trail Riding, Downhill, Cross Country, Slopestyle, Free Ride, Dirt Jumping, All Mountain, Bikepacking and Gravel riding to name but a few. There's crossover between these different disciplines, one bike could see you good for many of them.
Which discipline you decide to start with is really up to you, all I can say is be guided by your cycling skills and perhaps your courage! Noting fitness and skills will come the more you ride, start off slowly and build up. If you have a serious illness or injury, be more cautious, listen to your body....... and your doctor!
If you're totally new to mountain biking, take a look at some mountain biking YouTube videos of the different disciplines, seek out low key recreational riders such as me, this will give you an idea of everyday riding. You could also watch some of the more extreme riding on these two channels Sam Pilgrim and Red Bull Bike.
How I started
At 52 years old I wanted to go to clubbing in Ibiza one more time and do something else the rest of the week. I'd been thinking about taking up mountain biking for a while, so I researched mountain biking in Ibiza online and found Ride Ibiza. I stayed with them for a week, and had my first go at mountain biking. You can see from the photo below, that I had no special equipment, the only thing I bought was the helmet. I was wearing my MMA shorts, my normal trainers and no protection. I really enjoyed it, so when I got home I started researching bikes and about six weeks later bought my first mountain bike, a Specialized Stumpjumper Evo Comp it cost me £2500 back in 2014. This was a very high specification bike for a beginner, but it's served me well. The bike's eight years old August 2022, and I'm still riding him, this video's shot in January 2022.
As soon as I got Stumpy, I went to my local downhill trail centre, Aston Hill, and scared myself stupid, but had a great time and learnt a lot, very quickly! When I started riding I didn't know everything that is in this article, I just did it and obviously was a little confused as to what was where at times!
How you could start mountain biking
Hire a bike and book a lesson with a coach at your nearest bike park
Book a holiday where you can hire a bike and learn to mountain bike with a coach
Buy a bike and join a local mountain bike club, join in the social rides, check Facebook or Google for your local group
Buy a mountain bike, start off small, riding off-road routes such as at your local park, woods or bridleways, perhaps get some coaching. Watch some YouTube how to videos such as GMBN and Aaron Gwin, for riding tips
What to do when you go to the bike park or trail center for the first time
Research the following online before you leave home:
The parking arrangements, parking fees etc.
Do you need to sign on?
Seek out the trails suitable for you, so you know what you're going to ride
Watch some YouTube videos of the trails you're going to ride
If you're going to book an uplift, get in early, the places go quickly
Arrive early so you're not flustered
Park your car and buy a parking ticket if necessary
Register and pay any fees in the club house if necessary
Go to the loo!!!
Get you and your bike ready
Take a photo of the trail map
Research where the uplift picks up and drops off
Don't be intimidated by others, they could be a first-timer too
If you're intimidated by others riding near you, seek out the least busy trail or wait until everyone has dropped in and go after them
Ride within your limits
Get pedalling before the trail sign, so you hit the trail running, don't start pedalling at the sign
Don't go straight out on a black trail, and teeter down it, build up from green to blue to red to black. It could take hours, weeks, months or years to be able to ride blacks, only ride the next level up when you're riding the lower one well
Have a great time!