Everyone remembers their first mountain bike rides and while we wish it was all plain sailing we have to admit we remember the mistakes we made too. Avoiding the most common mistakes new mountain bikers make is paramount if you really want to enjoy the ride so here’s our essential guide to ensuring your day doesn’t turn into a disaster.
5 Mistakes Made by Every New Mountain Biker
- Failing to prepare
- Not enough fuel
- Wearing inappropriate clothing
- Wearing underwear under padded shorts
- Not carrying spares and tools
Failing to prepare
Preparation is everything when it comes to mountain biking. The better prepared you are the more you are likely to enjoy your mountain bike ride. Not being prepared is a sure fire way to quickly ruin your ride. Luckily you don’t have to spend long getting prepared and have your own quick pre-ride checklist to run through before you hit the trail and you’ll be sorted.
First check the bike. Ensure the tyres are inflated to the correct pressure, your suspension is set up, there’s fresh lube on your chain and your brakes and gears are all working. Then make sure you have your clothing outfit all prepared in advance (we often do this the night before a ride to reduce the faff in the morning) and then make sure you have enough food, water and tools to meet the requirements of your ride.
Not enough fuel
Forgetting to take any water or food on a ride is a real rookie mistake. You’ll bonk fast and hard and you’ll be groveling all the way home, or to the first shop for emergency supplies. Most mountain bikes let you fit a water bottle to the frame but if not a small backpack with a bottle stashed away, or better yet a hydration pack that lets you drink on the move, will ensure you stay hydrated.
How much you’ll need to drink depends on your conditions and riding requirements but your body is a really good gauge for when to drink, so listen to your body. Small and frequent sips rather than a big glug infrequently is a good rule of thumb.
Food is important too. You can quickly burn through your energy supplies on a hilly mountain bike ride so you want to carry some food to sustain your energy levels and avoid bonking. Bonking is the word for when you completely run out of energy and struggle to turn the pedals. What food you carry and how much depends on your personal requirements, fitness levels, the duration and intensity of the ride and the weather conditions so choose accordingly.
Natural food like bananas and nuts are good options but you can choose from a wide range of energy products from bars, gels and energy drinks that make getting the right energy into your body a breeze.
Wearing inappropriate clothing
This is a common beginner mistake. You might think you’re okay in a t-shirt and jeans but it won’t be long before you’re uncomfortable and your undercarriage is chafed to hell and you’ll be wanting to throw the bike in the hedge and get a taxi home. Mountain bikers wear clothing made from technical fabrics and designed to provide comfort on the bike for a reason – it’s more comfortable than regular clothing
Proper cycling gear is also designed to handle a wide gamut of weather conditions from sun to rain and manage sweat and prevent overheating. It also fits properly, there are pockets for accessories and food and it just does the job properly.
Wearing underwear under padded shorts
Padded shorts and liners that go inside baggy shorts and trousers really provide a lot more comfort especially on longer rides or if you’re new to mountain biking than going without. But one question we hear all the time is whether you should wear your pants under your shorts. It’s a fair question, but those padded shorts are designed to be worn right against the skin to avoid chafing.
You can leave your underwear at home. It might feel odd at first but trust us, the comfort of the padded shorts only works if the specially designed insert is flush with your skin and you’ll be smiling not grimacing on your first rides.
Not carrying spares and tools
Modern mountain bikes are incredibly reliable but mechanical gremlins can still strike at any moment. Usually when you least expect it. So it’s essential to carry a few tools and spares to ensure you can get yourself out of any mechanical pickle and back to the trailhead or car park without resorting to phoning for help. If you have reception.
A basic tool kit will comprise the correct size inner tube for your bike (even if you are tubeless we still prefer to carry a spare tube for the worst case scenario), tyre levers and a good minipump. CO2 gas canisters are popular but a hand pump will never run out of gas or let you down when you’re in a very remote landscape. Don’t forget some tubeless plugs if you’re running tubeless tyres as well.
Lastly, a multitool with all the appropriate tools to tighten and loosen the bolts on your bike and a chain tool is a must. You can carry these tools in a small bag or attach them to the bike or chuck them in a rucksack.
Some spares you might want to consider carrying include:
- backup brake pads just in case
- extra chain links
- gear cable
- derailleur hanger
- a tyre boot in case you slash a tyre
- a few zip ties are also a good thing to have as well
Depending on the duration and technical nature of your ride there are optional spares you might want to carry. How prepared you are for even the unlikeliest mechanical breakdown is very much personal preference. We all know somebody that carries the kitchen sink! But it’s a balance of not weighing yourself down with too much additional weight and being prepared.