Basic Mountain Biking Skills

There are few sports more exciting than mountain climbing. This thrilling sport may be relatively easy to pick up, but it is easy to over-estimate your abilities. Riding a bike on a road or a flat trail is nothing like mountain biking. It is important to develop basic mountain biking skills before you start exploring rough terrain.

Choose Your Equipment Carefully

The key to mountain biking safety is using the correct equipment. In recreational road biking, you can get by on almost any bike, but this is not true of mountain biking. Adequate equipment will depend on your skill level, size and the type of terrain you intend to pursue. Find a store that specializes in bikes and have a professional fit you for the appropriate type of bicycle. And be sure to invest in a good helmet.

Using Your Brakes

The first and most important skill to grasp is handling the brakes. Most mountain bikes feature both front and rear brakes. The front brake is usually controlled by the left hand and the rear brake is controlled by the right hand. It is best to use one or two fingers on each brake. Many bikers make the mistake of resting all of their fingers on the brake, as it leads to a greater sense of security. Exerting too much pressure while braking is dangerous. Putting excess pressure on the front brake often causes the biker to flip over if he or she is traveling at a high speed. Flipping your bike while going downhill can lead to severe injuries or death. In general, it is better to start braking slowly and early than to apply heavy pressure on short notice.

Shifting Gears

Mountain bikes comes with several gears which may be confusing for the beginning biker. Higher gears add extra resistance and allow the bike to travel faster, while lower gears reduce the resistance level and make it easier to travel up steep inclines. Keep the bike on moderate or high gears when traveling on flat terrain. When approaching a hill, shift to a lower gear before you start going uphill. Spend time experimenting with gears on easier terrain until you have a good feel for them.

Shifting Weight

Mountain bikes are very stable and easy to ride in a straight line. This very stability makes it difficult to turn while riding a mountain bike. To turn a road bike, you merely need to make a slight change in the angle of the front handles, but this is not enough to turn a mountain bike. With mountain biking, the only way to make a sharp turn is to lean your weight into the turn. The further you lean, the sharper your bike will turn. A longer turn requires only a slight lean. Moving your weight slightly forward during a turn will help you maintain traction, thus making the turn smoother. When going downhill, shifting your weight slightly backwards will prevent you from flying over the handlebars. And shifting forward on a incline will keep your front wheel from lifting off the ground. Get used to shifting your weight, because you will spend most of your time doing it while traversing more challenging terrain.

Riding Downhill

Going uphill is physically challenging, but requires little technique. As long as you shift to a low gear, you should be fine. Downhill biking requires surprisingly high levels of both physical and mental exertion. This is the area where beginners overestimate their ability, try risky moves, and end up in the hospital. When biking downhill, it is important to keep your weight back, so as not to flip forwards or shoot over your handlebars. Keep your body low and close the bike with your elbows tucked in. Relax the muscles in your arms and legs and avoid grasping the handlebars too tightly. The best way to remain stable is to fix your eyes on a path rather than glimpsing random spots as you shoot downhill.