Getting off the roads and onto serene, scenic trails can be a really nice break from the norm if you are a regular road rider. Adventuring out on the trails is a great way to reinvigorate your riding – a change is as good as a rest and all that… Here’s our Top 10 MTB Rookie Tips to get you on the right track.
Heads & Trails
The first thing to change about your riding is your outlook. Away from the hustle and bustle of speeding traffic you can relax and chill out, forget average speeds and power output. Instead of all that stressful stuff, focus instead on reconnecting yourself with nature. Start to acknowledge the trees and wildlife around you, and take due regard of your place in the world. Alternatively, just get out there and RAG IT!
If you just look down, or a short distance in front, then you might not see trickier obstacles coming up slightly further ahead. Knowing what lay ahead can prepare you better. For example, if you need to; change-up or down, adjust your speed, change riding line, its good to do it slightly earlier and be fully prepared rather than making snap decisions.
Watch other riders
While learning essential off-road skills, watch what other people do and copy them (providing they don’t crash!) Online videos can also be a great way to learn the basics of a new skill. If you are on a ride with friend’s, watch how they cover obstacles and tricky downhill sections which you are not sure of.
Weight and See
Learning to weight and un-weight your bike, one wheel or both wheels at a time, can help clear tricky sections such as rocks or boggy streams. Think how a kangaroo covers ground rapidly with bounces, while your bike is un-weighted, you can virtually float over rocky sections and roots with ease. When the bike is fully weighted, use the extra grip to slow or turn more aggressively. Keep your weight equally centred over the bike by standing up on the pedals while cranks are horizontal. Moving your weight (over the front or back) of the bike can also help with climbing or descending.
It only takes one eye infection from trail dirt or damage from a stone or tree branch to realise that sunglasses are not just a fashion statement. Clear, yellow and rust colour lenses are perfect for the rain or when visibility is not so great. Any eye protection is better than none.
MTB shorts not only look cool, they can keep you cool too. With a soft pad in the seat, they are designed to be ridden without pants. That’s without pants. It’s comfier, more hygienic, lessens any uncomfortable and unfortunate chafing. Not wearing pants also reduces the weekly washing basket mountain. That said, when the weather gets chiller layer up a bit, get some base layers / tights on! There are no prizes for wearing the least clothing on the coldest days.
Looking ahead on a trail gives you the opportunity to select the gear before you hit the steep section of climb rather than when you get onto it. Changing gear before the climb starts can allow you to get into a good pedalling rhythm and start picking your best lines before the gradient kicks in. Gear changes while the chain is under less load (ie before the steep bit) are far smoother and put less strain on your bike’s transmission.
Let Gravity get you Down
Try to hold on to as much momentum as possible from descents. While everybody can get a bit edgy at times over fast descending, it actually serves a purpose. Retaining as much speed as possible for the next flat section or to get you part way up the next climb, is a really efficient use of energy. Practicing descending has real benefits, not only do you build confidence and all round riding ability, descending quickly and safely can become a really enjoyable part of your riding. Once your descending improves, why not experiment picking alternative, trickier lines. Tweak your machine to get the most out of descending; fatter, grippier tyres can act as extra air suspension, smoothing out rocky descents and providing a bigger softer cushion of for those heavier drop-off landings.
Riding with tyre pressure too hard can be a bone jarring, painful experience. Softer pressures can act as extra suspension, smoothing out a fair bit of the trail roughness, as well as boosting grip levels on soft or loose surfaces. But beware! Riding with tyres too soft can increase the risk of punctures. Getting tyre pressures right can be a bit of trial and error, depending on the terrain, riding style and rider weight. I am currently riding Continentlal Mountain King 2.4’s which offer a good amount of mud clearance, grip and roll well on firmer ground.
Get Down & Boogie
Dropping your seat height for descents, makes faster descending easier. Lowering your centre of gravity makes a lot of sense. This allows you to push through corners faster. It also makes for a shorter, less painful, drop to the ground should you overestimate your skill level! Many riders prefer to use dropper seatposts to make the transition to a lower seat position faster and easier. Merlin has several dropper seatposts to make altering seat height on-the-fly quick and easy.
The best way to improve your MTB skills is to ride as much as possible. Ride on different terrain and with other people who are better than you. Learning from those who have honed their skills over many years is a great way to fast-track your learning and gain confidence. Practicing skills, such as; riding on a kerb edge, bunny hopping, track stands and doing wheelies, might seem a bit pointless in isolation but these skills are really useful to have out on the trails – practice makes perfect!
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Sensa Fiori TNT 29er MTB 36.5% off RRP
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Intense Tracer 275A Foundation Build MTB 36% off RRP.
Funkier MTB Rider Baggy Shorts 40% off RRP.
Full range of Spiuk Eyewear 50% off RRP.
MTB Night Ride with Moon Meteor X Pro / Arcturus Front & Rear Lights 46% off RRP.