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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    MD
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    164

    How to develop skills as a beginner mountain biker

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    I just bought my first mountain bike, and discovered this morning that unfortunately road riding skills do NOT translate to the trails, other than knowing when/how to shift, I suppose. I ended my ride with the distinct feeling that despite 4,000 miles on the road in the past couple of years I do not actually know how to ride a bike. It was very humbling.

    Part of it is just learning to trust the fatter tires and lower psi, and most of it will probably just take time, but is there anything else y'all know of to build skills? Any really helpful articles or youtube videos or general tips? I was having trouble with such basic tasks like slow tight turns - but of course it was my first time out there.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
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    pacific NW
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    That has been my experience as well, but in my case, the required fitness level was the real stumbling block. It's a whole different dimension of aerobic fitness. Around here there is a mountain bike club that offers a basic skills class that was very helpful. Maybe there is such a group in your area?

    I didn't really keep up with it--I only really get on the mountain bike to do the super fun Stinky Spoke ride on what is supposed to be the worst weather day of the year. I imagine if I did keep at it more consistently, it would get easier...

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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Indianapolis, Indiana
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    10,952
    There is a big difference between road riding and mountain biking - even if both involve bikes I highly recommend your seeking out a mountain bike clinic to work on the basics, some parts of the country offer clinics for women-only. Much of your time on the mountain bike is spent off the saddle, and body english is important. Welcome to the new world of trail riding and have fun! I used to enjoy it a lot though I never really got all that good at it.
    Last edited by Catrin; 12-20-2015 at 02:46 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    New Jersey
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    1,940
    I am a mt biker first and only road ride to supplement my mt biking. I actually don't care for road riding very much. Anyway I agree on taking the clinic if you can find one, it would be a huge help. The other key, is time in the saddle. Not only is mt biking a different aerobic engine, but very technique based. So approach it like any other technique based sport. Like skiing or tennis. To get better, you have to practice. Sometimes when my husband and I go out to ride, I ask him to forgo a long ride and just work skills. It is worth the time.

    Also, I would see if there are any groups in the area you can ride with. Just like following a better skier will make you better, following a better rider, and watching their line will help you improve also. I have found that once I tried stuff that seems scary a time or two, my confidence built to the point where I would look at a big log over, or scary bridge or crazy descent and just draw on past experience.

    Keep us posted on what you find and ask away if you have questions, there are some very experienced mt bikers on this forum.



    I just saw that you are in MD. Go on IMBA's website and see if they have any clinics. My former coach gives clinics for them and I know he travels all over the east coast.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    New Jersey
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    1,940
    http://go-adventuresports.com/advent...untain-biking/


    Not IMBA, but at a quick glance, it may work

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    13,101
    I never got there. I wanted to ride my bike in the woods, and didn't think about the fact that mountain biking is so technical. I had one year where my skills got a little better, but basically, I was scared to death I was going to die every time I rode, and I felt like it was taking time and miles away from my road bike. I don't play tennis, golf, or any other sport that requires coordination and technical skills, but I truly never thought mountain biking was in this category. It's too bad, and I might have improved if i spent more time at it, but one of the most humiliating riding experiences of my life was the group moutain bike ride I went on (during the year I was feeling confident), at a place that is rated "easy." I was off the bike almost the whole time, being passed by guys wearing jeans.
    I rode my mountain bike maybe 5 times after that, and sold it in 2008 to someone who was thrilled. I now spend time in the woods hiking.
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  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    MD
    Posts
    164
    Thanks for the advice everyone! Yes, there are clinics often put on by local groups, although none scheduled right now -- I'm not sure if they will continue through the winter or not. I'm also scared of them

    I do have my husband as a resource, he started mountain biking two years ago (although he would probably still call himself a beginner). He gave me some tips out there. I'm just already feeling frustrated by the steep beginner learning curve but I definitely need to give it more time!! I guess what I really want are drills I can do NOT in the woods to increase my confidence in the woods, but perhaps the best thing to do is to just get out there as much as I can.

    Luckily we bought my mountain bike used and got a great deal on it so I can probably sell it for the same amount if after a few months I decide mountain biking isn't for me. BUT we are going to Big Bend this spring and I would LOVE to do a half day of mountain biking out there. The terrain of course will be very very different than the woods around here! I think some of the routes are really just gravel grinding, but I'm still using that as a motivator to improve my skills. And my hope is that overall I will be safer on the road too if I improve my skills in the woods.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    pacific NW
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    Do you have the option to go on trails that aren't so technical? Around here, we have a lot of trails that are groomed to within an inch of their lives (due to the popularity of the fat bikes, I think) and you can have a nice twisty, swoopy ride that isn't that hard, but makes you feel a tiny bit bad a$$ for riding in the woods.

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  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    northern Virginia
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    5,827
    Quote Originally Posted by fallstoclimb View Post
    Thanks for the advice everyone! Yes, there are clinics often put on by local groups, although none scheduled right now -- I'm not sure if they will continue through the winter or not. I'm also scared of them

    I do have my husband as a resource, he started mountain biking two years ago (although he would probably still call himself a beginner). He gave me some tips out there. I'm just already feeling frustrated by the steep beginner learning curve but I definitely need to give it more time!! I guess what I really want are drills I can do NOT in the woods to increase my confidence in the woods, but perhaps the best thing to do is to just get out there as much as I can.

    Luckily we bought my mountain bike used and got a great deal on it so I can probably sell it for the same amount if after a few months I decide mountain biking isn't for me. BUT we are going to Big Bend this spring and I would LOVE to do a half day of mountain biking out there. The terrain of course will be very very different than the woods around here! I think some of the routes are really just gravel grinding, but I'm still using that as a motivator to improve my skills. And my hope is that overall I will be safer on the road too if I improve my skills in the woods.
    Practice really is the most important thing, I think. Sometimes going over the same spot repeatedly can be helpful -- for example ride through the tricky creek crossing, turn around and do it again, repeat as needed.

    Looks like there is still one copy of this DVD available at Amazon. It includes skill drills for beginners that were done on a big open field -- slow riding, reaching down to pick up a water bottle from the ground as you ride past it, stuff like that.

    http://www.amazon.com/Wildflower-Mou.../dp/B0000U0GP4

    I think my LBS (located in NoVa -- Springfield and Reston) holds mountain bike clinics for women from time to time. They might schedule one in the spring. It's a bit of a drive for you but I guarantee they will be friendly and helpful.

    And of course your best resource is MORE. They have some night rides in Patapsco which is not too far from you, IIRC. If you don't want feel you're ready to ride with them, you might find some helpful info from the bike shops that sponsor the rides, like Bike Doctor and Race Pace.

    http://www.more-mtb.org/events/month/

    I've never been in Patapso, but I know that Cedarville has some easy trails. The Oxon Hill club has Sunday morning mountain bike rides sometimes, usually at Cedarville, Rosaryville or Cosca Park (southern Maryland/PG County).

    Actually my do-list includes "ride my mountain bike more." First I need to find time to tweak the fit a bit, because I had wrist problems the last time I rode it. Maybe this winter I will finally get around to it. I will never be more than a beginner at mountain biking, which is fine with me.

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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    the dry side
    Posts
    4,403
    Part of it is just learning to trust the fatter tires and lower psi, and most of it will probably just take time, but is there anything else y'all know of to build skills? Any really helpful articles or youtube videos or general tips? I was having trouble with such basic tasks like slow tight turns - but of course it was my first time out there.

    There is so much more than just trusting the tires. It is whole different skill set, more related to dirt biking (motocross style) than road bicycling.

    For slow tight corners, you must be off your saddle in a ready position, and understand how to move laterally with your body and steer the bike. Lower your saddle for starters.

    Taking clinics and using flat pedals are the two biggest confidence boosters. Mountain biking is the opposite of road biking in that you move around with the bike, a lot. Your body becomes part of the suspension. Most road bikers are very stiff, and afraid to get off the saddle and move around. Your most stable positions is OFF the saddle, feet level ( 3 & 9). if you are using clipless pedals, I highly recommend ditching them for some flat pedals while learning. Once you have solid skills, then you can decide whether you want to be clipped in or not.
    Here are some good videos. Pay attention to body position and movement.

    basic body position
    https://youtu.be/52x5Z9meapQ

    Don't let the "Freeride" or hucking scare you... the fundamentalst are exactly the same whether you are beginner or pro. This is an excellent video on all the fundamental skills.
    https://youtu.be/F9vakhSvgt8
    Last edited by Irulan; 01-11-2016 at 02:00 PM.
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  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Rowland Hts, CA
    Posts
    473
    As usual, I totally agree with Irulan.

    In California, there are a lot of free clinics for Beginners.

    I think for women, than gaining confidence on easy fun trails leads them to liking mountain biking and then wanting to improve. Although your husband is nice to help you out, I think that people who lead rides specifically for beginners will help you feel less frustrated because women feel like they are slowing down other people when you are biking with people who are a lot better than you are.

    Best of luck!
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  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    the dry side
    Posts
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    What she said. In addition, if he's a self taught biker with only two years experience, I wouldn't count on him to understand the actual skill set. He may have figured some things out that work ok, but whether they are the correct techniques is up for dicussion.
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  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Location
    India
    Posts
    1
    Thanks for sharing your experience

 

 

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