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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Maine
    Posts
    45

    Thinking about trying mountain biking

    I've been road riding for about 3 years now and absolutely love it. There's been a new wave in my community and with my LBS towards mountain biking and they've been after me to try it. On the one hand it seems like a lot of fun and they're a great group of ladies. On the other hand, confidence is not my strong suit and I'm turning 50 this year and really worried about hurting myself. Seems like they're always posting pictures of their crashes, bruises and bloody legs! My post is kind of two fold - what advice do you have for a roadie wanting to trying MTB and if I should decide I like it, am I going to have to go out and buy a whole bunch of new gear? Do I need a different helmet, shorts, jerseys? Thanks for the help.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    northern Virginia
    Posts
    5,856
    Good question about gear. They do make helmets that are supposedly for mountain biking and they're shaped differently from road helmets, but I don't think there's really any reason that a road helmet would not be okay. Similarly with clothing, mountain bike shorts and jerseys are looser but road bike clothes should still be sufficient. The shoes do matter, since mountain bike shoes have recessed cleats which are easier to walk in. And some cleats are definitely not suited for dirt and mud. Also a Camelback is better than water bottles which would get dirty.

    As for getting started, you would want to start with easy trails. I assume there are group rides -- do they do beginner rides?

    - Gray Trek Madone 4.7 road bike, mystery crack in top tube repaired by Calfee, Bontrager Affinity RXL saddle
    - Red Trek 6000 mountain bike, Bontrager Evoke WSD saddle

    Gone but not forgotten:
    - Silver Trek 2000 road bike
    - Two awesome and worn out Juliana saddles

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    north woods of Wisconsin
    Posts
    681
    I've always been a dual biker, these days tending to more mountain biking than road biking, but still enjoying both for what they are. They really are very different types of biking, though how different depends on how extreme you want to go on the mountain biking. As NY mentioned, start with the easy trails or even just some gravel roads or dirt roads if you have them in your area. Just be aware that trails, sometimes even in the same area, vary tremendously in difficulty and the technical skills needed to ride them. Your local bike shop or riding group should be able to make some recommendations, here.

    I, too, am cautious by nature, but over time I have acquired the techniques to handle some moderately difficult trails. Don't know if I'll ever be able to handle the true expert trails, but when I find myself in over my head on a section of trail, I'm not embarrassed to walk if need be. My point is that you don't have to have a kamikaze mentality to be a decent mountain biker. That reckless, devil may care riding style is very much part of the mountain bike image, but it's mostly marketing and, I think to some extent, a guy thing.

    If there are MTB classes in your area, I would recommend taking one. If not, riding with someone who can teach you some basic skills. Failing that, there are lots of youtube videos on the various MTB skills. Again, how far you want to take it is entirely up to you. You can still find easy trails in just about any area that require no special skills to ride.

    As for clothing and accessories, what you have, now, is fine, at least to get started. You can tweak as you go. For backcountry work, I tend to dress heavier for the sake of protection and durability, meaning heavier shoes, long sleeve shirts and good heavy duty bike gloves. I usually pack extra water and gear, too. At some point, you may want to explore going with flat pedals instead of going clipless. A lot of us that ride the gnarly trails have, but that's another topic.

    Lastly, even if you never leave the easy trails or even if you stay on the roads, you'll find a mountain bike to be a very useful bike to have. They make great commuting bikes, utility bikes, rough pavement bikes, gravel road bikes and so on. I own or have owned every type of MTB there is, so just holler if you need suggestions.
    Last edited by north woods gal; 01-19-2017 at 09:05 AM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Posts
    6,479
    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonfly5 View Post
    I've been road riding for about 3 years now and absolutely love it. There's been a new wave in my community and with my LBS towards mountain biking and they've been after me to try it. On the one hand it seems like a lot of fun and they're a great group of ladies. On the other hand, confidence is not my strong suit and I'm turning 50 this year and really worried about hurting myself. Seems like they're always posting pictures of their crashes, bruises and bloody legs! My post is kind of two fold - what advice do you have for a roadie wanting to trying MTB and if I should decide I like it, am I going to have to go out and buy a whole bunch of new gear? Do I need a different helmet, shorts, jerseys? Thanks for the help.
    My mountain bike helmet provides significantly more protection for the back of my skull than my road helmet. I good place to look for different types is Competitive Cyclist. My is the POC Tectrel (spelling? can't remember!).
    So long as the wheels are still turning, life is good.

    Battswebb

    Pinarello Quattro~CAADX~ Zurich Lemond
    Specialized Romin Saddles

    Surly Krampus!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    northern Virginia
    Posts
    5,856
    Quote Originally Posted by Muirenn View Post
    My mountain bike helmet provides significantly more protection for the back of my skull than my road helmet. I good place to look for different types is Competitive Cyclist. My is the POC Tectrel (spelling? can't remember!).
    Interesting, you'd think that protecting the back of the head would be an objective for designing a road bike helmet, too.

    Also +1 on walking whenever you are not comfortable riding.

    Also the best mountain biking I received was: look where you want to go. Meaning look at the trail in front of you, don't fixate on the trees on either side or the roots or rocks or whatever you want to not ride into.

    - Gray Trek Madone 4.7 road bike, mystery crack in top tube repaired by Calfee, Bontrager Affinity RXL saddle
    - Red Trek 6000 mountain bike, Bontrager Evoke WSD saddle

    Gone but not forgotten:
    - Silver Trek 2000 road bike
    - Two awesome and worn out Juliana saddles

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Traveling Nomad
    Posts
    6,665
    Lots of good advice here! As a roadie who has dabbled in mountain biking a bit, I can say that you've already received some great advice. I will add one thing: it's always a good idea for a novice MTBer to ride with others (or one other) who has more experience. It really helps to watch what others do and follow their lines, and you'll get more advice from them as well. Using your roadie skills is not always what's needed; you'll need to be out of the saddle more and paying even more attention to what is in front of you (roots, rocks, etc.) than on a smooth road.

    I am a pretty wimpy MTBer and will only ride easy single-track trails, but gravel roads and double-track trails can be lots of fun too.k Just don't forget that you can spin out and wipe out in loose sand and gravel even with the fatter tires of a MTB, so be careful out there and, like others have said, don't be afraid to walk, or even just put a foot down, assess the situation, and maybe start up again. It's also fine to "redo" a section you want to "get" if you are having a tough time with it; for example, a switchback. If you fail the first or first ten times, just go back and try it again. Practice, practice, practice. And don't forget that your low gears are your friends. There's a reason that MTBs have smaller rings up front and larger in the back! I know not using the granny gear is often a point of honor among roadies, but there's no reason to feel that way on a trail. Use granny whenever the trail goes up, is my philosophy. You'll lose momentum a lot faster than on the road, so you have to use your gears.

    I would also recommend starting without clipless pedals. You'll have more confidence knowing you can put a foot down to stop a fall really fast. I didn't do this when I got my first MTB, but wish I had!
    Emily

    2011 Jamis Dakar XC "Toto" - Selle Italia Ldy Gel Flow
    2007 Trek Pilot 5.0 WSD "Gloria" - Selle Italia Diva Gel Flow
    2004 Bike Friday Petite Pocket Crusoe - Selle Italia Diva Gel Flow

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    Posts
    10,957
    I agree about starting with platform pedals, as far as I was concerned I was happy with them and never even considered moving on to being clipped in on my mountain bike, at least not for the rather short duration of my mtb riding.

    I DO, however, strongly recommend a mountain bike helmet due to the extra protection in the back, just go out and get one. Do fall in love with the lower gears on the mtb, and don't be in a rush to race down the trails - enjoy the learning process and if you can find a women's mtb clinic I highly recommend them!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    north woods of Wisconsin
    Posts
    681
    All really great points and advice.

    Here's another tip. One of the hardest things for a cautious type like me to learn when riding trails was that on some of the harder trails, you have to ride aggressively and really attack them just to make it through them without having to walk the bike. This is especially true on trails with lots of rapid and steep elevation changes. This kind of riding requires a lot of fast shifting and knowing your bike. You'll also find that it will take more leg strength than road biking for the instant bursts of speed needed. This is the one place where I think guys have the advantage over us. As always, though, we gals can do, so I work hard to keep in trail shape.

    Now, all this is very much down the road if you're new to technical trail work and nothing to stress over until you try your hand at the harder trails. I mention it because once you've nailed a gnarly section of trail, the sense of accomplishment is exhilarating. It's what keeps me going back for more. Very addictive.
    Last edited by north woods gal; 01-19-2017 at 04:48 PM.

 

 

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