Perhaps you’re looking for a fun way to get in shape, breathe some fresh clean air, and explore the great outdoors. Possibly you have some mountain biking friends who won’t stop talking about the thrill of singletrack.
Maybe, you just think the bikes look rad. In any case, you’ve decided to give mountain biking a try. With a bit of preparation, you can join your fellow MTB enthusiasts for the ride of your life.
Like a Kid with a Bike
My story? Mountain biking came to me in a roundabout way. I was in sore need of some exercise, thoroughly bored with the gym scene, and don’t have the knees to support running. But what my out-of-shape self could do was ride a bike. I purchased a random two-wheeler and promptly became re-addicted to the speed, freedom and exhilaration any kid with a bike remembers. Soon, I was outdoors moving my body, breathing clean air, and loving every minute.
Finding the Right Bike
Almost immediately after buying that first bike, I upgraded to a mid-grade hybrid bike—a cross between a touring bike and a mountain bike. That fun, little ride steered me right off the nice, safe bike path and onto some badass singletrack.
That’s when the epiphany struck. Sure, I had the wrong bike (again), but I had found the right terrain. The mountains were calling. Those rocks, roots, and dirt banks were speaking to me. Next stop was my local bike shop (LBS) to test the broad range of available mountain bikes. Soon enough, my new best friend—a sweet, full-suspension mountain bike—was hanging off my bike rack.
Here are a few extra lessons I've learned along the way.
What You Need
- Get the right bike—for you. Your size, skill level, choice of terrain, and bank account are all determining factors. There are a myriad of manifestos arguing the pros and cons of every configuration and option—more than we can address here. Head to your friendly local bike shop for advice. A good sales associate will spend time with a newbie. Then, buy the bike from them.
- Helmet! Buy a helmet that fits properly and snuggly and is well-vented and comfortable. Even if you wear sunglasses, a helmet with a visor will cut down on glare.
- Chamois shorts (pronounced shammy!)—get a pair of chamois shorts that fit your form. These are shorts with padding surrounding where your body hits the bike seat, to put it nicely. Bigger, thicker, longer is not necessarily better. The chamois needs to protect your sit bones. This might take some experimentation. G-Form has men-and women-specific compression bike shorts with protective padding. When you find your perfect pair, get a couple. And don’t wear anything under them! Nothing comes between you and your chamois.
- Knee and Elbow Pads. Unscheduled dismounts are pretty common. If you’re hitting trails with rocks, roots, loose-packed gravel and dirt (or better yet, all four at once) invest in knee and elbow pads. It’s better than a weekend at the emergency room. G-Form’s bike gear is machine-washable, moisture-wicking compression wear that is incredibly comfortable all day on the trail.
- Gloves—because rocks, roots, and gravel. G-Form has a Pro Trail Glove coming out in Spring 2018. The same hip, thigh, and tailbone protection will soon be available for your fingers.
Extras to Consider (if you're going all out):
- MTB Shoes—put these on your holiday wish list and make someone’s gift buying easier. I asked for some grippy 510s after I suffered a couple of pedal strikes when my foot slipped.
- An ultra-lumens headlight—they’re wicked cool and a tad expensive. Pay attention to the lumens—bigger number equals brighter light. If you’re biking on trails at night, you really want to illuminate the obstacles.
- Matching Kit. Everyone admires a perfectly matching kit so if you’ve got the cash it’s a luxurious decision, but don’t worry—the shirt and socks on your body right now look just fine.
- Hydration pack. Yes, hydrate or die is a befitting motto. But there’s more than one way to carry water.
What started for me as a means to get off the couch has turned into a way of life. Nothing smells better than mud and leaves and chain oil. And nothing feels better than climbing to the top of that hill you struggled with last month. I’ll never be the fastest or bravest (or possess a matching kit), but who cares?
Life on two wheels is a trail worth exploring.