So there are a few things that are a general rule of thumb in the MTB world and unless you have a fellow mtb wizard at your disposal here are a few tips and hints I have gathered that no one thinks to tell you and that I had to learn by the seat of my pants.
First off: say goodbye to all your wealth and worldly possessions. Now you have found biking, your life will never be the same and neither will your pocketbook. As a former “non-believer” my jaw hit the floor many times and I am sure I needed a masseuse from all the head shaking I did. As for my eye rolls, legendary.
A further side note: Also you will become well acquainted with stains, laundry and dealing with trail debris. Like playa dust, it stays with you always.
Let’s start off with the basics.
Gear to Ride With:
You will most likely fall off a lot. Protect your nut. You are kind of a big deal.
- Don’t ride without one. Go to your bike shop, try on all the brands and get what fits you best. You’ll thank yourself later.
- Do not wear undergarments with your chamois. This leads to more pinch points and potential for chafing
- Chamois cream – not 100% necessary. Some bikers swear by this as it is a great preventative against chafing and saddle sores. Great for longer rides. Some people use baby butt cream (think Penaten) in its place however not sure if this is as effective. Application: thick application on the areas that are aggressively touching your chamois.
Get a pair with a snot wipe (soft spot under the thumb) and I prefer ones with tacky fingertips so I can use technology. (Hipster alert)They also protect from scratches, or if you bail shredding your palms, and all sorts of things. Handy AF.
I punned. YAAASSSSSSSSSSSSS.
I see a lot of new women MTB’ers out in their lulu lemons. Which if you have an abundance of lulu’s to ruin in your closet, have at it. Starting off, wear clothes you can get covered in mud or torn. I did not realise how quickly one can get covered in mud as well as how easy it is to ruin leggings while riding. Once you get into riding get riding specific clothing, that you like, that suits & fits you best. Sub in athletic or outdoor clothing anywhere you can because bike clothing is damn spendy.
Ensure it is moisture-wicking, cotton, in this case, is not your friend. Wear layers, bring spares and clothing for any kind of weather with you on your ride.
Always strip off your gear when you get home, stain remove (as required) and do your kit as a small load of laundry. It gets it out of the way and if another ride crops up on short notice you will have something fresh to wear. Never ride in sweaty, crusted gear. It is kind of gross and actually helps lower the chances of saddle sores.
Get a good quality multi-tool (the Swiss army knife of the biking world – added bonus with a beer opener) ensure it has a chain breaker on it and a good variety of head sizes.
Riding in the woods in Canada pretty much means bears, cougars, deer, & the occasional angry grouse (I have come across one. I screamed). Two of those things would kick my ass (and probably enjoy an outdoorsy person buffet on occasion). Though I don’t have much to suggest for the cougar other than to ride in groups. One thing that can help keep humans and bears safe is bear spray. I carry a cannister in a quick draw belt. I have seen plenty of people carry them on their pack or in a cosy in their water bottle cage. I am more comfortable having the spray attached to my person in the event I get separated from my bike or my pack. Honestly, it is all personal preference. Don’t ride in the woods without it.
Hydration Pack or water bottle/cage
Always carry enough hydration for your ride. Do not depend on someone else to provide this for you. Figure out what works for you. I use a Dakine Women’s specific hydration pack as I like to carry a few items in case of emergencies. Also, my bike frame is not equipped to deal with a bottle cage. I carry extra water in my car as well as hydration powder or squirt tubes to recover electrolytes. However, there are loads of people who just carry water bottles in their bike shirts and in their bike cages.
Check with your local bike shop maintence dept if you are ever unsure about anything. They are a wealth of information when it comes to everything on your bike.
- Check the ABC’s before each ride
- A = Air Parts
- check your shock pressure, adjust as required
- check tire pressure adjust as required. Riders have personal preferences for how much pressure they want to ride with. Tires they say ride @ 30 psi, some riders ride lower or higher than this. Play with it until you find what you like to ride on just be warned if you ride lower pressure on your tires on tubed tires there is the risk of a pinch or snakebite flat. Shock Pressure is a little more fiddley, best to check with your local bike shop gurus or this is a good example from Fox
- B = Brakes
- Check your bike brakes.
- Fully compress your front brake and try to walk forward.
- Check your rear brake (try to walk backwards)
- then both together (forward/backwards)
- Check wear pads.
- Check your discs.
- Check your brake location -ensure you can easily access the far outer edge of your brake lever with your index finger.
- C = Chain and Crank. Check for wear, tear, gunk, build up, rust. Lube your chain and remember to wipe away excess lube. Pull on the cranks, ensure there is no wobble. If you have a master link, check this. Carry a spare link with you
- A = Air Parts
- Other pre-ride good pointers:
- Lift one end of your bike and spin the tires, ensure there is no noise and the wheel is not wobbling & nothing is rubbing. Check the other wheel. Inspect for any punctures or wear, including the sidewalls.
- Check your locations of your gear shifters and dropper post lever. Ensure they are working properly
- Getting on your bike (there is an art to looking smooth while doing this)
- Tilt the bike 20-45 degrees
- step through the bike
- then right the bike once your foot is planted either on the ground or on the pedal.
- Lift yourself up onto the saddle
- Roll around the parking lot a bit, bounce around and listen to anything that might sound weird. Go through all your gears, practice gear changes, brakes, front wheel lifts, rear wheel lifts (if you can)
Uphills are always a slog and they are the ultimate head game. Everyone struggles and everyone thinks they are the slowest. Focus on the line ahead and put you and your bike in the most efficient climbing line. If you have any kind of negative inner dialogue it will rip you apart during the climbs. Shake it off, tell the voice to shut the eff up, sing a song, whatever it is to make that mind to stop grinding you down and keep pedalling.
Segment the climb. If you find yourself wanting to get off, say “two more pedal strokes” in your mind before dismounting. Alternatively pick a goal post – be it a stump, boulder, large root, pretty pebble and vow not to get off until you get to that goal post. You might find you no longer need to get off. This is a great tactic to trick the “fraud police” and I have had great success with it.
If you do need to walk anything remember this gem “There is never any shame in walking anything.” The one place shame doesn’t exist is mountain biking.
Get your weight to the front of your bike. Boobs to tubes/Boobs to the Bars, Press the Chest.
Scoot that butt to the tip of your seat. Seriously it feels like probing but it helps keep the rubber down and ease the climb
Gear down properly! Gearing is so important and you don’t want to break your chain. Do not change gears under load. On the approach gear down to a level where you can successfully do the climb & it’s obstacles without torching your legs too early. Standing up in your seat going uphill can burns off more of your leg endurance, however, on the other hand, it helps with weight distribution. Do so wisely.
Descending is an entirely different mindset than ascending. It can be difficult to switch the mindset from one to the other. It gets easier. If you have a dropper post, use it! Distract your mind, in the beginning, sing, holler, whoop. I find this helps distract my mind as well as lets anything within a certain radius depending on my volume (2 legged or 4 legged) know I am approaching. The louder you are the better it is for everyone.
If someone comes roaring up behind you keep going and when it is safe to do so pull over. If they choose to pass you without letting you know, during a tight or unsafe spot, that is on them. Take care of you because this is your ride.
There are some people who will chirp and be general douchebags about speed, technique or whatever, seriously ignore them.
GO the speed that suits you most comfortably. Let the bike fly and do its thing underneath you – it was designed to roll over most terrain so let it work for you.
Elbows out, spread your knees and stay low, keep that CG close to the bike.
Brakes can be your friend. Use them both, learn to feather them. They can also be your enemy, too much rear brake can cause the bike to come out from underneath you so if you feel/hear the bike skidding gently release slightly, this will help you retain and maintain control.
Look ahead, don’t look down. Know where you are but it is about where you are going. Wherever you are looking the bike will go to so, if you are staring at that tree, you will hit that tree. Look at where you want to go not at where you don’t want to.
Make sure you recover your fluids and sugars, you will be pumped full of adrenalin and endorphins so this is really important.
Stretch this is missing on a lot of rides, You just did a full body and mind workout. Stretch out those crazy muscles.
This is usually the best part, go for a beer, a sandwich, or in my tradition stopping at a coffee shop for a mocha latte with whipped cream and dip chocolate chip cookies in the whip. Cook up some steaks, hand out treats, celebrate, enjoy, talk about the ride. You truly earned it.
Lastly, wash your bike…… at some point.