To head out into the woods you should have some familiarity with your bike and how to use it, if you’re new new to riding then check out the article on this site called getting started.
The first thing to know about mountain biking, especially with our local terrain, is that it is tough. And while some riders desire easier terrain the base idea of the sport is navigating through the woods on trails and just by nature this isn’t the easiest task. With an acceptance that mountain biking is tough understand that a lot of times you will fail to overcome or negotiate obstacles and that’s OK.
Having bike shop level, tuned equipment is highly recommended, but for a lot of new riders skills are going to matter the most, all the high end equipment in the world will only make things slightly easier if you’re starting from square one. Not to say high end equipment isn’t worth anything, more saying that it doesn’t make up for skills unopposed, gaining these skills are part of the fun.
Having good balance and fitness is necessary but not everything. The biggest thing to know is that you need to understand your drive train fully, you need to understand what your gears feel like, how to use them and anticipate when to use them. Reading your speed and the terrain gradient ahead and knowing what gear you’re in and what gear you’re going to need to be in is the single most important skill you will need. Shift before you need too and don’t be scared to shift as much as you need too.
Negotiating obstacles can also be tough and is an important skill. You need to look down the trail and pick a general line to follow, If you worry about every little detail in front of your wheel you tend to loose speed, balance and the general direction you want to go. The faster you go the more your wheels hold themselves up, so don’t be afraid to let the bike plow into an obstacle, as long as you keep your balance, the the handle bars firm and don’t attack something too big you should be fine. A lot of times, seeing an object last minute and trying to avoid it can result in a crash or a loss of balance.
Bring water and maybe even a snack depending on the amount of time you’re going to ride. Also, having a flat in the woods can result in a bad walk, so it’s important to have good solid air pressure in your tires, tires that aren’t worn or damaged and the skill of changing a flat. Some people may say going tubeless is your key to avoiding flats, but air pressure helps so much it’s not even funny.
Another tip is good tires, tires that make you feel confident. Tires are your contact point with the ground so in essence they’re everything.
It’s fun, it’s a work out and it’s adventurous. It’s hard to master and as you gain new skills and fitness you encounter different sets of challenges.