Mountain Biking on Trails: Everything You Need to Know

Mountain biking is the most enjoyable cycling discipline.

Why?

Well, for a variety of reasons! First is you don’t have to be overly competitive or very fit to enjoy your rides. Unlike roadies who are very particular with their weight or BMI.

Second is you get to enjoy the fresh air and Mother Nature at its finest, without all the dust and fumes of the highway. Not to mention that you can bask in greenery and sceneries!

These are just a few of the things that make mountain biking fun. But you also need to know that these bikes belong to the trails. Continue reading to know why!

We’ll also show you the most important tips to remember when going mountain biking, as well as the gears you need to have and positions to follow.

Mountain Bikes Belong to the Trails

Mountain bikes are called mountain bikes for a reason. And that’s because they are made for the mountains. Specifically, trails.

These are undoubtedly all-terrain vehicles that can be ridden anywhere you like. But you don’t get their full potential when you just ride them on pavement or highways. That just defeats the purpose of mountain biking.

If that’s what you want, then you better get a road bike instead. Mountain bikes have knobby tires that grip well on soil, dirt, and mud. Their frame geometries are also designed to tackle uphills and downhill easily.

You can’t make the most out of them if you don’t ride the trails. Feel compelled to go on your first trail ride? Well, continue reading to first know what to prepare and consider to ensure safety.

Required Gears for Mountain Biking

Helmet

Helmets are a must-have for mountain bikers. There are two kinds of mountain bike helmets. These are half-shell helmets and full-face helmets. Half-shell helmets are breathable and light and are made for cross-country and trail riding.

However, there are also enduro riders who use half-shells, but with larger visors and more back coverage. Meanwhile, full-face helmets have jaw protection just like motorcycle helmets. They’re made for downhill use.

Related: What’s the Best Mountain Bike Helmet for You?

Eyewear

You can wear either sunglasses or goggles when riding mountain bikes. These are important for trail users because they protect your eyes from dust, mud, and dirt. They also protect your eyes from the sun’s heat. You’ll never know what lies out there, so you better protect your most important body part that gives you vision, your eyes.

Gloves

Gloves provide superior maneuverability and control on the bike of trail users. It has grippy palms that prevent your hands from slipping off your bars. It also protects your hand from getting scratches if you fall off your bike.

Related: Best Mountain Bike Gloves

Knee pads

Knee pads are a must-have for enduro and downhill riding. They protect your knees when you fall. This is very important for trail etiquette because your knees are the first body part that makes contact with the ground when you crash.

Shoes

Wear proper mountain bike shoes when heading to the trails if you want to have proper trail etiquette. These come in either flats or clipless. Flats are like ordinary shoes but have soles made to stick to your pedals’ pins. Meanwhile, clipless pedals have a locking mechanism on the soles that locks the feet of trail users on their bike’s clipless pedals so you don’t slip off them.

Related: 8 Best Mountain Bike Shoes for Flat Pedals

Bottle

Always bring a water bottle when out on a ride. This hydrates your body and keeps you energized to move forward and finish your ride. You can also use a hydration pack if you don’t want a bottle. There are backpacks that have a water bladder inside and a tube that hangs on the bag.

Related: The Best Water Bottle Cage for Mountain Bike

Types of Mountain Bikes for Trail Riding

There are different kinds of mountain bikes, each made for a specific riding style and discipline. First, know what kind of riding you want. And then choose the kind of bike you’ll get. This is important if you want to ensure maximum fun and convenience when riding.

Cross-country

Cross-country bikes are the lightest type of mountain bike that many cyclists have access to. They are made for uphills and have a conservative geometry.

They have thinner tires, smaller and shorter forks, and negative stem handlebars. These help trail users go steep uphills easily. Have you ever seen cyclists wearing that body-fit lycra? There’s a good chance that those guys are the cross-country or XC guys!

Trail

Trail bikes are mountain bikes that have semi-aggressive tires and mid-travel forks. Some are hardtails while others are full-suspension bikes that have a rear shock. They can tackle uphills and downhills fairly well. But not to the extent of enduro bikes. These bikes are made for leisure riding.

Enduro

Enduro bikes can be called the ultimate mountain bike because they can access and tackle various mountain bike trails like uphills and downhills with ease. They are made for racing and can take a lot of beating. They have aggressive tires, slack frame geometries, and long-travel forks.

They are moderately light because most have carbon frames. They can also tackle steep uphills with the help of their 1×11 or 1×12 drivetrains. They also have wide handlebars which usually measure 750 to 800 mm in length depending on the rider’s arm length and body size.

Downhill

Downhill bikes are at the end of the mountain bike spectrum. These bikes are made only for downhill mountain bike trails.

They are heavy, bigger, and have more aggressive geometries and bigger dual crown forks with 200 mm of travel along with their rear shock. They also have 1×7 drivetrains and tire inserts for maximum access and protection for big jumps and hyper-technical rock gardens.

Related: Best Mountain Bike Under 600 USD

Tips for Mountain Biking in the Trails

Uphills

Shift to a lighter gear

Shift to a lighter gear when approaching an uphill. This makes it easier for you to climb because your derailleur shifts the chain to a bigger cog. It also provides you enough momentum so your tires won’t skid.

Sit down

Stay seated on your saddle as much as you can. You can stand but do so puts your tires at risk of spinning out and losing their grip on the ground. Sitting down helps you gain traction and gain access to your things easily.

Maintain pedaling

Maintain your pedal strokes so you don’t lose momentum when climbing. Even a one or two-second stop can put a toll on your climbing capability and make you lose your balance.

You might find it nice to slow down. But that just makes your ride more dangerous. You’ll even have to work harder to climb.

Downhills

Shift to a heavier gear

Shifting to heavier gear ensures you don’t overspin your pedals and cause you to fall out of your bike. You can also go faster on rocky trails with very minimal crank movement.

Relax

Don’t stiffen up when approaching downhill trails. Just relax and stay loose on your bike. Never lock your elbows and don’t over tighten your grip. Bend your elbows and knees a bit so they can act as a secondary suspension. Also, mountain bikers should stir their body gently to allow their shoulders to maneuver their ride on every corner or over obstacles.

Attack position

Attack position is a necessary position to follow when riding downhills. Stand up on your bike, crouch a bit so that your elbows are out and your knees are slightly bent. Trail users should never sit on their saddle when approaching downhill trails. Just make sure that you know the rules of the trail because you aren’t the only trail user out there.

A true mountain biker shows care for other rides and provides enough space for hikers. You should also yield to horses or yield to hikers if you spot any of them. Always ride in control and with utmost care. And leave no trace of garbage at all times. There are trail systems in place that have their own bicycle speed regulations, trail features, riding options, and blind corners that prevent trail conflict. So, you better be aware of all these.

Saddle down

We recommend mountain bikers have a dropper post instead of a regular saddle. This allows you to lower the saddle height at just a push of a thumb via the levers on your bar. Make sure that your saddle is down so you can have a lower center of gravity. This provides better control and maneuverability.

Level your pedals

Your pedals should be level in height to each other. Either one of them should not be higher or lower than the other. This provides maximum maneuverability and avoids the pedals from hitting rocks or roots on the ground.

Related: The Best Mountain Bike for Trails

Conclusion

Mountain biking is fun when you’re on the trails. After all, that’s why they are called mountain bikes in the first place, right?

Mountain bikes work best and give you the biggest amount of enjoyment when you’re out on the trails.

So call your buddies and schedule your next mountain biking adventure on your chosen trail. Just remember to wear the proper gear and follow our safety tips so you can get that smile on your face on two wheels without ending up with scrapes or broken bones.

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AUTHOR
Jomar Teves
A writer by day, a tech enthusiast by night, and a mountain biker at the weekends. After four years in business school and working for multinational clients, Jomar believes he can improve the world through his writings. Jomar has six years of experience as a writer and has a degree in entrepreneurial marketing. Some of his works have been published on Blokt, Clutch Points, and iTech.