Mountain biking is a beautiful, thrilling experience. The long, winding roads and trails can take you through some of the most beautiful scenery nature has to offer, and soaring down the path is exhilarating. For novices or bikers who’ve never had the chance to participate in mountain biking, it can seem like an immense challenge.
And it is important to be aware that mountain biking is physically strenuous - you can’t rush into it without training and preparation. But that doesn’t mean it’s out of your grasp or reserved for the Lance Armstrongs of the world. If you’ve been thinking about dipping your toes into mountain biking, now’s the perfect time - spring is coming, grass is growing, but the searing summer sun hasn’t set in. Here are some key tips on how to prepare for your mountain biking adventure.
Pick a trail to bike on
First thing’s first: you need to know where you’re going and what trail you will be riding on. Your needs will be different depending on what kind of trip you’re thinking of. Do you want something long, possibly a multi-day ride, or do you want something lighter and easier, just a couple of hours? Are you prepared for higher elevation? What kind of terrain do you feel comfortable biking on?
You can probably find some local trails in your area, particularly if you leave in some more mountainous terrain, but if you’re looking for a travel adventure, there are some key spots worth trying. New Zealand trails are to die for, with great weather, lots of options and beautiful views throughout the countryside. But you’ll find similarly breathtaking views throughout Central America, especially Guatemala’s Big Sky trail.
Remember to pick a trail based on your level of experience. If you’re just dipping your toes into mountain biking, you don’t want to pick the tallest, craggiest, most remote mountain you can find. And even if you’re a relatively experienced biker, you still don’t want to jump into terrain you’ve never tried before for a multi-day bike ride. Make sure you’re physically capable of handling the trail you’ve selected, and don’t forget to train regularly in the weeks before your big adventure.
Put together the right gear
Pick wisely when you put your pack together. You’ll have to carry it with you the whole ride, and you don’t want to bog yourself down with unnecessary weight. You should make sure you dress for the right weather - it will generally be colder up a mountain, so consider bringing a windbreaker, some leg and arm warmers, and possibly a nice form-fitting sweater to wear underneath your jacket. In addition, you’ll want your helmet, and you’ll probably also want knee and elbow pads.
Your backpack should have a built-in hydration system, as that’s the easiest way to make sure you have regular access to water without having to stop regularly to pull your bottle out. Don’t forget to wear appropriate biking shoes, and you may also want to invest in large aviator-style sunglasses to keep both dust and sun out of your eyes.
Using a guide to spinning bikes, you should bring bike repair kits so you can patch up anything that might go wrong on the way - you don’t want to be stuck in the mountains because you got a flat. A first-aid kit for yourself as well will come in handy, but don’t overpack.
Plan ahead for your mountain biking trip, and prepare for the unexpected. You’re going to be in some beautiful but possibly dangerous conditions - train hard, pace yourself, and don’t forget to look around.