1. The most important thing about buying a new bike is to make sure it fits. The only way you'll know if the bike is right for you is to size up the bike and make sure that the bike's geometry matches your body's geometry. Ask questions and do some research.
mtn. biking 101
2. If possible, try to find a shop that will let you demo the bike on real dirt. Five minutes in a parking lot won't cut it. You wouldn't buy a car without a real world test drive, and a bike should be no different.
3. Don't belive the hype. Just because your favorite rider or best friend rides a certain bike, that doesn't mean that's the best one for you. Have an open mind and be realistic about your needs and ability.
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  1. #1
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    How the heck do you ride?

    I know it sounds crazy but I just bought a new mountain bike (trek 4300) and I'm new at riding. So far I've been cruising around the neighborhood and felt real comfortable and in control. Well today I decided to try my first trail at the park in my area (cheesequake NJ). what a disaster. I felt like I was 6 years old learning how to ride a bike again. I found myself walking up steep hills with the bike, carrying the bike over large branches, and banging the bike up pretty good! Still had fun but it had me concerned...does it just take practice to get better or are there techniques and tricks that one should know before venturing out? I don't want to kill myself.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    Some "advice" for another beginner, just keep on spending time in the saddle and you'll get better. Read the beginner forums for techniques on how to climb, decend, weight transfer and other stuff..

    Climbing - the more you ride, the stronger your legs will get. For steep climbs, butt on the very nose of the seat, arm out and chest to the handle bar to lower your center of gravity. This will also help you keep your rear tire gripping the ground

    Large branches - learn to pull your front wheel up and eventually a bunny hop. For tree roots on a downhill, I just point my bike straight over them and let the suspension do its job. For roots while climbing uphill, I make sure I'm in a super low (easy to spin) gear and just pedal over them.

    Banging the bike up - My first 4 weekends of riding, my co-worker at work would ask on Monday to see how I hurt myself over the weekend. Just rode my 5th weekend and no falls, scrapes or injuries! More time in the saddle just gets you more comfortable with the bike.

    Have fun!

  3. #3
    local trails rider
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    Is it a place where others ride too? Sometimes you do encounter stuff that is impossible unless you are a downhill/trials/cross country god.

    Try walking your bike over things that make you worried. You'll be surprised what it will just roll over if you let it.

    You need to learn to get out of the saddle and move your weight around: right, left, forward, back. You need to stay relaxed (but not slack) on the bike. You need to learn how to lift, or at least unweigh, the front so that it can clear an obstacle. Also unweigh the rear when it rolls over stuff.

  4. #4
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    What everyone else has said. And to that I'll just add: ride more, and don't try to take on too much at once. Ride trails that are easy enough for you to have fun and that are hard enough to keep you awake (i.e. to challenge you a bit). It's like with weight-lifting: start where you're at and keep at it and you'll improve. And most importantly, have fun with it.

  5. #5
    local trails rider
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonathanGennick
    Ride trails that are easy enough for you to have fun and that are hard enough to keep you awake (i.e. to challenge you a bit).
    Well said.

    This is my third summer riding mountain bikes I can tell that my skills are improving all the time. Now I cruise leasurely over several spots that used to make me stall, or scared me enough to make me walk.

    Actually, in many cases just keeping up speed and sticking to a relatively straight line is the best way. Going slooowwly and trying to avoid every pebble is one of the surest ways to get stuck in rough spots.

    Did anybody mention yet that riding with somebody who is better than you is a great way to learn? That somebody just needs to be committed to not blazing away at his/her own pace. Ask around if any clubs or shops in your area arrange newbie rides.

  6. #6
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    I just want to add that you probably shouldn't ride alone if you are a new rider. In case of a bad fall, twisted ankle, etc. it's a long crawl to civilization. And to emphasize what perttime said, riding with someone with experience will show you what you can do. I'm fairly new, and my fiancee has been riding for years, and I thought "this is crazy/impossible, I'm gonna die!", and now I'm clearing rock gardens, hopping over logpiles, and bombing down some pretty hairy descents. It's scary at first, later we just call that "thrilling".

  7. #7
    Scooby Driver
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    Keep riding!

    Just like perttime, this is my 3rd summer mountain biking and my skills, confidence and conditioning have improved greatly over time as well.

    I'd like to add to the posted advise: get a set of arm and leg pads. This will help your confidence while you're trying to gain experience AND most importantly the pads will help you to avoid injury. I spent my first summer of biking falling off my bike and crashing into trees and rocks. I know that my pads saved me from breaking...well, everything. LOL

    Additionally, see if anyone offeres some skills clinics in your area. Learning some basic techniques will help you clear some the obstacles that may be stopping you now.

  8. #8
    MTB'er in Training
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    From one newbie to another I can say it is simply "time in the saddle". Just as anything else in life...the more you do it...the better you will get at it.

    I had riding experience in my youth, but after being out of the saddle for 10+ years it took some time getting back any experience with trail riding. My first time out I was scared of most downhills of any steepness...I was having to walk my bike up a ton of climbs...

    Now...six months into being back I am bombing downhills at a nice pace...doing climbs without having to walk...and really doing some fairly technical stuff...which really pumps ya up and makes it that much more fun!
    "Havin' a good time, here today...Watching the sun shine, matinee...Never the wrong time, time we stay...Living the moontime, time we play"

  9. #9
    I AM I AM
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    Yep all about practice!

    If you find an MTB magazine that may help as well, usually they will do some sort of "how to feature".

    I've been riding bikes for ages, when the kids came along I had a 2yr break of pretty much no riding apart from maybe some bitument. Needless to say when I got back on the trail I had to get my confidence back, particularly cornering and going faster on the pea gravel type stuff! But you know a few more rides and it all came back to me.

    I've never had the luxury to ride with others and learn from them either, but it's something that would surely speed up your learning curve.

    In the mean time have fun, you'll probably have a few falls trying new things and hopefully they won't hurt too much! In regards to hills it's probably a combination of fitness and to an extent skill, just ride up it as far as you can each time, and one day you just might make it all the way to the top.

    LOL keep in mind that some hill are destined to be walked!

  10. #10
    bang
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    if you can ride up a curb, you can ride over most obstacles. just unweight the front wheel and keep your momentum up. momentum will carry you over just about anything. also, look at where you want to go, and not at that tree or rock you're trying to avoid.

  11. #11
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    [QUOTE=Cyco also, look at where you want to go, and not at that tree or rock you're trying to avoid.[/QUOTE]

    So true, practice this a lot, even when riding on the street around the neighborhood. Look where you want to go and magicly the bike will go there!

  12. #12
    more carbon=more awesome
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    My first ride was with my older brother who already had some experience. We hit this bit of downhill that I thought we would edge our way down on the brakes, and he started pedalling! I figured if he could, so could I so I pedalled too. It was so great finding out just how capable a mountain bike is. More recently I have taken my wife riding and realized that the learning curve really is quite steep.
    Some pointers that have served her well:
    Hit trail obstacles with some speed, so the bike will bounce over them instead of hanging up.
    Get off the seat! Sitting made my wife feel safe at first, but now she understands that if you hit an obstacle while seated, it pushes your weight up and forwards... Over the bars if it is hard enough. Keep your knees and elbows bent to absorb shock. Stay loose and relaxed, and keep your head down low. This keeps your center of gravity low on the bike and puts your weight in the right place for cornering.
    Lean the bike to steer (at speed anyway). Stand up, head low, push the bars towards the ground, an use your weight like a cantilever. Those edge blocks on the tire treads really work, so use them. By keeping your body centered you keep your balance and stay in control. Braking in a corner will stand the bike upright, so stay off them and the bike will scoot around the corner like you wouldn't believe.
    Finally, make sure the bike is set up right. Drop the seat maybe a quarter inch or more from your road riding position and get your brake levers in the right place. To do this straddle the bike (standing) with the seat against your back or butt and straighten your arms and hands and rest them on the bars. Your brake levers should be set on that angle. Also put them inboard enough to comfortably use two fingers, or one if they are strong enough.
    Hope this helps. Like the others say, keep riding and you will improve.
    Posting on the basis that ignorance shared is ignorance doubled.

  13. #13
    ravingbikefiend
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    New bikes take some time to get used to and the more you ride, the easier it gets.

    I'm in great shape, ride tons, and have some pretty good skills but I recently changed my Trek HT into a rigid and will be taking some time to get to know the "new" bike... I went out on some familiar singletrack this weekend and almost wiped out a few times simply because I don't know my bike anymore.
    I ride with 65'er...he's a mountain goat....But then again, we need to throw him in the mud and pack his pockets with lead shot before a scale will read him. - Psycho Mike

    -Environmental stickers don't mean shite when they are stuck to CARS!-

  14. #14
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    LOL, Thanks for this thread NYG, I honestly am going through the same thing you are. This is the start of week 5 for me and the switcbacks, rock gardens, and some steeps are getting easier. It's tough when you dont have a "mentor". It'll get better

    Good luck

  15. #15
    Ride 2 Work, Work 2 Ride!
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    Learning to crash.

    Ah I remember being a newb learning to crash! hehe
    "Don't give up, Never give up!"

  16. #16
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    To all...thanks for the great advice! I'm glad to see I'm not alone...I guess what I went through was normal. I actually didn't realize that falling was so normal. That was part of my problem I think...I held back because I was afraid of falling and looking like a fool that had no business being out there. But it appears it is a necessary part of learning.

    I also held back because I was afraid of busting up my shiny new bike even though I was told it's supposed to be made to take a pounding, even from a newbie like me.

    I will be trying some of the techniques discussed here the next time I head out....hopefully in a day or two.

    you guys are great.

  17. #17
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    Like everyone else has said, it's all about saddle time, getting to know your bike, and being willing to take a spill every now and then. If you're really that uncomfortable offroad, start very small just to get used to the offroad scene. Try to ride some fireroads that are loaded with small rocks, little bumps and potholes. That way you can get a feel for how your bike handles things, which will in turn make you more confident when tackling more uneven terrain. Coming from a motocross background, and just now getting back on a bike for the first time in about 10 years or so, it's definitely odd. Things that I'd be riding over pinned in 2nd or 3rd gear on my dirtbike, I'm barely rolling over. It just takes time to get used to the bike, the feelings, and to gain confidence in both your bike and yourself. Good luck and have fun!

  18. #18
    more carbon=more awesome
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    Yeah, I was just remembering my early days of riding. I fell a LOT! I would have a major off every second ride, but that was in the days of full rigid bikes. I still reckon you need to crash occasionally or you aren't learning anything new. Just tuck and roll.
    Generally, mountain bikers are a good bunch and while we love to see a good crash, we certainly don't think any less of the victim. We have ALL been there. Overcoming fear and uncoordination is a large part of the fun.
    Posting on the basis that ignorance shared is ignorance doubled.

  19. #19
    Ride 2 Work, Work 2 Ride!
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    When a Big Red falls in the woods,...

    does it sound like a tree? Everybody laughed at me back then cause I sounded like a tree thumping on the the ground.

    I was really good at walking off the front end of the bike in mid endo though! Bike just stops and then I just started to run.
    "Don't give up, Never give up!"

  20. #20
    fsf
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    Quote Originally Posted by krazymad
    So true, practice this a lot, even when riding on the street around the neighborhood. Look where you want to go and magicly the bike will go there!
    God, this is true. I haven't gone on real dirt yet (I learned to ride a bike a couple weeks ago, give me a break ), but whenever I'm heading towards something that I don't want to hit, I have to force myself to look at where I want to go, and somehow I end up not hitting the sign/tree/whatever. If I get fixated on the obstruction, even if I'm ordering my arms to turn the handlebars, I almost invariably hit it.

    I'm trying to figure out how to make my bike go somewhere without looking, now.

    Does anyone have any tips as far as getting my butt out of the saddle? Every time I try to stand up, I end up almost wiping out; is there a technique to it or should I just keep trying until I make it?

  21. #21
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    It hasn't been said yet...be sure to wear a helmet. I hate them, but won't trail ride without one.

  22. #22
    local trails rider
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    Quote Originally Posted by fsf
    Does anyone have any tips as far as getting my butt out of the saddle? Every time I try to stand up, I end up almost wiping out; is there a technique to it or should I just keep trying until I make it?
    Uhh, that new, huh...
    Start small even with this. Pick up enough speed that you are not falling because you are too slow. Stop pedaling so that your cranks are horizontal. Stay relaxed. Just lift your behind a little so that it is not quite touching the seat.

  23. #23
    Bud
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    Hey OP, have you been in the NJ forum? It's a great place to set up or find a beginner ride. Also check out MTBNJ.com for a complete trail list.
    If you ever make it over to Mercer Park (Trenton area), PM me. I've got to do some easy rides while I heal up from my last fall. Good luck!

  24. #24
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    oh, and when you do fall, make sure you get up and clear what ever knocked you off your bike! especially if it hurt. lets see last year for me ..... 1 cracked rib. 1 2 inch puncture wound in my knee. 7 wasp stings (yeah, i fell) many jumpin baby heads to the shins. 1 fall off a cliff. and the list continues.... dont be afraid to fall.

  25. #25
    more carbon=more awesome
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    Mountain biker code: When you have a big crash and your buddies are standing there wondering how bad things are you can reassure them by asking "How's my bike?" Then they can laugh and tell you how awesome the crash was without feeling like an ass for laughing when you are really badly hurt.
    If you crash and they say "Well at least your bike's ok" and you say "who gives a crap about the damn bike?!" then they will know that things are serious and not to laugh, but to get help. Trail diplomacy in action.
    Posting on the basis that ignorance shared is ignorance doubled.

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