Five Mountain Biking Mistakes I Made, So You Don't Have To

Five Mountain Biking Mistakes I Made, So You Don't Have To

So, you're mountain-biking-curious, huh? Reminds me of myself two years ago, driven by "FOMO" at my friends’ after-work bike zoomies, I financed a Liv, took off, and didn't look back. No, literally, I went full speed ahead, and boy, did I learn some unpleasant (albeit funny) lessons. Here they are, so you don’t have to hurt yourself the way I did:

Don't Get on a Mountain Bike Without a Warm-Up

Whoever said, “It’s just like riding a bike” in reference to a skill that is impossible to forget never took a 20-year hiatus from biking and then hopped on a mountain bike. Sure, the ability to ride remains, but turning will feel clunky and balance on two wheels feels suspect for a bit. Before hitting the trails, take some time to reacquaint yourself with the basics of cycling on a regular bike. It will help you regain your balance, confidence, and familiarity with handling a bike, making your transition to mountain biking much smoother.

Don’t Prioritize Your Outfit Over Protective Equipment

“Fake it ‘til you make it,” right? That’s what I told myself when I dropped a couple of hundred dollars on shorts, shirts, and even mountain biking socks. (Can someone please explain what makes socks specific to mountain biking?). I told myself that if I looked cool, I’d ride better. Well, over 100 diggers later, I can tell you that I should have spent my money on knee pads, and the clothes only made me look more experienced than I actually was. Invest in a good helmet that meets safety standards, knee pads that you’ll actually wear, chamois to protect your bits, and protective gloves because WOW it hurts when you smash a finger. All that said, you can definitely wear your Go There Pants if you’ve got them—they’re perfect for MTB 

Don’t Rush the Process 

I was an eager beaver when it came to keeping up with my friends on trails, but I should have had more awareness around saying “hold up."  I often found myself in over my head, (and literally over the handlebars) which led to some unfortunate falls and bad habits, such as overgripping. 

Now, I have habits I need to unlearn. (Way harder than doing it right the first time.) This season, I will likely go back to the basics to practice skills I overlooked in the beginning, because I was hanging on for dear life.

Don't be afraid to take your time. It's better to bow out gracefully than to end up over the handlebars. Seek simple trails and bike parks where you can go over the basics, and then apply them on the big girl rides. 

Don't Skip the Bike Lessons

Turns out there’s qualified instructors everywhere, and they’re easier to find than your shins finding spokes. (IYKYK.) With a bike lessons, I could have learned the basics in a controlled environment, protected my knees, and gained a better understanding before throwing myself down the mountain. Plus, it’s a great way to meet other people at your level, and build community. 

Do Not Underestimate Proper Hydration 

“Wow, I don’t feel well,” I said, back at the cars after my second ride ever. It was hot (over 80 degrees) and I had just completed a 10-miles with over 500 feet of elevation gain.  Unbeknownst to me, I had heat exhaustion. I wound up at Urgent Care after a harrowing drive home that included some pretty serious vomiting, (lovely!). 

There were several factors I overlooked: First, I didn't understand that mountain biking typically involves longer durations of physical exertion compared to other activities, such as running. You're covering greater distances and encountering varied terrain. Additionally, the nature of mountain biking often requires more upper body effort for balance and control, leading to increased sweating and fluid loss. Moreover, environmental factors such as changes in altitude, exposure to wind, and varying temperatures can further contribute to dehydration during mountain biking. You’re going to want to go into mountain biking with adequate hydration, proper electrolytes, and attention to detail when it comes to your health. 

All in all, mountain biking is an exhilarating sport, fueled by endless opportunities for fun, bike zoomies, and growth. I highly recommend embarking upon this two-wheeled journey—just be sure to practice a little more caution than I did. Invest wisely, hydrate frequently, and pee freely.

As always, don’t forget to practice Leave No Trace, learn trail etiquette, and check trail conditions before your adventures. Happy Trails!


  • Matt Ramey said:

    Hello Sarah,

    I am male, just to be clear ( I am looking on this sight for paints for my fiancée) so I get the emails.
    I used to be a down hill mountain bike instructor.
    I love your 5 tips for new comers. I am resisting writing why you wrote great advice because I do not want to come off as man splaning*.
    Your advice is right on the mark!
    Keep riding!
    Keep promoting mtb!
    Thank you.

    May 16, 2024

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