Tips for the Beginner Mountain Biker

Buying your first serious mountain bike is daunting. It's often an ordeal clouded by technical jargon that makes no sense and means nothing to you – 29er, dynaplugs, one by, dropper post, eagle, stans, Trail Forks, Skratch…what does it all mean!?

Before you get too caught up in the technicalities, let's outline a few of the most important things you need to know as a rising newbie.

Other than the essentials like helmet, glasses, gloves, shoes, and apparel, here’s what you need on your ride

  • Hydration pack. I LOVE Deuter’s Pulse 3 Hip Belt (fancy word for fanny pack) and the new version coming out this fall has a 1.5L water bladder and more room for gear so keep your eyes open for that. If you want more room, the Race (8L), Race X (12L) or Race Air (10L) are my go-to’s for rides between 3-8 hours. In my opinion, there’s rarely a need for a pack greater than 12L for a one-day ride.
  • Rain layer. Make sure it’s lightweight and packable to softball size. Even in places like Colorado you just never know…
  • Tiny first aid kit. Even if it’s just a few steri-strips, alcohol wipes, small wrap of tape, gauze pad, Benadryl and anti-inflammatory. If you’re just going on an hour ride or on a crowded trail, you can likely leave this at home. Depending on what you consider an emergency, pack a little TP in a ziplock bag, too. 


Recommended wheel tools

This can all fit nice and snug on your frame with the super nifty backcountry research strap so you never have to worry about forgetting it or taking up pack room:

  • CO2 cartridge with adjustable (super clutch) dispenser
  • Dynaplug or other tire plug
  • Tube
  • Tire levers

Hand pump (inside pack)


Recommended tools and parts 

Unless your pack has tons of zip pockets, I suggest getting a small pouch like a mini stuff sack or lightweight zipper pouch for all the important small bits:

  • Valve stem and valve core
  • Valve core remover
  • Extra cleat & two cleat bolts
  • Multi tool (with chain breaker)
  • Quick link (different for each chain)
  • Shock pump (could be a day saver on bigger rides)
  • Derailleur hanger (different for each bike, always have a spare for your bike)
  • Calories (plenty of food and preferably homemade nutritious foods – my go to resource is Inner Wild Nutrition)
  • Water

Supplements (magnesium, calcium sodium) like Skratch, Sports Legs or other electrolyte tabs.


Some other helpful beta

  • Download Trail Forks (preferred), MTB Project and Strava apps on your phone to find local trail beta near you.
  • Get some knee sleeves that are malleable and easy to pedal in for the days you’re feeling sendy and want to push it.
  • Don’t be afraid of the clothing…I know it looks dorky at first, but get the long/baggy shorts and a good jersey (3/4 length for the super sendy days)…it’ll save your skin when you crash. You will crash.
  • Helmets expire after 3-4 years (they get dry and brittle like dead tree branches) and lose their effectiveness so make sure you protect your dome! At the end of the day, it’s all you got!
  • Ride a variety of terrain styles and utilize your local bike park to work on skills.

If you’re going on a big day, make sure you talk with your crew about any medical conditions and what everyone is equipped with (i.e. EpiPen, splint, knife)


Common beginner mistakes…don’t make them! 

  • Packing too little water and calories…you’ll need them and bonking is no fun.
  • Not protecting your frame. After all, it’s a $1,000-10,000 purchase! You wouldn’t walk around with no case on your iPhone would you?! UPLND STOKE is by far the best and most durable option out there!
  • Not getting a coach or attending a clinic from the start. It is without a doubt worth the money to start your MTB journey with the right foundations like good body position, braking techniques, pedal placement, bike body separation, and the list goes on. I often have clients with five years of bad habits to break and it’s nearly impossible. Get the basics right from the start and work up from there. If you’re a lady in the Rocky Mountain Region, you must check out VIDA MTB Series…the best quality coaches and most incredible community full of passion and love.

 Happy trails!

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