Mountain Bike Tips

7 Questions New Mountain Bikers Want to Ask, But Don’t

March 2, 2019

Mountain biker coming down trail in the woods

1. Do I need to wear those geeky padded shorts?

In short, you don’t NEED to wear the shorts. BUT, you will def­i­nite­ly appre­ci­ate padded shorts (also called a chamois or a cham­my). Padded shorts pro­tect you against sad­dle sores and pro­tect your but­tocks! If you’re just start­ing to ride, it will also take time to build up your butt mus­cles and get used to the feel­ing of your bike sad­dle. Some bike seats are more com­fort­able than oth­ers, and you may wish to test a few seats at your local bike shop.

A Few Important Tips for Wearing Padded Shorts
  • Do not wear under­wear with your chamois—this increas­es fric­tion between your legs and can trap bac­te­ria. Let loose and go commando. 
  • Ensure your chamois fits prop­er­ly. Wear­ing shorts that are too big or small can increase the like­li­hood of rub­bing in the wrong places which can result in sad­dle sores.
  • Dou­bling your chamois, will not dou­ble your com­fort. One wear one at a time!
  • Wash your cham­my after each use.
Blue pair of padded bike shorts

2. What is “choosing a line”?

“Choos­ing your line” means pick­ing your desired route based on the lev­el of chal­lenge you’re look­ing for and/or the most effi­cient way through a sec­tion of trail. Not every rid­er will choose the same line (which is part of the fun)! — Do you go left or right of a big rock? Do you do a front-wheel lift over the log or avoid it all togeth­er? Watch the video below for great point­ers on how to choose a line. Which brings us to the next point…

3. Is walking a part of mountain biking?

Yes! When you’re explor­ing new trails, pro­gress­ing your skills and div­ing into the sport for the first time — it’s impor­tant to get off your bike and become famil­iar with trails on two feet. Don’t feel ashamed to walk sec­tions or trail fea­tures (skin­nies, log bridges) that look intim­i­dat­ing. Walk­ing or ‘scout­ing’ a sec­tion of trail before rid­ing will set you up for suc­cess. You’ll know what to expect, be able to deter­mine your line choic­es and make an informed deci­sion on the best route to take for your skill level. 

Mountain bikers walking their bikes across a desert path

4. Why am I having trouble clipping out of my pedals?

If you decide to ride cli­p­less it’s impor­tant to under­stand that you can adjust your ped­als so they are eas­i­er or more dif­fi­cult to release. Adjust­ments can vary  depend­ing on the type of ped­als and cleats you use.  (ie. SPD vs. Crankbroth­ers). If need­ed, ask your local bike shop for a quick tuto­r­i­al on set­ting up your ped­als and cleats. 

5. Why are my gears grinding?

Look ahead to deter­mine what gear you’ll need to shift into in antic­i­pa­tion of the trail chang­ing in ele­va­tion and dif­fi­cul­ty. When you see a climb up ahead, shift into an eas­i­er gear at the bot­tom of the hill. If you try to change gears in the mid­dle of a climb, it’s hard on your chain and it may break.   You don’t want to be known as a ‘gear grinder’!

6. How much space should I leave between myself and the rider ahead of me?

On more tech­ni­cal trails, I’d sug­gest leav­ing at least 2–3 bike lengths (more if you’re super speedy) between you and the per­son in front of you. No one likes hav­ing some­one ride your back tire, espe­cial­ly when you’re learn­ing. Leav­ing ade­quate space gives you more reac­tion time if there was a crash up ahead or if the per­son in front of you strug­gles to clear an obsta­cle. If some­one is fol­low­ing too close for com­fort, let them know nice­ly to give you more space. 

Several mountain bike riders spaced out on a trail heading towards the mountains

7. How do I find out where to ride?

The best part of moun­tain bik­ing is the peo­ple you meet and the com­mu­ni­ty you build. From enjoy­ing post-ride beers to trail­side chats don’t be afraid to strike up a con­ver­sa­tion with oth­er bik­ers at the trail­head to get rec­om­men­da­tions on where to ride.

Find Out Where to Ride
  • Ask your local bike shop
  • Join your local moun­tain bike club
  • Down­load the Trail­forks app
  • Fol­low friends on Stra­va to see where they’re riding
  • Strike up a con­ver­sa­tion with oth­er moun­tain bik­ers at the trailhead

Enter­ing any sport for the first time can be intim­i­dat­ing, but don’t be afraid to ask ques­tions.  From my expe­ri­ence, the moun­tain bike com­mu­ni­ty is a friend­ly group of eclec­tic, awe­some folks ready and will­ing to share their knowledge. 

So, where’s YOUR next ride?